CITY ADMINISTRATOR REPORT FOR AUGUST 2020
Here is a summary of the noteworthy items that Jennifer, staff and I have been working on during the past month:
- Purchased a service truck for the Wastewater Dept.
- Ordered the 14’ dump trailer for Public Works approved at last council meeting from Carry-On Trailer. We should have delivery in the next several weeks. The first usage will be in the Villages as we begin the sidewalk and strip repair.
- Completed and submitted the Cares Act Grant Round I Funding which included the city getting both water and sewer service trucks and one of the Inspections cars funded ($97K), masks and sanitation supplies purchased to give away to the schools and Sheriff’s Dept; protective shields, signage, masks and sanitary supplies for City Hall and WWTP. I appreciate each of the Council member’s participation in assisting in the presentations at these venues.
- Hired Joe Hayes as Building Inspector. Currently getting that Dept set up with equipment and computer. Joe and I met with a potential paperless software provider that would expedite the permitting process and be more user friendly for developers and our staff. This is the first step in bringing this function inhouse.
- Jennifer started the recodification process of our Code of Ordinances with Municode. This will be a work in progress over the next 10-12 months.
- Finalized the Planning and Zoning Training through UGA Carl Vincent Institute of Government for October 29th. Hoschton will be hosting this training class and we have requests from numerous surrounding counties and cities to send their appointees to this training. We expect between 20-25 people attend. The training will be at the Depot.
- Councilman Ledbetter and I have started on Phase One of the city street assessment which includes signage, speed bumps, speed limits, etc. We are putting together a needs list now for new signs, poles, and recommendations for possible One-Way designations on several streets, etc. Will keep you advised as this project moves along.
- Completed the GDOT LMIG 2019 Project Report and the 2020 Grant Round Application and submitted to GDOT. We will be banking the 2020 recovered funding of $22,497.46 with the 2021 amount of $29,381.89 (total $51,879.35) for the West Jefferson Street repair and repave in the spring of 2021. Requested a new quote from Garret Paving from Walnut Street to the city limits…..$125K without the culvert and shoulder repair at Panther Court which could be another $15-20K. I have copies of these documents if you wish to review. Approximately $90-95K will have to be funded from our remaining SPLOST Street Funding and thru the General Fund Reserve.
- Completed the Council Retreat. I presented a lot of information regarding instituting a DDA Program, Economic Development Assist and Grants Programs, Revolving Loan Fund Program, Historic Preservation Committee and a potential future Georgia Mainstreet application and designation.
- Met with Sri Kumar regarding #9; will meet again in the next several weeks to try and get the final items in place for presentation to Council before the end of the year.
- Discussions with Creekside Developer Anthony Criscione regarding street binder repair and curbing repair. Mangum Paving has repaired most of the binder issues. Jerry Weitz and I met with Joseph Hipps, Anthony’s project super, last week and discussed the remainder of the concrete curbing and storm drain issues that need to be corrected before a final top coat and street acceptance by the city will be finalized. At least we are finally moving along on getting this project completed. We also discussed the new proposed Townhome/Commercial project and exiting traffic out thru Main Street which would have to be upgraded and widened to accommodate any addition traffic. We agreed this would not be a feasible alternative and would be cost prohibitive.
- Consulted with EMI on our future 10-year Water and Sewer Infrastructure Projects list. EMI is finalizing the report and hope to have completed within the next several weeks. Potentially $20M plus in needed projects over the next 10 years to keep up with the projected residential and commercial growth during this timeframe.
- Contracts for the WWTP Clarifier Project have been signed by the city and PF Moon and City Attorney has reviewed and signed. A Preconstruction Meeting was held on August 17th with PF Moon and staff. Moon will have 270 days (9 months) to complete this project which will increase the sewer treatment capacity from 200K gpd to 500K gpd. The next phase will take the plant capacity up to 950K gpd will begin by the end of 2022.
- The Water and Sewer Department staff have been busy installing new water meters in the Cresswind and Twin Lakes PUD development. Over 30+ meters have been installed from August 1 thru Sept 10th.
- Reviewed the Service Delivery component of the Comprehensive Plan proposals from Jackson County. The City Managers / Clerks of the 9 respective cities in Jackson County met with Kevin Poe, County Manager, last week to begin negotiations of service delivery between the different governmental entities. One noteworthy point of discussion will be the turning over of roadway repair/repave, shoulder and storm water maintenance from the county to the cities on roadways and streets that are currently being maintained by the county that have been annexed into the cities. Water and sewer boundaries will also be a discussion item.
