City hall

TIFTON — Tifton City Council reviewed water infrastructure and allowing package stores within city limits during its recent work session.

The first item on the agenda was the presentation of a priority project plan, constructed through the efforts of City Manager Pete Pyrzenski, Jeff West and Trey Gavin.

The plan would focus on renovating, restoring and improving the City of Tifton's water-related infrastructure, involving an array of projects including replacing and repairing city fire hydrants, improving various lift stations used in the sewer system and making much-needed alterations and repairs to a drainageway that has become heavily eroded and begun producing sinkholes.

Some council members expressed concern over the cost of the project, worrying that it may require the city to borrow money. However, Pyrzenski reported that the state of Georgia offers grants for infrastructure, allowing the city to take advantage of as much as $5.2 million to fund the project, and further attested that any additional money the plan might need could be taken out of a special purpose local option sales tax.

Other new business discussed included the announcement of three bidders for the construction of the Youth Development Center, the lowest being Harper & Company Builders, and the deliberation of continuing the intergovernmental agreement with the City of Nashville where Tifton provided natural gas to Nashville.

Pyrzenski suggested honoring the bid of Harper & Company Builders, which was $1,354,700 but said he wants to meet with the company and a URA representative before finalizing the deal. He wants to negotiate a price decrease within the city's budget.

West, public works project manager, said the city's 10-year contract with Nashville for natural gas would end in this month but the new contract would impose a new city distribution charge on Nashville on top of its regular rate.

While Mayor Julie Smith expressed doubts the deal was worth the effort, West said he plans to speak with officials from the City of Nashville before any decisions are made to ensure they are still interested in the deal.

Extensive deliberation was also spent amending the city's alcohol ordinance and requirements for package stores, as Tifton residents would soon be voting on potentially allowing package stores within the city limits.

City Clerk Jessica White said she hoped to define a standard for package stores prior to the election in case voters approve the measure. She listed some of the ideas she and Rob Wilmot, city attorney, have discussed, including requiring a distance of no less than 500 yards between package stores, limiting package stores to major streets and prohibiting them from strip centers while ensuring they are properly secure and safe.

The issue of licensing was also discussed, with Wilmot bringing up the lottery process used in other states, which supposedly guarantees there would be no more than three licenses to a district.

While council members seemed receptive to the idea, some expressed concern it might be difficult for applicants to hold onto their licenses with this process and would have to reenter the lottery to be renewed. Wilmot assured them as long as the license holders put their licenses toward a business and adhered to a set of regulations, they would have the licenses indefinitely.

Ultimately, Pyrzenski suggested that he, White and Wilmot could work on a more concrete description of the topic that could be presented to council at a later date. Council agreed, resolving its new business and moving onto the items to be discussed during the regular meeting.

Items included designating the annual Rhythm and Ribs BBQ Festival as a festival under the city's festival ordinance, updating the schedule of a variety of fees, such as water restriction surcharges and garbage rates, and a discussion about declaring two sections of property surplus.

The two lands up for debate, one an unused alley at 1629 N. Tift Ave., the other a piece of property on Parcel No. T018 001, are both owned by the city, yet are at the moment unused.

The Tift Avenue alleyway is a 10-by-50-foot line of property just north of Dollar General, and possesses nothing the city requires. It was even debated at the meeting why the city still owns it.

The property on Parcel No. T018 001 has had a development offer, though how it would be used is unknown. Like with the alleyway, there are no utilities on the property that are necessary to the city, but declaring the property surplus would give the city permanent easement for utilities.

The two sections of land will be discussed further at the next council meeting.

Pyrzenski announced the date for the groundbreaking of Nine Oak Apartments being set for Sept. 29.

Pyrzenski suggested a 3% raise to be given to all city employees, which was considered by the council but agreed to be discussed at a later date.

Crystal Gaillard introduced the Isaac Felton, the new community coordinator. Felton will not be replacing Bruce Green, but would instead be sharing his duties, particularly being charged with organizing and overseeing the tire hauling event in early October.

Vice Mayor Wes Ehlers took a moment to emphasize the importance of Tifton residents getting vaccinated.

The mayor thanked the people who attended and assisted in the organization of Sen. Jon Ossoff's recent visit to Tifton, also announcing that Ossoff and his staff expressed an interest in returning to Tifton. 

The work session concluded with council members taking a one-minute recess, then reconvening for an executive session.

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