CANTON — The issue of fire services once again drew ire within the Canton City Council at its first meeting since Canton voters shut down the proposal of the $6 million “fire bond” referendum Tuesday in a landslide defeat.
Members of the city council came prepared to endure criticism from the public on the failed plan, which would have constructed up to three new fire stations in Canton.
Before the scheduled 10-minute public input portion of the meeting, City Councilman Bill Bryan, a mostly-quiet supporter of the now-defeated bond, prefaced the discussion by reminding citizens in attendance that they were given a chance to have their voices heard on the proposal in the public vote.
“We allowed you, the voters, to make this decision, because we respect you,” Bryan said. “And we are not going to put this city in any further debt, because that’s what you told us you didn’t want us to do.”
City Councilman Glen Cummins, the lone council member to oppose the “fire bond,” came ready to dole out his own criticisms. Cummins contended that members of the council have been unwilling to consider and never fully researched other options, namely a consolidation of the city and Cherokee County’s fire departments.
“We haven’t looked deep enough into what we need to look into,” Cummins said. “We just charge off into the sunset and want to do something.”
Consolidation, which was often suggested by the bond’s opposition as an alternative, was addressed briefly in mid-2012.
Cummins said talks with Cherokee County ended when other council members responded poorly to the potential consolidation.
Councilman John Beresford, a strong supporter of the “fire bond,” reminded Cummins that the city council voted in 2012 to not further consider consolidation with the county. Cummins was the only council member who voted to continue the consideration.
“We had a 5-to-1 vote,” Beresford said. “Let’s move on. But, no, Mr. Cummins continues to have to drive this issue.”
Cummins suggested two additional options for solving the city’s fire services problems he’d like considered and made a motion for Hobgood to reform the committee that conducted research on fire services in 2012. The motion passed unanimously.
Councilman Hooky Huffman also came prepared to put forth a motion to allow City Manager Scott Wood to determine where Canton might pull money from to fund construction on a new station in Laurel Canyon.
Canton already owns land for a Laurel Canyon station and, Huffman said, he’s tired of waiting to move forward on constructing it.
“I’m tired of committees,” he said.
Huffman’s motion passed unanimously.
The council also voted to request a quote from a consultation firm to research the city’s different options to improve its fire services.
During Thursday’s meeting, the council also:
* Unanimously approved the award of a contract for work on Lower Scott Mill Road to Strickland Pipeline and Construction Inc. for $174,523.70;
* Unanimously approved awarding a contract for the Marietta Road Streetscape project to low bidder, CMES for $1,773,539.30;
* Unanimously approved changes to Canton city employee pension plans;
* Discussed concerns with contributing $25,000 to aid in funding for the Cherokee Office of Economic Development. Cities in the county have been asked for varying amounts, with Canton and Woodstock both being asked for $25,000. The council unanimously approved to consider the option after determining the state of Canton’s economic development;
* Unanimously approved a budget amendment of approximately $190,000 annually to fund two new positions in the city’s economic development department, Marketing and Special Event Coordinator and Economic Development Coordinator;
* Voted 4-2 to send a contract for overseeing construction on the Marietta Road Streetscape project out for bid. Arcadis Construction Administration Services submitted a price of about $137,000 for the project. Councilman Glen Cummins motioned that the project go to bid instead of awarding the contract to Arcadis. Councilmen John Beresford and Bob Rush voted against the motion. Rush said now that the council had publicly disclosed Arcadis’ price, getting prices from others would be inappropriate; and
* Unanimously approved a resolution on Etowah River Trail plans. Beresford said the subject had been “bandied about for 10 or 12 years” and action should be taken. “Talk about kicking the can down the road, this has been kicked for years,” Councilman Jack Goodwin added.