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Rochelle council saves $44k in interest/principal payments to GEFA

By Lucas C. Allison

Wilcox County Correspondent

The Rochelle City Council held its regular monthly meeting Wednesday, the first in-person meeting since April due to COVID19.  Everyone in attendance was wearing masks.

Police chief Mickey Barfield said his department answered 362 total calls in June —  46 incident reports, 59 miscellaneous cases, 123 traffic stops, three requests to patrol area, 131 other non- criminal cases, two arrests and five warrants taken.

He reported Judge Shawn Rhodes will resume Municipal Court on July 13 at 5pm in City Hall with COVID19 precautions being taken also they will be working to clear the backlog of cases due to court being cancelled for past few months.

Barfield reported officer training is being evaluated and that unless it is cancelled, he would be attending a police chiefs’ conference in Savannah in July. He also reported he had purchased two new radar units one handheld and one in car unit with SPLOST funds approved by Mayor McGuinty.

Councilman Herman Greene inquired about the rear taillight of Rochelle Unit 4. Barfield said they had been trying to locate a used one to replace it as you have to replace the entire assembly and new ones cost approximately $500, but it will be repaired and he was aware of it.  Chief Barfield stated he wanted to thank the citizens of Rochelle and Wilcox County for their attitudes and actions toward the police department and his officers.  The citizens and officers have shown respect and loyalty to each other and continue to work together to make issues in the community better for all.  A “march” was planned and implemented by two citizens who sat down with him and working together implemented a plan on how the “march” would proceed.  We all agreed the “march” would be peaceful and respectful, the “march” took place on June 18th in Rochelle, and everything well.  The Chief stated he would like to publicly thank Mr. Leroy Dantley for his assistance in making the even a success.  The Mayor and Council members all thanked Chief Barfield and his officers for how they have handled matters during these stressful times.  Councilwoman Vickie Kemp .stated she was overly concerned with residents gambling in the streets in areas of Dykes Avenue where she lives and Hill and Stephens Street.  She stated they had stopped; however, they have started it back it.  She said it usually starts up on Thursday night and proceeds thru the weekend, they are actually in the streets rolling the dice and shooting craps, Chief said he will alert his officers and they will make a concerted effort to stop the problem.  Mrs. Kemp then inquired of the Chief in lieu of recent legislation that has passed regarding police tactics in arresting people what is the police department policy regarding the use of a “CHOKHOLD”.  Chief Barfield stated his officers are trained when attempting to arrest a suspect to NOT go for any areas above the chest when effecting an arrest.  He stated the department has a NO CHOKEHOLD policy, however if it is a matter of saving the life of the officer or other persons it may have to be used as a last resort only.  Chief Barfield stated the only problem he personally has with the legislation is that if an officer does have to use a chokehold in defense of his life or others, he could then be held criminally and civilly liable. He stated he believes each incident should be evaluated on a case by case basis as no two cases are the same.  Councilman Herman Greene echoed Chief Barfield as he works in the hospital and they too are trained not attempt to restrain from the chest up unless matter of life and death.  All agreed that hopefully this issue would never be a problem for the city of Rochelle.

Mr. Wallace Peacock then delivered the street and maintenance report for the month of June,

Including repair water lines, mowing, and running the limb truck several times Mayor McGunity and Councilman Greene stated they had received complaints of persons illegally dumping on a site located on the south side of 2nd Avenue at end of pecan orchard which a private landowner had allowed the city to use during the hurricanes for excess debris, the city and the EPD have since officially closed the temporary dump site.  It approved to erect signs indicating no illegal dumping allowed and Chief Barfield was advised to keep a check on the area.

Mayor McGunity then read resolutions and Council approved both regarding modification of loans which the city owes financed through the GA Environmental Finance Authority, both Resolutions authorized the mayor and city clerk to execute all documents necessary for the loan modifications.  The first resolution was for Loan #2016L-02WJ it provides for no interest payments from June 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020 and the second resolution was for Loan #2013LG10Q provides for no payments from July 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020 with all payments to resume as previous outlined in the loans on 1-1-2021.  These modifications will save the city approximately $7873.00 per month for a total estimated savings of $44,268.00.

This will help the city’s budget during these trying times.

