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Golf carts approved for Olde Town Conyers

Golf cart drivers can cruise some Olde Town streets as of July 1, under a new ordinance approved by the Conyers City Council on June 4.

The new law allows low-speed, motorized carts (not including all-terrain vehicles) on certain public streets in the official Olde Town area bounded by Main Street, Milstead Avenue, College Avenue and Railroad Street, plus Springwood Drive and the Woodland Road area.. They will not be allowed on sidewalks or other types of paths. Drivers must to be 18 or older; hold a driver's license; and register the cart with the city. In addition, the cart must have proper braking and lighting gear.

Inspired by public demand and other Georgia cities where golf carts are a popular mode of transportation, the new law also has spawned safety and parking concerns. The council, which usually passes everything unanimously, had a rare divided vote on the measure.

"I'm just concerned with the safety of it," said Councilman Cleveland Stroud, the sole "no" vote. "I'm not sure our streets can handle it, but I guess we'll see."

Councilman Vince Evans noted that the new law is essentially a pilot program that can be tweaked and probably will start out slowly.

"I don't think there'll be a huge influx of people on golf carts" right away, he said.

In other Olde Town news, Evans announced the new business moving into the long-vacant building at 955 Commercial St. It is MoZeus Worldwide, a tech company that develops web and phone applications for corporate marketing.

According to Mayor Randy Mills, the company was founded in Conyers several years ago, relocated to Atlanta, and is now moving back.

Gun security will be on the agenda of the next council meeting June 18, City Manager Tony Lucas told the News. The city will propose new-and possibly pricey-security measures on city buildings in response to a controversial set of state gun laws that take effect July 1, he said.

As the News previously reported, the new laws allow people to carry guns in government buildings unless there is a security checkpoint staffed by a peace officer. The city's courtroom/council chamber and probation office are among the buildings not fully secured that way. The city likely will pay for metal detectors and guards at the doors, and may create new ordinances barring guns from such buildings, Lucas said.

"We're going to have to [establish security checkpoints]," Lucas said. "The courts, council and probation [office], definitely."

In other council business:
-Tweaks to the current Fiscal Year 2013 city budget were approved, and the first hearing on the proposed Fiscal 2014 budget was held.

The current budget of about $14 million budget was tweaked to reflect higher revenues and slightly lower expenses than projected, according to Chief Financial Officer Isabel Rogers.

The proposed FY14 budget includes creating a new city strategic plan and a study for a new City Hall complex. It also includes a 4.7 percent increase in health insurance costs that was praised by the council as notably small for current times.

The budget will get another hearing at the June 18 council meeting, and then will be up for a vote at the following meeting.

-The proposed budget includes a new pay scale and classification system. It offers performance-based pay boosts of roughly 5 percent, mostly for lower-level city employees, to bring them closer to the statewide averages, Rogers said. City employee pay has not increased in recent years due to the economy, but revenues are projected to rise. The council approved the new system pending approval of the new budget.

-Various tweaks to the city's alcohol laws were approved. The main change, according to city attorney Michael Waldrop, is permitting wine and beer tastings in "specialty stores" that gain more than half their income from alcohol sales. It's aimed at aiding at least one existing Conyers business and another considering coming here, he said.

-The council renewed the standard $1.50 surcharge on local phone bills for 911 service.

-The council authorized the borrowing of $1.5 million from United Community Bank-a standard annual move to maintain cash flow between tax collection periods. The loan has a 2.25 percent interest rate and will be repaid by Dec. 31. Councilman John Fountain, a board member at the bank, recused himself from all discussion and voting on the loan, leaving the council chamber for that time.