WARNER ROBINS -- After a debate between mayor and council, Warner Robins City Council members unanimously approved Monday an amended version of a proposed lease with Georgia Municipal Association Inc. for equipment earmarked in the 2012 special purpose local option sales tax.
Its cheaper on the city to do a lease, said Councilman Paul Shealy, explaining the decision to the public. At the end of that lease, we can turn it (the equipment) back in and get something new.
The 90-minute pre-council meeting -- which focused on recreation prospects not voted on in the following council meeting -- heated up when Mayor Chuck Shaheen proposed the master lease that council wasnt clear about. Council members asked why a fire truck needs to be ordered when the new fire station it would be housed in isnt yet planned and pressed Shaheen for work session to discuss such items.
If we had had (work sessions), there wouldnt have been a question, said Councilman Mike Daley.
The master lease includes two pumper trucks for the fire department, 10 police vehicles, a dump truck, golf course maintenance equipment and other equipment Shaheen said department directors have said is needed right now.
The 2012 SPLOST began this month and will trickle in over the next six years. Warner Robins is due to receive $44.4 million.
I asked the department heads to tell me what they needed, Shaheen said, adding the original list he received totaled more than $4 million.
The list presented to councilmen Monday evening totaled $2.3 million. It was not itemized, so its not clear how much was slated for the second fire truck council eventually removed from the list. Councilman Mike Davis, a former city firefighter, said such trucks usually range from $500,000 to $750,000.
The fire station where the truck would be used is a project on the 2006 SPLOST list. A location had not been identified as of the council meeting. After a closed session that followed the council meeting, Sheehan told reporters it would be on Ga. 96.
Shaheen called on Fire Chief Robert Singletary to explain that fire trucks typically take six months to receive and the fire station would take about six months to construct. Council members said they understood but want to make more progress on the station before ordering the truck.
You may not get that truck now, Shaheen said after councils amended vote. Once you get it off, its hard to get it back on. Shaheen later told reporters the fire truck would have to appear on the agenda in the next month.
Daley and Davis said the fire department -- and any other city department -- would receive needed equipment at the appropriate time.
Daley said the number of questions surrounding the master lease were so extensive because council members hadnt had a chance to discuss the item.
Daley said -- after the meeting and during the meeting -- he has repeatedly asked on behalf of council that work sessions are scheduled to discuss projects and other city happenings before council meetings.
Perry has work sessions; Centerville has work sessions, Daley said after the meeting. The reason you have these work sessions is to be able to quantify whatever these projects are, prioritize it and identify the resources needed.
City Council used to hold pre-council meetings on Thursdays prior to the upcoming Monday meeting. A few months ago, the meetings were moved to the same Monday at 4 p.m. The council meetings are at 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Monday of the month.
When asked about what he thought of the councils proposal to bring work sessions back, Shaheen walked off without answering the question. He had given a blanket no comment to The Telegraph earlier when asked for an interview about the nights items.
Daley said he would keep attempting to schedule work sessions because such public meetings encourage transparency for residents.
Also at Mondays meeting, council was presented with a draft of a five-year Recreation Master Plan completed by the Middle Georgia Regional Commission.
Courtney Verdier, of Middle Georgia Regional Commission, said residents expressed a need for updates to existing facilities, a dog park and a skate park, among other suggestions.
I have told you guys, if we could get a master plan in place -- what few grants are out there, it certainly enhances your chances when you have a master plan, James Dodson, director of the Recreation Department, told council.
Council also heard a proposal to reuse the former landfill on Springwood Drive as a recreation park that includes elements mentioned in the recreation plan.
Council also approved $73,000 for underground utilities near the law enforcement center, being constructed at Watson Boulevard and Armed Forces Boulevard, as well as the strictest gaming ordinance in Middle Georgia.
The latter is effective immediately, requiring businesses with gaming machines to install security cameras and report monthly earnings to the city.
To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.