SANFORD: City Council discusses Jonesboro parking limit

Aug. 15, 2013 @ 07:46 AM

The Sanford City Council gathered Wednesday afternoon to discuss a slew of items, including changing parking in downtown Jonesboro, awarding a rare refund of solid waste fees and loaning money the airport authority.

No votes were taken during the Law and Finance Committee Meeting; discussion was simply in preparation of the official City Council meeting Tuesday, at 7 p.m.

The two-hour parking limit in downtown Jonesboro came up for discussion after General Services Director Tim Shaw said several city employees canvassed the owners of businesses along Main Street and found a basically even split in opinions. Six wanted to keep the limit, he said, while seven wanted to do away with it and four either had no opinion or couldn’t be reached.

Shaw said the limit was implemented in 2006 because many business owners and employees parked on the street all day long, making it harder for shoppers to find a spot.

Shaw that that since then, several businesses have closed and more parking lots have been built, leading some to suggest the limits should be lifted.City Council members, though, were not entirely convinced.

“If you change it, we go right back to the same thing we had in 2006,” Walter McNeil said. “... You’re going to have the same complaints again.”

Charles Taylor asked to see all data related to parking tickets given out in downtown Jonesboro to help with the decision.

The group also brought back up old discussions of lending $600,000 to the Sanford-Lee County Airport Authority to help build a new hangar. City Manager Hal Hegwer said the city and county loaned the group money in the past and are currently splitting repayments of about $137,000 per year.

“This is one of the best investments we have,” Hegwer said.

Poly Cohen, who has served on the airport authority, said the loans will lead to direct benefits for all groups involved. The airport has a waiting list, he said, so there is a clear need for new hangar space — which would in turn lead to a larger tax base because of the new buildings and planes.

Hegwer said the city council will be able to set the repayment rate on the 10-year loan, should they approve it. The current loan reportedly has a 5.25 percent rate.

Moving to individuals’ concerns, the council also discussed a request by three siblings who are taking care a lot which has both a house and a trailer on it. Both used to be occupied, so there were two trash cans and two solid waste fees. But Laura Spivey, administrator of the city’s public works department, said records show the trailer has been vacant since 2004 and that the siblings are asking for a refund back through 2008 — as far back as state law allows such refunds to extend.

Spivey said it would come out to about $500, asking the council for direction since this type of request has only ever come up once before in the past 10 or 15 years.

Mayor Cornelia Olive said the city does audits every few years to try to find discrepancies like this one, although responsibility lies with the homeowner as well. Staley said he’d be uncomfortable setting a precedent by granting the refund, especially since it went on for so long before anyone noticed.

“If I pay for premium cable service but don’t watch it, I can’t go back and ask for a refund,” he said.

The council also discussed:

* National Night Out, which several of them said was well-attended but seemed to be getting too political instead of just about meeting neighbors.

* A recognition to the city’s water treatment plant from the Environmental Protection Agency, for reaching optimal performance levels in 2012.

* Putting flags up at the corner of Horner Boulevard and Wall Street.

* Amending the annual operating budget for a variety of reasons, including to hire a temporary customer service representative, pay for the Sept. 10 primary election and to take money from the county to upgrade the Sanford Police Department’s 911 system so it meshes with the new Lee County Sheriff’s Office 911 system.

* Continuing to educate people about the bond referendum items, which will be on the ballot in September.

* Annexing a piece of land on McDonald Drive, off of Wilson Road near the license plate agency, for use by Waste Industries, the new solid waste services provider who is looking to build a transfer station within city limits.