City Council March 3, 2011-Continuation of February 16, 2011 Work Session: Agenda Summary

City Council discussed Gas Department personnel, college corridor RFP, taxi cab ordinance and partnerships with Georgia Gwinnett College, during Work Session held on Thursday, March 3.


Item 1: GAS PERSONNEL ISSUES—Jim Steadman of City Gas Department informed the City Council of the Gas Department’s request to delete Tech II positions and to hire Tech I positions. After hiring Tech I, he or she, will train to perform the duties and responsibilities of a Tech II. When Steadman was asked if there was an employee already in the department that could perform Tech II duties, he said no.

Councilwoman Marie Beiser asked where would these positions be advertised and suggested running ads in trade publications. Steadman said the city has better chances of finding local candidates by advertising in AJC and Gwinnett newspapers.

The Council decided to carry this discussion over to the March Work Session. This was done to allow Mickey Watts an opportunity to appear before council to provide information about the difference of titles (Tech I vs. Tech II) duties, responsibilities and job descriptions for both.

Item 2: AGENDA ATTACHMENT A---Councilman Tony Powell provided the Council with additional items for discussion:

City financial reports--- Councilman Powell asked for financial documents that showed the Council where the city is financially at a glance. He said the current budget documents are somewhat confusing because they show income and balance for every fund. He would like to see monthly reports that provide summaries of specific funds. These reports would include the Pool Cash Fund and SPLOST Fund.

The Pool Cash Fund shows city’s current cash amounts. This fund indicates the amount of accumulated funds the city has received. It includes the amount of deposits the city has received. Looking at this fund assists council with determining needed amounts for cash reserves.

SPLOST financial summaries would be helpful to assist the council with the monitoring of these funds.

Councilman Powell said these monthly reports would show how much capital the city has in reserve and that the report should also show the city’s cash flow. He said the reports will make sure that reserves are held in safe positions. Powell said that as much as nine million dollars is being transacted via federal securities to protect the city’s money. Reports will give council a closer view of the city’s money.

These reports would enable financial controls so that things are brought to the attention of council at a regular time. Reports are to include consolidated statements and projects associated with funds.

City Clerk, Robert Baroni, gave a verbal report summarizing funds activities and balances. He also mentioned the existing quarterly reports that are distributed to the council.

Council stated that the public will be provided with financial information via video and PowerPoint presentation. Councilman Powell will work with the City Clerk to prepare video and PowerPoint presentation.

 Amending Charter to set term limits for Mayor and City Council--- The question was asked why is the council doing local legislation to amend charter to set term limits for council and mayor. Councilman P.K. Martin advised the council to take its time in thinking this item through.

Councilwoman Katie Hart Smith said she would like to hear public input before making a decision. It was agreed to holding a Public Hearing at the Regular Council Meeting in April or May. An announcement about the Public Hearing will take place at the Regular Council Meeting on Monday, March 7.

Councilwoman Beiser asked if pros and cons can be given by representatives from other municipalities that have put this item up as referendum. Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson said she would arrange for representatives from other municipalities to appear.

Council asked City Attorney Lee Thompson, Jr. to share the state law regulating term limits. He said state law states all municipalities have four year terms, unless they opt out.

Mayor Johnson said she will make sure to include fact sheet about this item in council’s Regular Meeting packages.

---Councilman Powell asked city attorney Thompson to identify a consultant, and cost, that the city would hire to gather information on how to stop airport expansion. Councilman Powell would also like this consultant to represent the city during any discussions regarding this expansion.

Councilman Martin said talks regarding the are on hold until the has been elected. But council agreed that it is a good idea to have this consultant in place for when these talks resume.

It was noted that the city does not have a say in the airport expansion that decision rests solely with the Board of Commissioners. But council asked city attorney Thompson to provide requested consultant names and cost.

City Vehicles Usage---Authorization was sought for City Clerk Baroni to use a city vehicle for commute to and from home and the office, as well as travel related to city business.

Council said they need staff recommendation to assist with setting standard city policy for city vehicle usage. Currently department heads, assistant department heads and on call personnel are the only employees authorized to use city vehicles for commutes and city business travel.

City Clerk Baroni will work with staff to write policy and to compile an up-to-date department listing of all personnel authorized to use city vehicles. This list will include on-call personnel and their schedules.

This list will be provided at the next Work Session.

College Corridor RFP---A meeting, attended by Mayor Johnson, council members, staff and representatives, was held. During this meeting, college overlay districts were discussed.

Dennis Billew, Planning and Zoning Director, urged the council to grant permission to put RFP out to hire person or persons to work directly with Gwinnett College. He said this person would represent the city and work with the college to identify where pieces of project would be constructed, i.e. walking trails. This person would assist in coordinating the overall picture of project, before construction occurs.

