Voting could change in Homer and sewer collections might be in residents’ future after the Homer City Council meeting Oct. 8.
The council unanimously approved seeking a change through the state legislature to the city’s charter which would establish voting districts for the city.
The council has discussed establishing voting districts for several months. The council members would be required to live in the districts they represent, but would be elected citywide.
Council member James Dumas noted that the change would establish three voting districts – number 1, 2 and 3. The first two would have two council members each. Post 1 in each district would be for a four-year term, to be elected in 2021, and the second seat would be for two years.
The staggered terms would mean the council members could not all be replaced in one election. Staggered terms would ensure that council retained some members with experience and institutional memory.
City attorney David Syfan told the council in the winter that voting districts would mean one section of town – the Chimney Oaks golf community was mentioned – could not control the council vote.
The mayor would be allowed to live anywhere in the city.
The changes would take effect with the 2021 elections if the legislature agrees.
Council also discussed, but took no action, on a sewer project in the city. Mayor Doug Cheek and Dumas met with county representatives to talk about the utility.
The county does not have a sewer utility.
Cheek said the city needs to understand how much any project would cost, how the debt service would be paid and what area would be served.
He said Banks County High School has sewage problems now for home football games.
If the city installed sewer lines, it would get some revenue from those customers.
Cheek noted that the county is considering a major sewage project that would go to the intersection of Martin Bridge Rd. at Interstate 85.
An industrial customer, RAI Industrial Fabricators, has announced it will build a facility at the intersection and invest about $20 million. RAI is a steel fabricator in Athens. It anticipates creating 30 new jobs with the Banks County facility.
Dumas said the city would at first serve Banks County schools. He said the service could be brought up Hwy. 441.
Cheek and Dumas indicated an interest in the project, but they were cautious, saying project costs and revenue would dictate action.
The council also discussed city water rates and garbage fees, but no action was taken on those either.
Cheek commented that the city’s “water rates are still pretty doggone low.”
Homer’s water rates start at $14 per month for 3,000 gallons of water. The city charges $4.50 per thousand gallons for usage over 3,000.
Figures from Lula indicate the city charges $22.75 for its minimum charge. That is $4.55 per thousand gallons for the first 5,000 gallons. Lula charges $4.75 per thousand for the next 5,000 gallons.
The city now charges $15 per month for its garbage service. Waste Management provides that service and recently notified the city it has increased its rate to $12.43 cents per month. That was an 18 cent per month increase from $12.25 and was the first increase since 2008.
Cheek said he would try to talk with a WM representative about the increase.
In other business, the council:
•heard from council member Cliff Hill that the Oscar Rucker Rd. paving would be done by Oct. 10. He said repaving and improvements to McCoy Bridge Rd., Hill St. and Greasy Creek Rd. would be done next spring. Dumas asked if the TSPLOST – transportation special purpose local option sales tax – money the city receives could be used to improve sidewalks. He said extending the sidewalk from near Veterans’ Park to the old jail could be a good project, if the affected property owners are willing.
•heard that a “complete count committee” for the 2020 census could be a joint undertaking of Homer, other cities and/or the county. Banks County’s participation rate in the census was about 78 percent. Representatives of the census were at the work session and said the percentage of participants should be higher.