Are things looking up for Smyrna’s economy? City of Smyrna officials think so. At Monday’s Smyrna City Council meeting, several department directors shared positive feedback regarding the city’s revenue, building permits and employment opportunities.
Robert Porche, Smyrna’s finance director, said he anticipates that the city will have a slight budget surplus when the fiscal year ends June 30.
“As you can see fiscal year 2012 through February, we’re slightly above 2011’s pace,” he said. “So it’s good news. We’re not at 2010 levels yet, but the economy is coming back.”
Porche said revenue from police accident reports and permits, prisoner housing and program fees for parks and recreation have increased for the 2012 fiscal year. Fees for sanitation collection are on target for the year, while the city’s 911 staff is currently operating under budget.
Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon asked Porche if staff had considered amending the one-dollar fuel surcharge that was levied to offset fuel costs for city vehicles. Porche said that this has been discussed in the staff’s budget process and it will come before mayor and council in the coming weeks.
Ken Suddreth, director of community development, had good news to deliver as well. Suddreth said that revenue relating to building permits in February 2012 was up more than 200 percent from the previous year. He also reported more diversity in the type of building permits that are applied for.
“Not only are the building permit numbers up, but the values of those permits are up,” Suddreth told Smyrna-Vinings Patch. “There’s not just a flat rate fee, it’s determined by what type of construction you’re doing. A remodeling is one thing. A brand new building is another formula. We still have a lot of renovations and over the last couple years renovation indeed have carried a good deal of that weight. We are seeing a turn now with more new construction.”
Kaye Bolick, the city’s director of human resources, offered other signs that the city’s economy is more robust.
“I just wanted to make an announcement that we are now seeing a few job postings in our area,” she said “It’s been awhile since our board has had a few postings. Actually we had several that closed last week. We had quite a number on the board. We now have four or five still out there and a couple of them are difficult to get applications in.”
The city currently has openings for an executive assistant to the mayor, an administrative assistant, a police officer, a detention officer, a small engine mechanic and a street foreman.
Not everyone was pleased at Monday’s meeting. Alex Backry, a regular contributor during citizen input, raised several issues ranging from town hall meetings to citizen input itself to fees for use of city facilities.
“I was shocked that to rent a room at the community center for four hours is $150 plus a $150 deposit,” he said. “I thought our taxes paid for these services like the community center. Except for the library now, the aquatic center swimming pool and all these others there are charges. I find that since our taxes cover this it seems like double jeopardy to me. These are exorbitant prices. I don’t understand why we’re being charged more if it doesn’t cover in our taxes.”
After the meeting Teri Anulewicz told Smyrna-Vinings Patch that she thought levying fees for use of city facilities was reasonable.
“It’s a subsidization of things like the community center,” she said. “I personally don’t think it’s fair to expect taxpayers to support 100 percent. You have a lot of people who will never rent a room the entire time they live in the city of Smyrna.”
Steve Ciaccio, director of parks and recreation, explained that usage fees are charged because the city of Smyrna offers premium services.
“We’ve made incremental increases in those rental fees and we’ve been doing it since we opened in 1990,” he said. “This is nothing new. We like to compare ourselves to the private industry. We have a multipurpose center. It’s not a rec center. So if you say, ‘What does Cobb County do?’ Well Cobb County has rec centers. You know, solid block wall and dropped down ceilings. We like to think we’re a little bit grander. So the deposit that the citizen mentioned comes back when you don’t damage the facility.”
He also added that the fee to rent most rooms at the community center ranges between $40 and $50 with the exception of the banquet room or the community room because they are so large.
One citizen took the podium to address a public safety concern. Joe Velkovich, asked mayor and council about installing speed bumps on Matthews Street.
“Still people are flying down Matthews Street like their cars are on fire,” he said. “There’s no amount of painting lines on the street like you did over at Williams Park or putting cops at the side of the road that’s going to stop people to be honest with you. I don’t want it to come down to seeing someone’s child get run over by some careless driver on my street. What do we have to do to fix this is my question.”
Anulewicz, the council representatives for Velkovich's ward, said the the process of applying for speed bumbs is "tricky" because it is done through the Georgia Department of Transportation and requires 75 percent approval from property owners. She said she would work with Velkovich and his neighbors to find a solution.