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Posted: December 13, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Porterdale freezes spending

At Monday's regular meeting, the Porterdale City Council voted to enact a six month spending freeze for the town outside of normal operational expenses, such as payroll, as well as routine and emergency maintenance procedures on city equipment, such as flat tires.

Employees will need council approval for any expense other than those specified as exempt from the freeze.
The motion brought forth by councilmember Linda Finger was seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Robert Foxworth and approved unanimously by the council.

"What they're spending now appears to be the bare necessity," Finger said. "It's not like we have a lot of frivolous spending going on right now."

Porterdale's city council has been discussing how to bolster their dwindling general fund without extracting anymore from the city's recreation fund. Finger said approximately $136,000 has already been taken from the recreation fund, designated for the reconstruction of the burned Porterdale Gym, to meet city expenses. She expressed her hope that if the freeze beefs up the general fund, then some monies could eventually be transferred back into a separate, reserve recreation fund.

For several months the council has been battling city debt, brought on in large part due to lowered tax revenue coming in as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars of unpaid water and sewer bills spanning several years, which were recently written off of city books.

The city has changed how they go about collecting those default utility bills and City Clerk Lynn Fendley said she has seen a decrease in the amount residents owe the city since the new procedures have been in place. The city has also saved money by bidding out certain contracts such as employee uniforms.

Finger said she still thought the city could tighten up in some areas and charged City Manager Tom Fox with investigating whether a different cellular service could provide similar service for less money. Fox said he is currently looking into the matter.

"I think it's good," Fox said of the planned spending freeze. "I don't have any problem with it."
Councilmember Arline Chapman wanted to clarify to the council and city residents that the Christmas tree and six lighted deer decorating the gazebo area of the town came from Better Hometown funds and donations from an individual.

"When you see these extra things popping up, the city has not paid for any of that stuff," Chapman said. "It's all been privately done or paid for through Better Hometown."
With no other concerns raised by council members, the group approved the measure and Fox assured the council that any expense other than what was specified as exempt will be brought before them for approval.

"I know its going to take some thinking ahead," Finger said.

In other news from Monday night's Porterdale council meeting:

• Mayor Pro Tem Robert Foxworth suggested the city form a volunteer advisory committee for the construction of a new 90-by-45-foot, concrete basketball court behind the train depot on Hemlock Street.

Foxworth said the funds for the construction would be solicited from private donors. Councilmember Arline Chapman suggested the council look into grants offered by entities such as the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The estimated cost of the construction is $15,000 to $20,000. Foxworth assured the council the structure would be enclosed by a fence and locked at night and closely monitored by the Porterdale Police Department.

• The council will present its 2008 amended budget as well as the city's 2009 at its Dec. 9 regular work session. Public hearings for the budget are set for Dec. 16 and Dec. 30.


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