- American Tank will perform the annual washout/inspection this week on our water tank
- And finally, started the 2021 Budget Process with Department Heads and office staff.
This is a brief overview of the activities of the Administrator and staff during the month of August. I would be happy to explain or clarify any items that you need a better understanding of or documentation.
September 14, 2020
Citizens of Hoschton
Many of you may be wondering if a police department is coming back to the city. I thought I would update you on what is currently taking place. First of all, let me assure you as I have been assured by our Sheriff that the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department will enforce the law in Hoschton and will be here to assist our citizens as needed. All property owners within the city pay county property taxes and a portion of those taxes go to fund the Sheriff’s Department.
The city had a small police force when I was growing up in the 60’s -80’s. I can remember no more than a couple of city officers through the end of the 80’s (population 300-400). As people came and the city grew, so did the police department. It was disbanded about 9 or 10 years ago with approximately 10 officers employed (give or take a few). The cost of the department just became too much of a burden for the city with such limited revenue. Your city council and I are gathering as much information as we can on the pros and cons of restarting a police force. We have talked with several experts and will talk with more. One thing everyone agrees on is that a police department is very expensive.
When we have a new police force, I want one that serves its citizens and is a part of the community. I do not want a revenue program of writing tickets all day. With the new residential developments currently being constructed and more being planned for the future, it is safe to assume that if current market conditions remain stable, our city will grow from its current population of just over 2000 to 10,000 people within the next 7 to 8 years. I may be wrong, but I doubt there is a city within the State of Georgia with a population of 10,000 or more without its own police department.
If you have been reading our local paper, you might have assumed that the decision had already been made and officers were being hired. That is the farthest thing from the truth. All of us at City Hall want and need your input. What do you think is appropriate? It is your town so speak up.
The city is in the process of adopting an Impact Fee that will be placed on all new construction to help fund the additional services required due to the increased residential growth. However, one developer seems to be having some issues supporting it. Some of these Impact Fee proceeds can and will be used for the infrastructure of a police department; the remainder of the funds go towards parks/rec and fire. However, these funds cannot be used for the daily operations of the departments, only the capital component, which is land acquisition, buildings, equipment, etc. The bottom line is when officers are hired, and equipment is purchased a revenue stream must be in place to fund and sustain it. We have found in our research that departments with 10 to 20 officers cost approximately $100,000 per officer in total expenditures upon start up. This would include uniforms, protective gear, weapons, outfitted police vehicle, communications equipment, computers with law enforcement software, salaries, and benefits. I would assume that rate will be a little higher per officer if just a couple were hired. If we started with 2 officers, maybe a budget in the $300K range. Again, we are still collecting information. How would this money be raised?
I am always open to options, but if the citizens want it, they will have to pay for it and that usually comes from property taxes. Yes, I said the dirty word that nobody wants to hear. Trust me when I say that I hate it more than anyone. I want all of us to plan for the future of Hoschton together to make it the best it can be. Are city property taxes an option for you as a citizen? I pay them also and always say that I am not getting my money’s worth. The school system takes over 60%, Jackson County takes most of the rest except that we have an independent fire department that charges citizens of West Jackson a small percentage. I challenge each of you to study your tax bill this fall and understand where your money goes. The City of Hoschton gets none of it. Your city does not have any long-term revenue source and to survive, one must be created.
In closing, we are not on the immediate task of restarting a police department. We are on a fact-finding mission which includes input from you our citizens. Please reach out to me, your council members and the staff at City Hall. We value your input. I plan to schedule several town hall meetings soon so we can all discuss the future of our town.
Shannon Sell, Mayor
September 1, 2020
Citizens of Hoschton,
I thought it would be prudent to update you on some of the happenings and progress that have occurred in the last few months. Most of you are aware that the Mayor and Council members are all less than a year into their respective terms, you may not be aware of the daily commitment all of them make in serving our city. I can promise all of you that each member of the council and all the staff want nothing but the best for our citizens and work hard each day to provide you services. I just wanted to highlight a few of our accomplishments since the first of 2020. We are striving to make your city one that you can be proud of and to also be responsible with your money.
1. Successfully negotiated a five-year garbage service contract.
2. Replaced a full-time planner with a part-time very qualified sub-contractor, Dr. Jerry Weitz.
3. Liquated older vehicles, including one that was junk/not running.
4. Placed your money in interest bearing accounts that should net the city approximately $75,000 additional income next year. We bid out banking services and interest rates and moved all accounts to a new bank.
