Three new council members took their seats Monday night and each will chair one of the council’s seven committees, which review action items and decide if they should appear before the full council.
Tumlin has given most council members a new position, assigning Councilman Andy Morris the coveted spot as the council’s representative on the Marietta Board of Lights and Water.
It’s the only city committee or board that comes with a paycheck. Morris will get an extra $300 monthly for his spot on the board that governs the city’s utility. That’s in addition to the $13,000 each council member is paid.
Tumlin has appointed five different council members to the BLW during his tenure. His predecessor, former Mayor Bill Dunaway, had the same appointee for the eight years he served in office.
“I see it as more people that are directly involved in the BLW, the better our council is to make decisions,” Tumlin said.
He also praised the council’s last BLW representative, former Councilman Johnny Sinclair, noting his finance experience and the relationships he built are valuable to the city.
“It’s that partnership where I wanted more strength on the City Council side, and Johnny was a perfect example that it works,” Tumlin said.
Council also approved Wednesday reappointing Stephanie Guy as city clerk, carrying a salary of $50,020 annually, and Doug Haynie as city attorney, who is paid $145 per hour on a contract basis. Goldstein, who recently lost his lawsuit against the city and was ordered to pay $50,000 in attorney’s fees, abstained on the vote to reappoint Haynie.
Power rate hike will be in question
Morris will have to deal with a debate over whether the city should raise its power rates. Though the BLW raised water rates by 40 cents a month, or $4.80 a year, it delayed making a decision about power rates.
Each month action is delayed, the BLW will be forced to absorb a $400,000 loss caused by increasing wholesale rates, Bob Lewis, the utility’s general manager, previously told MDJ.
Some board members want to wait until late February to make a decision on power rates. That’s when the BLW will receive a report from Marietta-based GDS and Associates, which the utility paid about $45,000 to study its rate schedule.
Any rate increases recommended by the BLW have to be approved by City Council before they can go into effect, and that’s when Morris’ duties would come into play.
The utility is looking to close a $5 million deficit created by higher costs from the utility’s power wholesaler, the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia.
Lewis proposed increasing the base charge levied on power customers by $2 and decreasing a discount offered to customers who pay their bill within the first 13 days from 10 percent to 5 percent.
That would mean an increase of $7.11 on the average bill. Cutting the discount in half alone raises $4.3 million, but leaves the utility looking for another $700,000.
Not all board members supported with that plan and are considering other options on the table.
Utility staff also proposed suspending payments to the fund that BLW pumps money into for the expansion of Plant Vogtle, a nuclear plant south of Augusta.
Alternatively, the remaining $700,000 needed could come from the utility’s $9.4 million surplus reserve account.
Those two choices would increase rates on the average customer by $5.21.
New councilman wants strong ties with schools
A previously overlooked and unpaid council liaison position is getting fresh attention from a first-term councilman.
Councilman Johnny Walker was named by Tumlin as the city’s liaison to Marietta’s school system. It’s an informal position with no paycheck, but Walker says he wants to make something of it.
Walker never served on the city’s school board, but has taught photography classes and is a freelance photographer for the school system.
He’s also an alumnus of the city’s school system.
“I want to see the school system do good, and I think it’s a great opportunity for me since I already spent a lot of time, I go to a lot of events,” Walker said.
He wouldn’t point to any specific goals he has to strengthen the liaison position, but said “I just want to be there for the school system.”
“The main thing is to be able to come back to the council and tell them what’s going on,” Walker said.
Walker was also named by Tumlin as mayor pro tem. It’s another largely procedural position that steps in when Tumlin isn’t able to preside over a meeting or represent the city at an event, but it pays an extra $100 monthly in addition to the $13,000 council members get annually.
Committees shaken up
Items considered for final action at the monthly City Council meeting go through an extensive committee process. The city’s seven committees meet back-to-back each month often meeting late into the night or early morning.
Each council member is assigned to be the chairman of one committee and the vice chairman of another.
Councilman Philip Goldstein remains the chairman of the Judicial/Legislative Committee, which considers all policy matters before the council gets to them.
Councilman Anthony Coleman also remains the chairman of the Public Safety Committee.
New Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly will chair the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Committee. First-term Councilman Johnny Walker gets the Personnel/Insurance Committee. New Councilman Stuart Fleming is chairman of the Finance/Investment Committee.
• City compensation:
• Mayor Steve Tumlin, $18,000 annually and up to $160 expenses
• Mayor Pro Tem Johnny Walker, $14,200 annually and up to $150 expenses
• Councilmembers, $13,000 annually and up to $150 expenses
• Board of Lights and Water representative Councilman Andy Morris, additional $300 monthly
• City Clerk Stephanie Guy, $50,020 annually
• City Attorney Doug Haynie, $145 per hour
• Committee chairs:
• Economic/Community Development: Andy Morris
• Finance/Investment: Stuart Fleming
• Judicial/Legislative: Philip Goldstein
• Parks, Recreation and Tourism: Michelle Cooper Kelly
• Personnel/Insurance: Johnny Walker
• Public Safety: Anthony Coleman
• Public Works: Grif Chalfant