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Gray Council delays action on rezoning, a new city charter

City Council again delayed action on a new city charter and heard from residents against the possible annexation and rezoning of 13.4 acres on U.S. 129 south of the intersection with Ga. 18 west at Monday night's monthly meeting.

Bill Boyd, of a citizen's committee appointed by the council more than two years ago to make suggestions for a new charter, reported at a council committee session April 21 that the committee had done all it could without input from the council.

The committee has suggested a charter that retains the five elected council members and mayor the city now has, but also adds a hired city manager to run the day-to-day operations of Gray.

But city attorney Joan Harris told the council Monday night that it would cost approximately $10,000 in legal fees to draft the new charter and that it would probably cost $60,000 plus benefits to hire a city manager.

"I wonder with the current economic situation if that is something you want to do. Adding a city manager would probably mean increasing taxes to pay for it," Harris said.

She told the council members they need to make a decision soon, because a new charter must be presented to the Georgia General Assembly in its next session if it is to go before the voters in a referendum and be adopted in time for the next city elections in 2009.

She said it would take about six months to draft a charter.

Councilman Terrell Fulford said he was not ready to vote on the matter without reading the reports prepared by the charter committee, and he asked that they be made available to the council members at their committees session in two weeks. The remainder of the council agreed with his suggestion.

In a planning and zoning session, Carla Hunnicutt spoke for her mother, Anne Lusk, who is requesting that 13.4 acres she owns on U.S. 129 south of Gray be rezoned from rural residential to general commercial and be annexed into the city.

"We've had some interest from commercial buyers who will want city water and sewer services, so that is why we're requesting to be annexed," Hunnicutt said.

But four nearby residents plus the pastor and two members of the neighboring Church The Body of Jesus Christ spoke in opposition of the rezoning.

"That strip of Gray Highway has been residential for as long as we can remember," said Joe Ben Jackson. "My mother has lived next to Mrs. Lusk's property for 60-plus years, and I've lived next to her for 30-plus years. That area may go commercial someday, but we don't think it is time now."

Following city code, the council held a first reading on the ordinance to annex the property and continued the planning and zoning hearing on the matter until next month.

Mayor Jason Briley invited those concerned to come back to the June 2 meeting, when the council will act on the request.

In other action, the council:

Heard a report from City Superintendent Decious Aaron that one of two new wells the city has drilled went on line last week, increasing the amount of water the city can generate from 382,000 gallons a day to 550,000. Aaron said the second well should go on line this week, boosting water production to almost 670,000 gallons a day and sharply decreasing the amount of water the city must purchase from the county.

 Approved new water and sewer rates to take effect in June. The rate increase is needed to help fund payments for a new belt press at the city's sewage treatment plant.

 Approved a beer and wine license for Susan Coffin for her Shooters Bar & Grill. The license had been denied last month because she had four pool tables in her restaurant, and city ordinances prohibit alcohol sales in a pool hall. She has since removed some of the pool tables and put up a wall separating the ones remaining from the restaurant portion of her business.

 Approved bids of $1,660 for repairs to the stucco and concrete blocks and painting at the city fire station and $870 for replacing rotted trim and painting at the city hall.

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