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City of Lanett passes budget: Includes more money for EMS, police vehicles

LANETT — The Lanett City Council on Monday unanimously approved an operating budget for fiscal year 2021-22, which starts on Friday, Oct. 1. It’s a spending plan of approximately $21.4 million and is a little more than $2.5 million less than last year’s budget. The 2020-21 budget included a large amount of grant money for the airport expansion project that’s on pace to be completed by the end of the current calendar year.

Major expenditures for the 2021-22 budget include grant money for continued downtown revitalization, approximately $225,000 for a new ambulance for Lanett EMS, over $100,000 for a new street sweeper for the Street Department and money for two new Ford Explorers for the Lanett Police Department. The city is expecting an estimated $640,000 for streetscape work to be completed next year on First Street. The portion of First Street that runs from Highway 29 to Eighth Avenue near W.O. Lance Elementary School will be getting wider sidewalks, crosswalks, planters with seasonal flowers and small trees, benches and decorative lamp posts.

“It will have some unique design features,” Mayor Kyle McCoy said. “We’re excited about it, and I think Lanett residents will be pleased when the work is completed. It will be changing the appearance of First Street and the downtown area.”

For some time now, the city has had a step system for employee raises. Half of them will get raises in the coming year and the other half will have raises the following year.

McCoy thanked City Clerk Deborah Gilbert, Treasurer Kelly Walton, consultant Tim Kant and city department heads for their input on the budget.

“It’s a good budget,” McCoy said. “We have some good numbers to work with.”

Council Member Tifton Dobbs asked the mayor if the city made money by tearing down dilapidated houses.

“We do if we have to take the property owner to court to get it done,” he said. “We can then place a lien on the property. If the owner works with us, we will waive the fee.”

The budget has a $6,000 increase for the city’s continued partnership with the Chambers County EMA. This is the first increase in 10 years and increases from $12,000 a year to $18,000. There was a resolution on the agenda to utilize American Rescue Plan funds the city received from the federal government to pay city employees. Full-time workers would get $500, part-time workers $250 and seasonal workers $125. The item was tabled due to some language in the Rescue Plan Act. It calls on these funds to be paid to “essential” workers.

“We don’t have any non-essential workers in Lanett,” McCoy said. “Everyone who works for the city is essential.”

At the federal level, there’s a perception that essential personnel are limited to the police and to fire & EMS.

“If you are sitting at home on a hot night and the power goes off, you want it restored as soon as possible,” McCoy said. “Our electrical department workers are very good at doing that. I consider them essential workers. It’s the same with our other departments, too.”

City Attorney Stanley Gray is going to research what is included under the term essential worker and get back with the council before any action is taken.

“I think everyone who works for the city is essential,” the mayor said once more. “It’s not a mandate, but we are using it as an incentive to get our workers vaccinated.”

The council approved a resolution to rebid roof repair work at the city hall complex. The roofs were damaged in a hail storm this past spring.

“We received only one bid, and it didn’t have the proper ID on the envelope that was returned to us,” McCoy said.

Two Lanett residents were recognized with certificates for keeping their yards looking neat. Council Member Angelia Thomas presented the certificates to District 4 residents Christine Harris and Doris Vines. Thomas said these city residents do exemplary work in having their yards looking great this time of year.

“It does take a lot of hard work to do this,” said Harris, “but someone has to do it.”

Vines was the wife of the late W.F. “Bill” Burns Jr.

“If he was here tonight, he would be shouting for joy,” Vines said. “Keeping our yard looking nice is something he really cared about and worked hard to do.”

Thomas said that some Lanett residents who frequently drive past the old kindergarten building across from the mill site have noticed the smell of natural gas on frequent occasions. The building has been unoccupied for some time.

“We will contact the owner and offer to cut off gas to the building,” McCoy said. “I am sure they don’t want to pay for it when the building isn’t being used.”