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Avondale Estates City Commission discusses dissolving two advisory boards

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Avondale Estates City Commission discusses dissolving two advisory boards

The Avondale Estates City Commission met for a regular meeting and work session on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at City Hall. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Avondale Estates, GA — The Avondale Estates City Commission, at its Dec. 7 work session, discussed dissolving the personnel board and welcoming committee. The board is also working to combine the lake and tree boards into a greenspace board.

The city commission first discussed the future of the city’s boards and commissions at its strategic planning session on Nov. 18. The historic preservation commission, the planning, zoning, and architecture board, and the ethics board will remain in place.

City Manager Patrick Bryant is working with the city attorney to draft the documents to dissolve the two boards and create the greenspace board. The city commission and staff also plan to work with the city’s greenspace manager to determine the mission, goals, and duties of the new board.

Commissioner Dee Merriam said that from time to time, the city commission needs to look at the city’s structure, what’s working and what seems most effective for the city.

“I am very pleased with the changes and look forward to them being implemented, but I do want to thank everybody who has worked on these committees in the past and let them know that their work has been valuable and appreciated, but we are trying to look at more effectiveness and efficiency as we move forward,” Merriam said.

Mayor Pro Tem Brian Fisher agreed. He added that it’s helpful and healthy for the city commission to look at the advisory boards and make sure they are aligned with the strategic vision of the city.

“I think we also are holding ourselves accountable with the fact that we need to be more engaged with some of those committees also to make sure that they have a clear understanding of what it is that we’re asking them to do on behalf of the city, and how it aligns with city staff and those resources too,” he said.

Fisher added he’s excited about the greenspace committee.

“We have a lot of needs specifically in our residential area around greenspaces and maintenance and areas of improvement and future capital infrastructure stuff that I think they can be helpful in helping us plan for,” Fisher said.

Additionally, there are two vacancies on the historic preservation commission and two vacancies on the planning, zoning and architecture board. The city has received one application for each board, and is still seeking applicants to fill the other seat on both boards.

During the regular meeting, the city commission will do the first reading of the 2023-2024 capital program and the 2023 operating budget. The board did approve the 2021 budget amendment.

A few highlights of the 2023 proposed operating budget include:

– The proposed 2023 budget anticipates seeing less revenue compared to 2022. In the 2022 projected budget, the city expects to receive $6.78 million in revenue. The 2023 projects the city receiving $5.289 million, although the 2023 proposed budget does reflect a balanced budget.

– A 3% cost of living adjustment is proposed for city employees, but merit raises are not included in the budget.

“The reason being is that we need to rewrite our employee policy manual,” City Manager Patrick Bryant said at the Oct. 12 city commission meeting. “Our current method of evaluating employees and assigning merit increases to them is way too subjective and varies greatly from department to department. Before we get back to doing merit raises, I think we need to standardize that process a lot more, make it equitable and fair. In lieu of that, I’ve proposed that additional 3% COLA.”

– There are a couple of placeholders in the budget for staff positions, including the finance director and finance officer, which the city is currently hiring for.

There are five buckets of money the city uses to direct funding toward capital projects – the Urban Redevelopment Agency, American Rescue Plan funding, special purpose local option sales tax funding, the stormwater fund, and the capital fund.

The city received $1.2 million in ARPA funds in 2021 and 2022, Bryant said. The capital program includes $400,000 in ARPA money the city budgeted as a placeholder for work to the city’s plazas. The city decided to instead spend $200,000 of that money for landscaping and redesign of plazas and other public spaces on U.S. 278. The city is going to spend the other $200,000 on a branding campaign and on a survey project.

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