5. Replaced the city attorney of several years with a new attorney and law firm, Hulsey, Oliver and Mahar of Gainesville, GA. Mr. Abbott Hayes of that firm is the new city attorney.
6. Terminated a private security contract that was costing you approximately $30,000/yr.
7. Established working relationships with our neighboring city and county governments including the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
8. Currently in the process of hiring staff and establishing your own “in-house” building inspection department. We have hired a chief inspector and purchased two new vehicles (one paid for from grant funds) for two inspectors. It is estimated that the savings to the city should exceed $100,000.00 year.
9. Appointed a new Hoschton Planning and Zoning Commission. These members work hard for our citizens and donate their time. Their service is much appreciated.
10. Named Jennifer Harrison the Hoschton City Clerk. Many of you know what a great work ethic and great personality Jennifer has; the city is fortunate to have her on our team.
11. Employed Amber Frazier as our new receptionist and administrative assistant.
12. Formed a City of Hoschton Ethics Committee and became a Georgia Certified City of Ethics.
13. Are in the rapid progress of building two new water tanks. Engineering has been initiated on a 500,000 gallon North tank and a 1,000,000 gallon South tank. According to plans, both tanks should (hopefully) be under construction by the middle of next year and will paid for from water meter sales (taps). We feel confident the city will be receiving at least one federal grant of $600,000 towards the construction cost. The new tanks will be built at a higher elevation than the current 100,000 gallon tank which will provide better water pressure and reserves for the entire city. We are gathering ideas on the future use of the old water tank after it is taken out of service. Let us know your opinions.
14. Employed Mr. Gary Fesperman as our interim City Administrator. Gary retired as City Manager of Lavonia after 17 years. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the city and has made an immediate positive impact on moving our city forward.
15. We completed the renovation of city hall under budget.
16. Employed two additional public works employees.
17. Removed approximately 80 trees within the right of way of the Village of Hoschton Subdivision that were causing damage to the sidewalks and streets. Final repairs/replacement of sidewalks will be completed in 2021.
18. Eliminated a mandatory insurance cost on your water bills. It should have been your choice to add and not a requirement to have it removed.
19. Currently in Phase 2 of the wastewater treatment plant upgrade scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021. This $2.2 million dollar project will be funded by sewer connection fees and will increase our plant capacity to 500,000 gallons per day. Phase 3 upgrade will follow immediately and increase the plant capacity to 950,000 gallons per day.
20. Purchased two new service trucks for water/sewer/public works with grant funds.
21. Submitted and updated city road mileage report to GDOT (increase of approx. 5 miles) so we are allocated the correct amount of money for street repairs. We currently have 17.6 miles of city streets.
22. Currently in the process of implementing a City Storm Water project/budget. This will be a revenue from each property and funds will be allocated to installing/repairing city storm water infrastructure.
23. Currently in initial stage of updating the city charter to a city-manager form of government.
24. Finalizing an impact fee program. A fee will be collected at issuance of a building permit to provide funding for future parks/recreation, police, and fire. Funds will be used only for property and infrastructure, not operations.
25. We are discussing creating a future city police department. All of us would like your input. It’s your city; please contact me or any member of the council to share your thoughts on this topic.
26. We are exploring the addition of new water wells within the city. We currently buy water from the City of Braselton and Jackson County. We have two wells of our own and have found that we can produce our own water with much less cost over the long run than purchasing it. We are hopeful these new potential well sites will provide the city additional water sources over the next few years.
This is just a quick list with minor details. If would like additional information, please contact City Hall. We hope to have some town hall meetings soon (October). It is our pleasure to serve you and we value our citizen’s input on the future of the city. We have a great team of employees in the City of Hoschton and they all work very hard for you. Please thank them when you see them out and about or in city hall. We are fortunate to have all of them serving us.
Shannon Sell, Mayor
Council members: Adam Ledbetter, Shantwon Astin, James Lawson, Tracy Carswell
The City of Hoschton is a small community and a wonderful place to call home. It is located just off Interstate 85 in Jackson County in north Georgia, about 35 miles northeast of the Atlanta perimeter. Jackson County is included in the 10 fastest growing counties in the country yet offers an abundance of open spaces and unspoiled views of the state’s Piedmont Region – just south of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our climate is moderate, pleasant, and enjoyable for a wide variety of outdoor activities.
Our city mixes the advantage of small town living and the convenience of being less than 45 minutes from urban areas such as Athens, Gainesville and metro Atlanta for shopping, dining and entertainment. On behalf of all of our citizens, please visit our community and make yourself at home!