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Stone Mountain City Council takes no action on proposed pay raise

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Stone Mountain City Council takes no action on proposed pay raise

Stone Mountain City Manager Darnetta Tyus and Accountant Danny Lamonte give long-awaited financial report to the city council. Photo by Jaedon Mason

This story has been updated.

By Jaedon Mason, contributor

Stone Mountain, GA — The Stone Mountain City Council met on Aug. 15 but didn’t take any action on a proposed raise for elected officials.

Councilmembers Teresa Crowe, Gina Stroud-Cox, and Chakira Johnson went on record with their disapproval of the initial proposed salary increases. 

Under the proposal made by Councilmember Clint Monroe, the mayor’s pay would be raised from $1,000 monthly to $2,000 monthly and the councilmember’s pay would be raised from $300 monthly to $1,000 monthly.

Monroe told Decaturish if the raise isn’t passed, then he would be open to a compromise.

Monroe also clarified the “why now?” question regarding the raises, explaining that to pass a raise, the amount needs to be finalized and then advertised for a specific amount of time in the press before it’s added to the budget. With budget season approaching, the deadline for when a number has to be finally proposed is Aug. 22, or else it won’t be able to be posted for long enough and the council will have to wait until next year to try again.

In other business: 

– There was also discussion about whether the temporary speed bumps for Rockborough Drive should be approved. 

Several meetings ago, City Manager Darnetta Tyus presented the council with the option to install temporary traffic-calming measures. There would be nine speed bumps that would cost the city $175 each with a $675 installation fee, for a total cost of $2,250. Given these measures would be temporary, there would be no upkeep cost and, crucially, the installation wouldn’t need the 94 citizens’ signatures to overrule the survey that was done recommending against traffic-calming in the fall of last year.

This opened the door for discussion on whether temporary speed bumps could be used to speed up what citizens have consistently deemed the slow and ineffective procedure for installing speed bumps that is currently in place. The council briefly discussed using temporary speed bumps to address the citizens’ desire to install speed bumps in several other locations around the city. 

However, multiple council members brought up the concern that this technically circumvents the petition process that ensures the consent of all affected citizens, on top of being a small additional cost to the city since there is no tax levied to fund the temporary speed bumps. 

In discussion, the council members said that the petition processes in place should continue, to make sure that voices are heard. But the council still approved the installation of temporary speed bumps on Rockborough Drive. 

– A second discussion on the proposal from Village Forward Inc. for landscape management between Manor Drive and East/West Mountain Street became the spectacle of the meeting. 

The proposal as submitted includes:

– Grounds Maintenance services weekly throughout the growing season.

– Turf Grass Care includes Mowing, Trimming, Edging

– Blowing leaves on the outlined property

– A chemical Program: Includes pre- & post-emergent weed control applications with a balanced blend of fertilizers

– Shrub Care: Pruning as needed to maintain a neat, manicured appearance.

– Weed control applied to beds to control weeds. 

– Removal of trash that is left on the landscape from pedestrian and auto/ truck traffic

– Removing leaves four times in the fall. High foot traffic areas will be blown clean with each service visit.

Village Forward is asking for a small yard sign to show that they are the ones paying to maintain the central block of the city. 

Councilmembers Monroe and Gil Freeman, who didn’t attend the Aug. 15 meeting but attended via teleconference, were critical of the proposal, raising several concerns. There were numerous alternative suggestions that Boy Scouts, other community groups or the city’s public works department could handle the relatively small plot Village Forward proposes to maintain.

City Manager Tyus advised against using public works to maintain the property, saying, “My crew is there to cut stuff down and move it away. She advised against assigning them to the maintenance of more delicate flower beds. 

Ultimately, the vote went to a tiebreaker, with Councilmembers Freeman, Monroe and Shawnette Bryant voting against and the mayor siding with them, citing the need for more information.

Jelani and Shani Linder, Chair and Vice Chair of Village Forward Inc., loudly called out the council for what they said was a bias against them before they left the meeting. 

When asked why the city would turn down the proposal for help with maintenance at no cost to the city, Councilmember Monroe replied, “It was not needed.”

The speculation from many attendees of the meeting was that the whole scene was less about the upkeep of the city and more about the upcoming elections. Jelani and Shani Linder have been consistently active in the city. Politically, both have served on volunteer boards for various city departments and previously butted heads with the city over the redevelopment of the Baptist lawn property.

– City Manager Tyus also gave a detailed, up-to-date financial report. 

On the revenue side, licensing and permits are up 154% from what was expected.

Tyus attributes this to citizens being proactive about applying for business licenses and permits.

On the expenditure side, all but two categories are in-line with the budget: administration and debt service. Administration expenditures are at $485,302.12, roughly 4% or $36,000 over what was expected to be spent at this point in the year for the category. Debt service expenditures are at $162,965.78, roughly 10% or $27,000 over what was expected to be spent at this point in the year for the category.

According to Tyus, this is because for administration, several bills for supplies used in 2022 were actually paid this year and debt service is high because the mortgage on city hall is paid early in the year. 

– The city held two public hearings about permits.

One was to allow for a personal care home to house three patients for St. Mary’s Independent Living Extensions Inc at Nancy Knight, 5230 Central Drive, and it passed unanimously.

The other permit was to allow for an owner-occupied short-term rental property at 5252 Manor Drive. The applicant is applying to be able to rent out one of the three bedrooms of the property. The city planning commission recommended approval and it passed unanimously.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Councilmember Clint Monroe had proposed a lower raise as a compromise, but Monroe later said this was incorrect. This story has been updated with the correct totals. 

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