Money woes plaguing Public Works and Aquatic Center in Columbus - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Money woes plaguing Public Works and Aquatic Center in Columbus

Tuesday during Columbus City Council (Source: WTVM) Tuesday during Columbus City Council (Source: WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Five months after the city of Columbus changed its weekly trash pick-up schedule from two days to one day, another major issue has arisen within the Department of Public Works. 

Pat Biegler, Director of Public Works announced during Tuesday’s city council meeting an imminent need to begin replacing the city’s worn out fleet of vehicles and large equipment. 

Biegler presented four options as a means for picking up the $25 million price tag to purchase new vehicles. 

One of the options is to increase garbage fees by $2 dollars a month.   Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said, "It would be troublesome certainly this is not something that I considered doing and not something that I want to support."

Another option would be to charge the owners of all parcels even parcels that don't use city services for garbage pick-up...like commercial properties. 

“I can only imagine, added Tomlinson, the outcry we will hear from commercial property owners who are already paying for private pick up.”

Two additional options would entail pulling the money from the OLOST or Other Local Option Sales Tax to replace the vehicles. Since vehicle replacement wasn’t on the list of previously defined projects by council, they would have to go back to the drawing board to redefine the purpose.  And expanding Urban Service Districts by redrawing lines around neighborhoods so that everyone is taxed at the same rate.  

Biegler also told council she anticipates going over budget by $350,000 this year. No decisions were made on Tuesday.

The discussion will continue in two weeks, but trash pick-up isn’t the only lingering issue council will have to address. 

The Aquatic Center is also in need of $500,000 to keep the facility operating at 89 hours a week. Parks and Recreation Director, Dr. James Worsley presented a list of “drastic" cuts to council that were postponed for discussion.

On the list of 16 items included the city getting out of the child care business. City Manager Isaiah Hugley said he doesn’t know why the city got into that business many years ago in the first place. 

“It’s not necessarily in my mind a great fit for parks and rec. It’s a better fit for the school district since they’ve already taken over six of the after school programs since 2011,”said Hugley.

Currently, Parks & Rec operates about 20 before and after school programs at elementary and middle schools within Muscogee County. 

“We operate those programs in their schools, I think we need to accelerate it and we can take the $300,000 we need and put that toward the Aquatic Center or something else that’s needed."

Hugley also said the list of items were for discussion purposes only.

There was some good news revealed at council as well. An annual audit showed the city's financial status in the general fund did better this fiscal year than the previous year. The fund accumulated $2 million in excess revenue. 

The meeting did not adjourn due to at least six councilors being absent by the end of the meeting. 

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