By JOHN SCOTT COOPER, Staff Writer
Waycross City Commissioners voted to approve the FY 2016 budget and to discontinue the city’s funding of the Waycross-Ware County Development Authority (WWDA) at a City Hall meeting Tuesday.
The vote was not unanimous for discontinuing the funding of the WWDA. With Commissioner Norman Davis voting, “No,” the “yes” votes of the other commissioners approved the defunding.
At a Monday work session, City Manager Raphel Maddox said the dispute with the WWDA was over city appointments to the authority’s board. Tuesday night Maddox clarified that the WWDA accepted City Commissioner Larry Ethridge as the appointed “city ex-officio” member but would not accept Commissioner Diane Hopkins as the city’s “citizen” appointment.
“It’s a difference of legal interpretation of the authority charter,” Maddox said. He declared that the city has the right to appoint whomever they chose.
The city’s annual stipend to the authority has been $7,500. Henceforth, with Tuesday’s vote, it will be $0.
In end-of-the-meeting remarks, Hopkins said the commissioners support economic development and would gladly help the WWDA in any way the city can to recruit new industry.
Davis responded that it seems that the city, from time to time, finds itself at odds with agencies instead of “coordinating.” He expressed hope the city manager and attorney would find a way to resolve the conflict and allow the city and WWDA to work together to bring jobs to the community.
Tuesday’s semi-monthly meeting got off to a rocky start when Mayor Clarence Billups was too ill to stay for the meeting. He was unable to talk, so he left. Commissioner Alvin Nelson, as mayor pro tem, conducted the meeting that then moved along rapidly.
Commissioners sped through votes to approve five bids on items budgeted for the current fiscal year, including an extension of gas cards and oil and lube service for city vehicles, a camera for inspection of sewer lines, a new survey tool, leather goods and radios for the police department.
Having held a public hearing a week earlier, commissioners adopted the proposed $13,818,816 FY 2016 general operating budget in an unanimous vote.
Hopkins expressed some discomfort with the necessity of approving residential and commercial garbage fee and commercial dumpster rate increases, but was assured that increased costs made it necessary. The increases ($1 a month garbage pickup fee and 2.5 percent dumpster rate) were approved unanimously.