Councilman Martin said that an LCI study needed to be done to help with land use and transportation consideration.

Council consented to Mr. Billew proceeding with the creation of RFP.

LCI Grant---Mr. Billew said Kimley-Horn Designs has resubmitted an invoice in the amount of $536,000. He reminded council that the city pays each invoice and is then reimbursed. He also said that the invoiced amount would be deducted from the allocated amount of $577,500 which would leave a balance of $41,500. This balance can either remain in this project budget or can be transferred.

Council asked that this item be placed on the agenda of Regular Meeting to be held on Monday, March 7.

SPLOST funds for LCI funding---This project includes changing Clayton and Perry streets from one-way to two-way streets. This would allow Georgia Department of Transportation, GDOT, to relinquish control of these streets to the city. As part of LCI and design work, the city must fix short block of affected street.

Council also discussed the proposed plan to make Jackson Street an access street to Highway 124. The council asked if Jackson Street becomes access street who then controls it? The city or the state through GDOT or both?  Does it become inter-parcel?

Councilman Martin said he would like more input from the public. He said the public needs to know that the council is still listening. He also asked if the contract needed to be approved as a whole or if approval can be given piece-by-piece.

Councilwoman Smith said that it has been five years since the council received public input and that a lot has changed in those five years, i.e. business owners. Therefore they need to get input from business owners whose businesses are located on the square-- the area that will be affected the most.

Mr. Billew said if the council is going to ask for public input that needs to be done first, before contract is approved.

Council consented to holding a Public Hearing on Monday, March 28 to get public input. This Public Hearing will be announced at the March 7 Regular Meeting. Mayor Johnson will contact appropriate parties to request their presence at hearing.

Mr. Billew said that concept development approval by GDOT is time consuming. To avoid delay, Mr. Billew asked council for consent to have Kimley-Horn to precede with Phase I, items 1 and 2 of project. Council granted this authorization.   

Change registration of rental property---Mayor Johnson said during recent Intergovernmental Meeting that legislation will be proposed requiring all rental property to be registered by owner.

Changing Standard Agenda---Councilman Powell asked that a time be designated during Regular Meeting that would allow the mayor and council members opportunities to discuss items without them being on the agenda.  This time would be used to recognize community members achievements, to inform public where council members participated in community events and a point in meeting to tell public about good things happening in the city.

After discussion, council instructed city clerk to add the word Reports to the Announcements section of the Regular Meeting agenda. This portion of the agenda will conducted at the beginning of the meeting.   

Amending Regular Meeting Agenda---Councilman Powell asked that a time be designated during Regular Meeting that would allow three subdivisions and, or Homeowners Associations, representatives  to speak to council. These opportunities would enable representatives to get in front of council to make them aware of issues and concerns in and about their communities.

The council consented to this time allocation. Councilman Powell will select the first three subdivisions to appear at March 7 Regular Meeting.

Waterline Project---Council was told this project will be starting soon. Contour Design has been awarded contract for this project.

Email Guidelines---Councilman Powell asked city attorney for written email guidelines stating what can and cannot be transmitted via emails. Councilman Powell asked that these email guidelines are also distributed to city staff as well.

City attorney was instructed to provide these email guidelines at next Work Session.

(After this item, council moved back to Work Session agenda.)

Item 3: COLLEGE CORRIDOR RFP---It was noted that this item was listed and discussed as part of Councilman Powell’s Attachment Agenda. Council reiterated consent to Mr. Billew proceeding with creation of RFP.  

Item 4: DISCUSSION ON TAXI CAB ORDINANCE---City has been told that existing ordinance insurance requirements makes operating taxi business to expensive. Ordinance as is would allow taxis that are non-compliant to drop off passengers in the city, but they could not pick up passengers in the city.

Councilman Martin said currently the city has four licensed taxi companies. Three of the four have coverage and one has been suspended.

Council asked Police Department Captain Jeff Smith to walk them through the ordinance regulation process. Capt. Smith said that the ordinance requires that taxi companies use all owned vehicles, but often taxi companies lease vehicles that they use. The city made allowances for the use of leased vehicles, but taxi companies must have some liability coverage. The annual cost of this coverage was estimated to be $10,000.

Capt. Smith said the city’s Police Department conducts checks of taxi companies’ employees driving and criminal histories. The Police Department makes referrals to taxi companies of certified ASA mechanics for all vehicle inspections.  After inspection and histories have been reported, the Police Department then can issue decal for vehicle.

