Avondale Estates City Commission discusses budgets and other projects
By Zoe Seiler, contributor
The Avondale Estates Board of Mayor and Commissioners met Wednesday night, Sept. 18, to continue discussions on the 2019 and 2020 budgets and a contract for temporary city planning services. They also discussed grant funding for the U.S. 278 redesign project and a bid award to build a retention pond on Kensington Road.
The board was also set to discuss a memorandum of understanding with Fabric Developers. This will act as the framework between Fabric and the city before they have reached an approved development agreement. The city wants to borrow money to develop five acres owned by the city and the Downtown Development Authority along North Avondale Road. Projects include a town green. The city is working on an agreement with Fabric Developers to develop the rest of the property.
However, the board removed the MOU from the agenda and plan to schedule a special called meeting to solely discuss the memorandum.
Mayor Jonathan Elmore said the board and City Manager Patrick Bryant received the document Tuesday afternoon and were not ready to discuss it yet after noticing some issues that need to be addressed.
“Of course, we’re all kind of anxious to talk about that one, but it’s just not ready. We feel like until some things are corrected, that it’s better to delay that for really just a couple of weeks,” Elmore said.
Bryant added that Teresa Finister of Murray Barnes Finister, a public finance law firm, noticed some legal technical aspects of the MOU she would like to further review and suggest changes to. They plan to address the issue by Friday.
Deputy City Manager Paul Hanebuth provided an update on the amendment to the 2019 budget.
One change Hanebuth highlighted was a suggested $50,000 contribution to the capital projects fund that will be designated for improvements to the city’s public works building.
“Based on the availability of funding and the proposed amendments we’re recommending here, we wanted to recommend to the board that it appropriate $50,000 for improvements to the public works facility for those items that are safety related, or of immediate concern,” Bryant said.
The city has asked architecture, engineering and planning firm CPL to assess the public works building and suggest what they believe the city needs to address immediately.
Bryant said the recommendation could be subject to an amendment if the staff believe the repairs needed will cost more than $50,000.
“That’s kind of just the initial benchmark that we’re establishing, but it is subject to change based on that assessment,” Bryant said.
The current public works building is located at 166 Locust Street.
Dee Merriam, former CDC employee and a city Zoning Board member who is running for City Commission in the Nov. 5 elections, asked the board about efforts to finding an alternative location for the public works building, as there had been previous discussion about relocation.
Bryant said the city staff has look for alternatives but has not identified a viable option. They have also looking at the potential to build a new building.
“But right now, we think it’s prudent to go ahead and just address some immediate need at that facility and continue to try and figure out what we’re going to do in the future as those options become clearer to us,” he said.
Commissioner Lisa Shortell added that the board is in a holding pattern due to a lack of options and the city is not at a point “where we want to put that money into this into that property right now,” she said.
The commissioners also continued discussion about the 2020 budget. The city has started A compensation and classification study with the Carl Vinson Institute and will be able to receive data along the way to better understand what adjustments to the city’s payroll will be necessary, Hanebuth said.
Decaturish previously reported that the city is looking into the role of its city planner as part of the CVI study. Keri Stevens, an assistant city manager, recently left for another job in Gwinnett County. The city hired consultant Shannon Powell for a one month “trial balloon” and Powell submitted a proposal to continue her work throughout the remainder of the year.
Bryant said Powell is currently assigned all duties left behind from Stevens and the plan is for her to continue to do so although some duties have been distributed elsewhere. Those duties are subject to change as the city figures out how to move forward with a long term hire, Bryant said.
The city has worked on the U.S. 278 redesign project for a long time. This includes a “road diet” of reducing the street from five lanes to three lanes.
The Atlanta Regional Commission increased their grant funding for the project for $128,000 to $400,000, meaning the city’s matching portion has also increased from $32,000 to $100,000. Although, this is not expected to have a budgetary impact due to another grant the city received for the project.
The city also received a bid award to build a retention pond on Kensington Road to alleviate stormwater issues.
The bid came in at $557,250, which was the lowest bid received. The project will be paid for using the ban anticipatory note and storm water funds will be used in pay back of the BAN mechanism, Bryant said.
All the commissioners expressed their excitement about the beginning of this project that they have been working on for several years.
“Didn’t know we could get this excited about a retention pond,” Elmore said.
The board will meet on Monday, Sept. 23 at 6:30 p.m. to hear the first reading of the 2019 budget amendment, as well as vote on Powell’s contract, the funding for the U.S. 278 project and a bid award for a retention pond on Kensington Road.