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Grovetown adds two new ordinances

Posted: October 18, 2017 - 1:10am

Grovetown officials adopted two new ordinances and approved an amendment to some city ordinances, in an effort to bring its laws up to date.

The council approved an ordinance amendment to its code surrounding unfit buildings or structures regulation ordinance, adopted a policy for the use of city issued purchasing and credit cards by elected officials, and approved a new social media use policy for employees.

According to city administrator John Waller, the city's attorney, Christopher Dube, shed light on the city's laws surrounding handling blighted properties.

"What you had on your books in your code for nuisance abatement and unfit housing was from 1994," Dube told the council during its regularly scheduled meeting last week. "Georgia law has changed quite a bit in the last 25 years on this issue, including a major re-haul in 2001 in the area of unfit housing, so I am just trying to bring you current and up to date."

Waller explained that the updated ordinance merely describes processes the city takes once blighted properties are identified by public officials, or if five complaints are received from the city. Once a code enforcement officer surveys the property, the ordinance clearly states the process that follows.

"It kind of lays out step by step, and makes it much easier to enforce kind of a convoluted ordinance that we already had, that comes with taking care of unfit building or structures," Waller said.

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Social media: City officials also adopted a new social media use policy for employees, which is for city-owned sites on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

"Social media is with us, it's going to stay with us," Waller told the council. "Again, a lot of this is common sense, but we've got to make sure we are smart, and we are talking to the employee so they know what right looks like."

Waller said he is also working with the city's Human Resources Director Elaine Matthews on updating the city's personnel policy to incorporate the new social media policy. Waller explained updating the personnel policy would include rules surrounding not texting and driving.

"So there's going to be a little bit of growing pains, as people understand they can't go to work and put in little earbuds and play on their phones when they're dealing with customers," Waller said of planned updates on social media use in the city's personnel policy.

The ordinance adoption came days before a controversial Facebook post by Mayor Gary Jones, on a personal page stating his support for two candidates currently running for Grovetown city council, and opposition of two others. The post prompted one of the candidates, Deborah Fisher, to speak out, saying she felt bullied by the post that accused her of teaming up with incumbent Vickie Cook to unseat sitting councilwoman Sylvia Martin.

However Dube explained in a recent phone interview that Jones' page, which clearly stated his position as Mayor of Grovetown, was not city owned and operated and for employees, the policy does not include personal sites.

"This kind of lays out what you can do and not do," Waller said of the new social media policy. "You have got to be careful. If you're an employee you can't just go on to a city website like Facebook or Twitter or something, and say all sorts of disparaging things. (Employees) represent the city and they have to conduct themselves appropriately on these particular sites."

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Card usage by officials: Officials also adopted a new credit card usage policy to bring the city in compliance with the latest state laws.

"Mr. Dube was good enough to let us know that based on the code of Georgia annotated, that beginning Jan. 2016, elected officials were not authorized, technically, to use credit cards unless the municipality had a policy governing their use," Waller told council members at the meeting.

Waller added that the policy contained nothing "controversial" and called the policy "common sense stuff."

According to the policy city officials have cards which include a $750 limit for one-time transactions and a $2,500 monthly limit.

"It's really no different than what you have already been doing," Waller said. "But we have that captured as part of the overall purchase card, credit card policy."

All of the resolutions were adopted by council members.

Other business City leaders approved a modification to a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority loan funding the $468,000 Euchee Creek Interceptor, a sewer extension project. The modification allows the city to push back when it begins payment on the principal balance of the loan. "When we take these GEFA loans we start paying the interest almost immediately, we don't have to start paying the principal until the completion of the job," Waller told the council. "This job has run long. We were going to start having to pay the principal in December, prior to completion of the project."

Officials approved a request to extend by six months the city's Multifamily Residential Development Moratorium within Grovetown city limits. Waller said the city's planning and zoning department plans to turn over an analysis on more than 300 properties to the planning and zoning officials, who will then make recommendations for zoning changes to council members.

An invoice was approved for more than $23,000 to be paid to Dabbs, Hickman, Hill & Cannon, LLP, the company completing the city's forensic audit. Waller said with the approval of the latest bill, the city has paid more than $50,000 to the firm. Waller added that the firm is in the final stretch of the audit, but that he expects another invoice that could be as much as $20,000. "Probably in another 30 or 60 days I will be coming forward with what should be the last invoice to happen before project completed," Waller said. The audit began in June of last year.

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