GF Council agrees to hire certified planner

Friday, March 14, 2008

GREEN FOREST -- The City Council will proceed with hiring a certified city planner.

At Monday night's meeting, the council approved payment of $20,000 to Jim von Tungeln, with Urban Planning Associates.

The commitment depends on a final review of a fee schedule from von Tungeln. City Attorney Ben Wulff said the council's decision would put Green Forest on von Tungeln's calendar.

The planner might start within 30 to 60 days. His first steps would probably include obtaining satellite photos and other background information.

Further into the process, public meetings would constitute an important part in developing a plan. Wulff said, "This is an opportunity for the citizens of Green Forest to decide how they want their city to look."

In addition to obvious stakeholders like the council, the Planning Commission, and the Chamber of Commerce, Wulff said it was important to include key figures in the community right from the start of the process.

Input from Hispanics will also be an important part of the planning process. This can also be an opportunity to begin educating the Hispanic members of the community about the importance of being counted in the upcoming census.

The entire process to develop a city plan could take eight or nine months, but Wulff has repeatedly stressed the importance of a well-considered plan. This process makes it easier for the city to enforce zoning and codes, including the nuisance abatement ordinance. "We'll get ordinances that have been tested and litigated in other jurisdictions," Wulff said.

Von Tungeln visited the city in January to make a preliminary assessment and meet with the Planning Commission.

He also consults for the Municipal League, and writes a monthly column in City & Town, the official publication of the Municipal League.

Utility franchise fees

Council passed the first reading of Ordinance 2008-600, which will require Windstream to collect a four percent tax on telephone service.

Franchise fees are essentially a tax on utilities for using city easements. Allied Telephone, the previous supplier of telephone service, collected the tax, but Windstream has not done this since taking over the franchise.

Wulff estimated the city might receive as much as $40,000 annually in revenues, although those figures may decline as more people rely on cell phones instead of conventional land lines for phone service.

COLA raises

The council had postponed approval of the minutes of the Jan. 7 meeting, because some aldermen had different opinions about that night's proceedings.

Everyone agreed the 2008 budget was approved on Jan. 7, and Carroll County News reported the budget included a two percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees. Mayor Richard Deweese agreed with that report, but some aldermen did not remember that provision in the final budget.

The meeting was not recorded, since the budget deliberations came during a special meeting after the agenda-setting meeting.

Wulff said city employees have been receiving the raises since the start of the year, and he suggested that council should approve the minutes to include the raises. "The city needs to ratify what has already happened," he said. Wulff said the city can always change the budget at any time, and the raises could be rescinded.

Spring Clean-up

The Carroll County Solid Waste Authority provided samples of a flyer which will explain the procedures for the Spring Clean-up, scheduled for Saturday, April 26.

The council authorized a payment of $3,700 to the CCSWA, up from $3,500 last year. The clean-up is for residents within the city limits, giving them an opportunity to conveniently get rid of bulky items.

Some aldermen had found fault with last year's information flyer, saying residents were confused about what items they could discard. The new flyer answered those questions, and it will also be produced in Spanish.

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