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City Council starts opening city buildings

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    Acting Eatonton Police Chief Howell Cardwell (right) introduced new city police officer Danilo Cubacub (left) and new city dispatcher Stephanie Brito (center) to City Council at its June 1 meeting. MARK ENGEL/Staff

Sitting at the dais for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shut the world down last spring, the Eatonton City Council decided to lift restrictions on the public use of the City Waterworks building. The action came at its June 1 meeting.

Council also voted to allow the use of The Hut as soon as current repairs to the bathrooms are completed. Sheetrock, flooring and plumbing work is expected to be finished by July 4.

Both the Waterworks building and The Hut are city-owned properties that are rentable as sites for community meetings. They have been closed since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

Council members seemed anxious but did not take action to reopen the Eatonton-Putnam Senior Center. There was a sense that they wanted to watch the COVID-19 numbers for the county through the July 4 holiday and needed more feedback from seniors on how safe they feel meeting together again. Also, the building needs some cleanup work.

“Nobody’s been in the building for months,” said Councilmember James Gorley, “so they need time to get it ready.”

The city has been providing food for local seniors during the pandemic as well as videos on simple at-home exercises on the Center’s Facebook page.

City hall will continue requiring visitors and staff to wear face coverings until further notice.

Following the City Council meeting, city administrator Gary Sanders told The Eatonton Messenger that the city has been told it will be receiving approximately $2.5 million from the American Rescue Plan. The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package was approved by Congress in March.

Some larger cities and counties have recently been complaining because they are receiving dramatically lower funding than they had been originally told to expect. That is not the case in Eatonton, according to Sanders. He said the city is actually receiving more than the $2.1 million they had previously been told.

Eatonton has not yet determined how that money will be spent. Sanders says the $354,000 received last year from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was used for equipment to purify air in city buildings, personal protective equipment (PPE) and reimbursement for COVID related overtime to the city’s first responders.

Transportation SPLOST

As expected, City Council approved an Intergovernmental Agreemen with Putnam County that calls for a referendum this November to renew the 1 percent Local Option Sales Tax for Transportation. The current tax will expire next summer, which is sooner than expected, because it will reach the maximum amount of revenue approved by voters. There will be no increase in sales tax since this ballot measure would kick in as soon as the current tax ends.

The county has set a target of $24.5 million in revenue from the sales tax. The City of Eatonton’s portion is $6.125 million.

The city money would be used for street resurfacing and safety improvements ($3.625M), pedestrian facility and intersection improvements ($1.5M) and right of way maintenance and drainage improvements ($1.0M).

Georgia’s US Senators

At the June 1 City Council meeting, Councilmember Janie Reid said that a group of city officials met on Tuesday, May 25, with members of newly elected Senator Raphael Warnock’s staff about Eatonton’s merits and needs. The group toured the city and discussed a proposal requested by Warnock’s staff on funding needs for development projects. Reid said the proposal requested money for the renovation of the Pex Theater, improvements at the Plaza Arts Center and other things.

Reid said the group is scheduled to meet on Thursday, June 10, with Senator Jon Ossoff’s staff for the same tour and presentation.

Other action

Council approved a measure to allow the members of the Eatonton-Putnam Youth Council to clean up and collect trash at the city’s two cemeteries on the second Saturday of every month starting June 12.

Council agreed to enter into a contingency deal with Utility Management Services, Inc. to evaluate the cost of utilities used by city government buildings and facilities. If the company finds costs savings, it will receive 50-percent of the savings as its fee.

Acting Eatonton Police Chief Howell Cardwell introduced Danilo Cubacub, a new city police officer and Stephanie Brito, a new city dispatcher, to the Council.

City administrator Gary Sanders announced there will be a Georgia Virtual Flood Risk Open House June 16-29. Residents will have the chance to see how the new flood zone maps, some of which have not changed in more than 30 years, may impact their property. More information is on the city website – www.eatontonga.us