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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ In a 3-2 vote, the High Springs City Commission opted to keep the City’s current attorney. At the Sept. 19 commission meeting, they continued the discussion begun at the previous meeting on hiring an additional attorney. In reviewing the 2016 contract, City Attorney Scott Walker noted that a three percent cost of living increase per year was part of the contract. He said that amount has not been charged to the City since it was approved in 2016. The way the contract is structured the City has paid $5,300 monthly and has not included the cost-of-living increase.

Commissioner Linda Jones questioned Walker, asking him if he was expecting the City to make up for that cost of living increase since 2016. Walker responded “no,” but said he thought it should be included from this point forward.

In response to a question about whether special attorney services would need to go through his firm, Walker said it would and explained that this has happened in the past when a bond issue or other specialized issue has arisen.

Commissioner Katherine Weitz pushed to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for a second attorney at the next Commissio meeting. Weitz said the City “was not getting the needed attorney, representation or backup” they should have.

Commissioner Linda Jones agreed with Weitz and brought up issues relating to murals and the mural ordinance. Mayor Byran Williams intervened by reminding Commissioners that the subject was not on the murals but instead it was on hiring a second attorney. Commissioner Ross Ambrose said he was not interested in having two attorneys guiding the City.

Weitz made a motion to include sending out an RFP for a replacement attorney on the next city commission meeting agenda. Jones seconded the motion. However, the motion died in a 2-3 vote with Commissioner Ross Ambrose, Vice Mayor Gloria James and Mayor Byran Williams voting against.

In other City business, following a brief presentation by High Springs Finance Director Diane Wilson, Commissioners unanimously adopted Resolution 2022-M establishing the final millage rate for FY 2022-23 at 5.99 mills. This rate is an 8.2 percent increase from the current rolled-back rate of 5.5251 mills. In a separate action, Commissioners also unanimously adopted the FY 2022-23 budget of $17,630,150.

In other matters, the Commission considered issuing $2.35 million in water and sewer revenue bonds to provide funding for capital improvement to the water and sewer system, which also included advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham said the City is not currently able to account for 38 percent of the water being used. The use of “AMI will bring in at least 10 percent more on water and sewer,” he said.

Finance Director Wilson explained the City would be borrowing $2,350,000 at a 3.2 interest rate with $2,310,000 for direct project costs and $40,000 for the cost of issuance for Bond Counsel, Financial Advisor and Bank Counsel. Wilson said payments have already been included in the FY 2022-23 budget. The term would be for 15 years, but could be paid off earlier with a penalty. The closing date on the bond has been set for Sept. 29.

Commissioner Weitz disagreed with issuing bonds, contending that the City should use ARPA funds to offset the amount the City would have to borrow.

The measure, Resolution 2022-P, authorizing the issuance of the water and sewer revenue bonds was approved in a 4-1 vote with Weitz casting the dissenting vote.

The Commission approved unanimously to amend the Land Development Code to add impact fees for new construction for roads, parks and general services for police, fire and other City facilities at the maximum allowable amount. The new fees are in response to a 2021 study by Duncan and Associates to establish the need and determine the appropriate amount to assess impact fees to pay for the costs associated with new development.

According to the results of the study, the maximum impact fees that the City may assess on new development are for single-family detached dwelling units at $4,989, multi-family dwelling units at $3,130, retail/commercial units per 1,000 square feet at $4,502, office per 1,000 square feet at $3,242, industrial per 1,000 square feet at $1,448, warehouse per 1,000 square feet at $549 and public/institutional per 1,000 square feet at $1,498.

Funds from impact fees may only be used on costs associated with new development. They may not be used for maintenance, rehabilitation, repair or replacement of existing facilities, or the acquisition of vehicles or equipment with a useful life of less than five years, provided that the minimum useful life does not apply to public safety vehicles.

The Commission will consider Ordinance 2022-17 again on Nov. 29 due to state mandated notification requirements. City staff will be emailing the impact fee study in electronic format to residents, but should anyone desire a hard copy, Stathatos said City staff will provide one.

Gillingham provided an update on projects being funded with ARPA funds. These projects include roofs for City Hall and the fire station, law enforcement body cameras, elevator replacement, and lift station pumps. The second half of the funds are expected to arrive on Sept. 22. At the next City Commission meeting, Gillingham will provide an list with assigned priorities.

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