Work session sets times for public discussions

CITY OF ONEONTA

At a Feb. 16 work session, the Oneonta City Council set tentative dates for informational public hearings on its anticipated Wallace State satellite campus and city school funding. Councilors decided to hold two sessions on Wallace State, one each after their March 22 and April 12 regular council meetings. Members also agreed to hold further discussion on city funding with its school board, assuming board member availability, on April 26. The public is free to comment in public hearings and work sessions.

City manager Ed Lowe indicated the city will invite Wallace State representatives for the sessions covering their possible expansion. While he evidently would like to have these present, he observed that such attendance would not be necessary.

Briefing the council and work session attendees, Lowe explained that drawings for the city-built building planned to house the satellite campus have undergone revisions. He outlined major changes as reducing classroom and multi-room floor space, reducing the library square footage while meeting that board’s request for a one-story rather than two floor site, substituting a break area for a cafeteria, and increasing the number of incubator rooms. As Lowe has said, the building signage, previously drawn by architects as Wallace State, will likely denote a city facility not an exclusively college one.

City police officer Brent Bender asked would the library have extended hours to serve better the college students. His question led to speculation as to how that might be achieved and to the planned agenda item of a project advisory board.

Councilwoman Tonya Rogers and city public safety director/administrator Brandon Horton suggested a widely diverse board membership. Rogers envisioned the board advising on course offerings, while fire Chief Arthur Willis proposed the eventual possible need for a director to help oversee and schedule use of the building.

As for the meeting with the school board, Mayor Ross Norris expressed support for the late-April meeting, indicating he felt by then the city would have a better idea of funds which might be available for additional city help to the school. Several speculated on possible uses for city funds or city-assisted work for the school.

In another question, Bender asked of the city’s recently purchased 100 acres north of town. Councilman Tim McNair explained that the general desire has been to use that for retail space. Lowe offered that he could foresee the back portion as multi-family residential. All noted that the city continues to work toward eventual annexation of the property.

Lowe updated attendees on development projects. He said Zaxby’s real estate closing is set for Feb. 22, the ABC (alcohol beverage control) store should open in March, the Super Dollar Tree in April, and the WinSouth Credit Union later in the spring. He further noted that ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) studies have impressed prospective businessmen to consider Oneonta in a very favorable light.

Horton cited local Urgent Care public relations officer Nicole Singleton as reporting the recently-opened Oneonta facility had broken all chain records in first-day business. Lowe said the city will use that facility for employee health screenings and workmen’s compensation examinations.

In a final action, council members voted to go into an executive session to discuss a legal issue. Prior to that motion, Horton had advised councilors that the federal government has declared the Christmas rains and flooding an official disaster. That opens the door for the city to recoup costs for its personnel overtime services and potential compensation for work done. He cited, specifically, work on the wooden bridge on House Road off County Road 15 as one project which could qualify for assistance in any possible future damages.