Warner Robins mayor, council compromise on media relations position; budget vote delayed

WARNER ROBINS -- Warner Robins City Council and Mayor Chuck Shaheen reached an agreement Thursday night on what had been their biggest lingering disagreement over the proposed city budget.

Shaheen agreed to a proposal from Councilman Mike Brashear in which the mayor will select a current staff member to serve as the city’s media relations person. Shaheen had asked for $43,060 in the budget to hire someone to do that job full-time, but council members objected to that idea in part because the city froze six vacant positions to balance the budget.

Instead, the budget will include $15,000 to raise the pay of the person Shaheen selects for the job to compensate for the additional responsibility.

The council briefly considered voting on the budget at the called meeting but opted instead to vote on it at a meeting next Thursday after the budget is amended to reflect the compromise. The budget must be approved by July 1.

“It was a good compromise,” Shaheen said after the meeting.

He said he wanted to hire someone with a journalism background for the job but is willing to give this a try. He said he may push again next year for a full-time person for the job.

Shaheen gave a presentation about the budget with an overhead projector, going through the line items and reasons for cuts in certain areas. He said the city had not done that before, but he plans to do it again next year and possibly have a couple of town hall meetings on the budget to improve transparency.

The proposed general fund budget is $35.8 million. The total budget, which includes special local option sales tax dollars and enterprise funds such as water and sewer, is $71.3 million. The budget does not require a tax increase.

The council also heard a presentation from the police department requesting that the city revoke the alcohol license for Neighbors Grill on S. Houston Lake Road. Lt. Lance Watson cited a series of incidents at the club, including fights and serving alcohol to an underage person.

The council didn’t vote on the issue because the owner wasn’t given enough notice of the meeting and wasn’t there. They plan to discuss again at next week’s meeting when the owner is expected to be there and will vote on it then.

The meeting will be held at City Hall at 4 p.m.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.