Valdosta Daily Times

March 17, 2013

City makes SPLOST, wastewater priorities at retreat

Moody, housing, VPD technology also addressed

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — In the second half of the 2013 Planning Retreat for the Valdosta City Council, the City settled on a list of 11 priorities for the coming fiscal year beginning July 1, with wastewater treatment and public transparency about sewer issues appearing as top priorities.

The City plans to conduct public information meetings and develop a direct mail effort to educate and inform city residents of facts and data regarding wastewater issues and the sewer system.

Hand-in-hand with this priority is the planned completion date of August 2014 for the force main project and of August 2015 for the relocation of the Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant that flooded again this year, with a long history of failures.

Second, the City plans to organize meetings with state and federal agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to develop a plan to address flooding issues from the Suwanee-Satilla regional stormwater basin which impacts Valdosta.

The City's collaboration with community and regional leaders to prevent the closure of Moody Air Force Base by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission appears as the third priority, followed by an annual city-wide tour of each City Council district fourth and the seventh cycle of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax fifth.

The Council agreed to the proposed list of SPLOST projects presented Friday, with no changes. The municipal auditorium and Five Points projects have been cut from the new SPLOST VII referendum to make way for the improvement of existing infrastructure.

The City added another $29 million to the budget for water and sewer improvements and will allot only $500,000 of penny tax revenues to administrative purposes, a fraction of the $20.5 million proposed in the previous referendum.

The Council was able to pare down a list of more than 30 items to the 11 that now appear on the list, according to City Manager Larry Hanson, but prioritizing the top three has never been done, he said.

"The purpose of the retreat was so that the elected Council could set goals, and that includes spending priorities," Hanson said. "The SPLOST in November is an important priority, as is the force main project and the relocation of the (WWTP). We're just starting our budget process, and we will incorporate what was shared at the retreat into the budget adoption."

City efforts to develop better internet broadband throughout Lowndes County appears last on the list of priorities, after Housing Authority re-development projects, technology upgrades for the Valdosta Police Department and other issues.

Councilman Robert Yost announced his bid for re-election this fall at the retreat. Councilmen Deidra White and Mayor Pro-Tem Alvin Payton, whose terms are  also up this year, did not announce whether they would seek re-election as well.



SPLOST VII

Engineering (includes road resurfacing and improvements, sidewalks and drainage)—$12.7 million

Police and fire—$7.2 million

Parks and rec—$1 million

Water and sewer—$55.4 million

Public Works—$2.5 million

Administration—$500,000

Downtown—$500,000

Mathis—$250,000

Total—$80.03 million

Previous SPLOST VII referendum—$74.86 million



City Priorities

1. Increased public transparency on wastewater issues, completion of force main by August 2014 and the relocation of the WWTP by August 2015.

2. Meeting with state and federal agencies to address regional flooding.

3. Advocacy to prevent closure of Moody AFB by the BRAC.

4. Annual city-wide tour of each City Council district to identify issues.

5. Finalize proposed SPLOST VII project list, educate community about November referendum.

6. Work with Valdosta Housing Authority for re-development of existing property.

7. Software/hardware upgrades for municipal courts and the Valdosta Police Department.

8. Consideration of financial measures to address the current economic climate of flat or declining revenues and increasing costs.

9. Joint meetings with Lowndes County Board of Commissioners.

10. Annual review of ordinances.

11. Work with Industrial Authority for the improvement and enhancement of broadband throughout the community.