Mayor McGuinty then gave an update on repairing the roof which council approved some months back.  He stated he had contacted Joey Veal who is a respected commercial roofer from Ocilla and that Mr. Veal had inspected the roof and pulled core samples from it.  After doing so it was determined there was a metal roof along with two separate membranes underneath and between both membranes.  He stated he has asked Mr. Veal prepare of scope of work report on what would be needed to fix the roof right not just patching it, he said he told Mr. Veal he only wanted the scope and not a bid, after he delivers the scope of work we will then bid it out so all bidders will bid on the same scope of work when we compare bids.  The plan is to replace the membranes and a new roof which will be white rubber type material which is 88% reflective which will make it easier to cool and stop the leaks.   Council agreed to proceed in this manner.

The mayor then reported that Mr. Cary Walker had contacted the city to request to lease the never opened portion of Lee Street North of First Avenue to the railroad tracks.  This was a proposed street which had been deeded to Snipes pending their building a new store on the lot adjacent, however when Snipes did not build in certain number of years the street land reverted to the city.  The street will never be opened by the city as GA DOT will not approve it to cross the railroad.  Mr. Walker owns both tracts of land on either side of the portion of Lee Street.  Mr. Walker has plans to place storage units, also a UHAUL Rental facility and a car sales lot on the properties and wishes to control access to the properties.  The council approved for city attorney Toni Sawyer to write up a yearly lease according to law and determine a fair price for the lease and will be revenue for the city.

Attorney Sawyer reported that she had met with the final property owner Brandy Davis and executed documents to obtain the easement for the SOOK ROAD CDBG project  for $100 and she needed the Council to approve the payment which council approved.  All easements and right of ways have been obtained without the use of Eminent Domain, which pleased the mayor and council.  Bids are being solicited now and will be open at city hall on August 4th at 10am.

Mayor McGuinty reported that GA DOT officials have agreed to conduct a Hydrological study to see if they can come up with a solution to stop the flooding of Hwy 280 through the city when we have heavy rains.  The DOT did not give a timeline for completion of the study.  Mayor said he would caution citizens do not attempt to drive through an area that is flooded.

The Mayor reported the EPD has finally signed off on the installation of the new FLUMES at the South Pond.  Upon advice of Chad Griffith it is specialized concrete work which he recommends hiring Taylor Concrete to do the installation at a cost of $2 to 3000.00, council approved this and expect work to be completed in 5- times.  The Lambtown pumping station pump has been removed and is awaiting replacement.  The Mayor reported the city tractor recently had the transmission repaired, it failed however the vendor immediately admitted it was improperly repaired by them and they honored their warranty and quickly made the necessary repairs and the tractor is now back in service with no problems.  Repairs were also made to the city backhoe and it is in service.

Councilman Greene stated he wished to commend the improvements being made by downtown business owners such as the repairs and renovations to Vera’s, the old pool hall and the outdoor place she made where the old building had collapsed, also repairs to the old Sears building, and the work being done on the old building at Gordon and First Avenue, the  planned re opening of the car wash on Gordon Street .  He thanked Mr. Joseph Lopez a member of the Rochelle Downtown Development Authority for all their hard work and efforts in these areas.

Mr. Lopez also reported they are currently working with persons to bring in a Mexican restaurant in the original Vera’s location next to the laundromat.  He inquired as to when the DDA would be able to hold meetings again in the Community Center, the mayor stated due to the rise of COVID19 cases on advises of DPH they are not allowing use of the facility.  There were suggestions to hold meetings via ZOOM or teleconference .

Mr. Lopez then addressed council as a citizen regarding a water pipe leak at his property and he

Inquired about location of meter and possibly running new pipe.  Mr. Lopez was advised that the city installation ends at the water meter, lines from the meter to your home are your responsibility and that from the meter you can run your pipe to house however you wish.  It was noted if he wished to have a new meter installed elsewhere as long as there is a main to tap into the city would install a new meter at a cost to the homeowner of $275.00.  The mayor also stated plans are in the 4Qtr of this year the city plans to apply for a grant to install new water meters throughout the entire city.

Mayor and council stated they would be monitoring the COVID19 numbers and decide by July 29th as to whether the August and September meetings would be live or via Zoom.  The mayor expressed if the numbers keep climbing, he suspects it will be via Zoom, but they will wait and follow CDC and DPH guidelines.

There being no further business the meeting was adjourned; the Rochelle City Council meets the 1st Wednesday of each month at 7pm in City Hall.