Houston & Peach

Budget set, Centerville officials look to manage services and growth

Centerville Mayor John Harley
Centerville Mayor John Harley wmarshall@macon.com

The City Council gave final approval to a $10.2 million budget for Centerville’s new fiscal year starting July 1.

The budget is based on the same millage rate used since 2013, 11.972 mills.

Mayor John Harley called the budget a “bare bones” one and said there were things he wished the city could do that can’t be done under the plan.

He said one example was he would like to see two new employee positions funded in the street department but that won’t happen in the coming year.

“I’d like 10 — but we need two,” he said. “But we can’t afford them.”

The budget was passed during the council’s regular work session Tuesday.

Though originally on the agenda for early in the meeting as the first matter of new business, council members voted to move it to last so it followed what proved a lengthy executive session.

Asked why, Harley told The Telegraph it had to do with a personnel issue related to the budget that needed clarification before the council could vote.

Georgia law allows governing authorities to hold discussions behind closed doors related to personnel matters without further disclosure.

The council also heard Tuesday from several individuals on matters directly impacting the city’s near future, including the planned sale of the company that provides sanitation services.

Representatives of Ryland Environmental of Dublin told the council the company plans to buy Centerville Sanitation Inc. from its owner of the past 18 years, Larry Coy.

Before a sale can proceed, Ryland Environmental must secure an agreement from the city that officials plan to assign the current sanitation contract to the new owners.

While seeking the agreement, Ryland officials assured council members the company would provide quality, customer-centered service and outlined how the company operated on other locations.

They said, too, that the name Centerville Sanitation Inc. would not change, though its logo would.

Despite generally agreeing the contract would be transferred without difficulty, council members tabled an official vote until they get several additional items of information regarding the contract and services.

At the request of Councilman Edward Armijo, the vote was delayed and a tentative special called meeting set for June 28 to vote prior to Coy and Ryland’s planned July 1 sale date.

Coy said he would continue as part of the operational transition to the new owners to further ensure service continues smoothly for residents and clients.

Also during the session, council members heard from Chuck Branch, managing partner of NextSite360 of Birmingham, Alabama, whom the city is considering hiring as consultants to provide services including market analytics and business recruitment toward economic development.

Branch said while the company’s normal services might cost the city $35,000, a new partnership between NextSite360 and Georgia Power to foster economic development would allow a reduced rate.

Kate Hogan, Centerville’s director of marketing and economic development, said NextSite360’s extensive services would cost the city $9,000. She told the council money is available in the existing economic development budget to engage the company.

Hogan, who introduced Branch and the idea of using his firm, said timing was right to make use of NextSite360’s services and networking ability to draw retail, restaurant and other business concerns nationally in light of Centerville’s push to attract new business and increase its commercial economic base.

Hogan particularly referred to efforts to secure and expand retail at the Houston County Galleria mall, at other open retail and business spots and as part of the city’s plan to see a retail, restaurant and recreation oriented town center developed north of the mall and along North Houston Lake Boulevard.

“It’s a good time to do business in Centerville,” Hogan said. “It’s a good time to shape the future and grow.”

Council members agreed to review NextSite360 materials and decide the matter, possibly at a meeting in July.

Also during the work session, council members received new assignments for oversight and as council liaisons between varying city departments. New primary and secondary “council over department” roles for the fiscal year starting July 1 are Micheal Evans, primary, and Cameron Andrews, secondary, over water and sewer; Randall Wright and Ed Armijo over the fire department; Ed Armijo and Micheal Evans over police; Cameron Andrews and Randall Wright over administration; and Micheal Evans and Ed Armijo over economic development.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.