Just like any other vehicle on the roads, there is no procedure in place, including ordinance, that can verify whether or not a taxi has liability coverage, said Capt. Smith. He said the ordinance was put in place to stop fly-by-night taxi operations. But taxi companies have discovered ways to circumvent what council intended with the ordinance.

The council agreed that lease provision should be tightened up in the ordinance. Then they asked city attorney for recommendations.

City attorney Thompson said getting taxi companies to comply with the ordinance insurance requirements could be done a couple of ways. City could require taxi companies to have a master policy that would cover all vehicles, owned or leased, to have certain amounts of liability coverage. The city could also require proof of proper lease agreement.  

Council instructed the city attorney and staff to provide specific information about taxi companies insurance requirements for owned and leased vehicles. Council also asked that required amounts of insurance coverage that a taxi company must carry be provided.

This item was placed on agenda for next Work Session to be held this month.

Item 5: ZONING ORDINANCE-ARTICLE X--- The council discussed the regulating of electronic signs usage, controls and placement. If Article X of the ordinance is amended, does the city have enforcement ability, proper set back requirements and uniform requirements for usage.

City Attorney Thompson said he has reviewed ordinance and has provided his comments to Planning and Zoning.

Mr. Billew said Planning and Zoning has provided written guidelines that governs electronic signage usage, brightness controls, positioning and placement.

Councilwoman Beiser asked how long was the city going to deny business owners the right to use electronic signs. She said the city has some of the nastiest looking signs that are not up to date. She said the city needs to move out of "the Neanderthal Age."

City attorney Thompson said the wording in the existing ordinance does not allow electronic signs. He asked council to state in policy to allow or not to allow electronic signs.

Councilwoman Smith asked that the item be tabled to allow council to review electronic ordinance and billboard ordinance.

Councilman Martin asked city attorney Thompson to look at legality of electronic signage sizes.

The item was tabled until March Work Session. 

Before council moved to the next item, the council was told they would receive a request to consider allowing electronic signs being placed on gas station and convenient stores canopies. Mr. Billew said Planning and Zoning will oppose this request. Such usage does not meet requirements of ordinance. But if the council does consider allowing this usage, it must be tied to the ordinance.  

Item 6: FROM 1st READING-AMENDMENT OF DEVELOPMENT REGULATIONS and Item 7: FROM 1st READING-CHAPTER 21-104 CODE OF ORDINANCES---Both of these items were put on the Regular Meeting agenda of Monday, March 7.

Item 8: REQUEST APPROVAL OF RENEWAL OF CITY HALL CLEANING CONTRACT---Council was told that renewal contract will have the same annual cost that the city paid in 2009 and 2010, $33,000. City Clerk Baroni was instructed to place this item on the Consent agenda for approval during Monday, March 7 Regular Meeting.

Item 9: GREAT AMERICAN CLEAN-UP/GGC---Regina Vella, Director, Service Learning at Georgia Gwinnett College, GGC, asked the council to partner with GGC for the Great American Clean-up.  Vella told council that this year’s proposed project is to clean up the Boys and Girls Club area. A number of GGC students have already agreed to participate.

Vella also asked council to identify other areas in the city that GGC students can assist with to let her know. Rule changes for this year’s project include looking at specific areas as identified by Gwinnett the Beautiful program.

Project dates to do this year’s partnership project are March 14 or March 21.

Vella was told that Georgia Power is about to expand substation near Boys and Girls Club. She was advised to contact Georgia Power to ensure that GGC’s cleanup efforts won’t be undone by expansion.

Council accepted Great American Clean-up partnership invitation.

Item 10: COMMUNITY GARDEN--- Regina Vella, Director, Service Learning at Georgia Gwinnett College, GGC, asked the council to partner with GGC for the creation of a community garden within the city. GGC is looking into securing a grant from to use as start up and garden maintenance funding.

Vella said that the City of Suwanee has a similar garden to what is being proposed, but unlike Suwanee, Vella would like the city to sell produce commercially. 

Vella will review the grant to ascertain if an exact size of land for garden is requested, in response to council’s question about how much land would be needed.    

Mayor Johnson will serve as point person for the city for this community garden project.

Council gave instructions to proceed and gave their consent to placing item on Monday, March 7 Regular Meeting agenda.

Item 11: COURT ADMINISTRATOR and SOFTWARE---City Clerk Baroni informed council that the Court Administrator, Jane Gaguski is retiring. He said he was in the process of looking at options to fill the position.  These options include privatizing the position or hiring someone.

City Clerk Baroni also informed the council that he is considering changing the court’s software.  The software being considered is currently used by 235 cities.

At the request of Councilman Martin, the Work Session was adjourned and council moved into Executive Session.


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