By Joel Hall
The City of Riverdale will hold three town hall meetings to discuss the progress it has made with its Town Center project.
The meetings will take place April 29, 30, and May 1 at Riverdale City Hall, located at 6690 Church Street.
City Manager Iris Jessie said the purpose of the meetings is to explain the funding mechanisms of the Town Center project to the general public. "We are trying to figure out our next steps and come up with a project that we can afford," said Jessie.
Since Riverdale residents voted in September 2007 to allow the city to exercise the Georgia Redevelopment Powers Law, the city has worked to find funding options to keep the project from cutting into its general fund.
Jessie said an Economic Development Incentive (EDI) secured last year by Congressman David Scott (D-Ga.) would guarantee $250,000 for the project. She added that the county's recently approved 2008 Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) should guarantee the project a "steady stream of income."
"We're trying to make sure that we protect our general fund," she said. "We don't want to do anything that is going to impact that negatively."
The road to the Town Center has not been entirely smooth. Resolutions concerning the project have been met with vocal opposition from council members, Rick Scoggins and Wayne Hall.
On Monday, Scoggins and Hall voted against a resolution to approve an administrative technicality to ensure that tax parcel numbers were current with those in the Clayton County Tax Assessor's database. Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon broke a tie among the four-person city council, and the resolution passed 3-2.
Scoggins suggested that with the current state of the economy, the city should be more fiscally conservative. "In lean times, in light of what happened with Cherokee County, $2 million, $5 million short falls, laying off of employees, budget cutbacks, Lithonia, those problems, East Point, City of Atlanta, $70 million dollars in the red ... while we're solvent, I want to remain solvent," said Scoggins.
"I don't want our employees to come up and get laid off. I don't want to come back and have to cut services because we have a shortfall of income."
Wynn-Dixon said the town hall meetings will answer the citizens' questions about where the project is headed. The meetings "will alleviate all of the fears that have been put out in the public as to what we are doing," she said. "I welcome all citizens, because they need to know where the money is going. The citizens will be remarkably surprised with how hard we've worked and what we've put together."
The city council also voted 3-1 in favor of putting out a bid to a consultant to revamp the city's antiquated performance-appraisal system. Jessie, who introduced the resolution, said the city's current system of giving merit increases lacks "goals and objectives" and that a new system is needed to more objectively reward "stellar" performance by employees.
"I look at it as investing in our employees," said Jessie. "A better-trained employee is going to deliver better services." She said the system would reward exceptional employees with higher pay and provide assistance and incentives to under-performing workers.
Wynn-Dixon's sentiment mirrored those of Jessie. "People will know that they will get paid for what they do, and that will make them excited to come to work," she said. "You will be judged by whatever you put in, and that is fair to me."
Hall, who voted against the resolution, said that a similar system in the City of Atlanta was unsuccessful, and suggested it may lead to favoritism. When asked to clarify his position, Hall offered no comment.