However, the unanimous approval occurred without the necessary public hearing, advertisement or public comment period required under Georgia law. The budget was most recently mentioned during the council’s Nov. 4 work session, when Mayor Ron Casey presented it for the council’s review.
According to OCGA 36-81-5 section E, “A statement advising the resident of the local unit of government of the availability of the proposed budget shall be published in the newspaper of general circulation within the jurisdiction of the governing authority. The notice shall be published during the week in which the proposed budget is submitted to the governing authority. In addition, the statement shall also advise the residents that a public hearing will be held at which time any persons wishing to be heard on the budget may appear. The statement shall be a prominently displayed advertisement or news article and shall not be placed in that section of the newspaper where legal notices appear.”
Section F of the same law continues: “At least one week prior to the meeting of the governing authority at which adoption of the budget ordinance or resolution will be considered, the governing authority shall conduct a public hearing, at which time any persons wishing to be heard on the budget may appear.”
In the week between the work session and Monday night’s regular meeting, no advertisement appeared in The Daily Tribune News. Also, no public hearing was held before council member Harold Posey motioned for approval and council member Ed Miklas seconded the motion.
City Attorney Brandon Bowen said the mayor would have allowed any interested residents present at the meeting to speak if they so desired. However, no resident spoke and such an offer would not satisfy Georgia law.
As the council did not discuss specific details of the budget, a later edition of the DTN will examine Kingston’s 2013 budget.
After announcing council member Chuck Wise had taken care of the limbs hanging over the Railroad Street well’s power lines, Casey asked Lloyd Williamson of Williamson and Co. to report on the city’s 2012 financial audit. See Wednesday’s edition of the DTN for full details on the audit.
Following the audit, the city council discussed what to do with the approximately $179,000 Kingston has remaining in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds. A number of ideas, ranging from installing safety fencing along the railroad tracks to purchasing the water cut-off valves specified in the 2007 SPLOST were discussed. Among the options was improving recreation facilities in the city, which Casey opposed.
“The problem with recreation is, you’ve got Euharlee now has built a $5 million complex with everything, and you’ve got the place being built in Emerson with everything and everything else. So, [you’re] just not going to draw anybody to the fall field like we used to,” he said.
City Clerk Michele Jones said the city could attract business if the concession stand was improved.
“Some people will come here because it’s cheaper. Ours is a whole lot cheaper than everybody else’s. But that concession stand is horrendous,” she said.
No decision was made on how to spend the SPLOST funds.
After striking a decision on what road project the city should tackle, the council went into executive session to discuss personnel and real estate issues. No decision was announced.
During the customary council comment period, Wise said he was disheartened at the low voter turnout Kingston saw during the Nov. 5 election.
“I was very disappointed in the low turnout of the people that vote. I voted early, and it seems like people have more concern for Kingston that don’t live inside the city limits than our own people who live here inside the city,” he said. “The people who have elected me to try to do something that I think is right and in the best interest of the community, but I can’t do anything by myself. If you don’t come to the meetings ... I can’t go to the store without someone whining and crying about something.
“They won’t come to the meetings. They won’t come to the meetings. I’m not ashamed to say it out loud. I’ll say it in their face. For what support we do have every week I’m thankful for.”
Before calling for an adjourning vote, Casey recognized the new mayor and council member who were recently elected.
“I would like to say that I think the people of Kingston need to support the new administration that will be coming in to try and improve this town. I hope they do well. I have enjoyed trying to do the best that I possibly can do,” he said.
The Kingston City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at city hall.