By Kathy Jefcoats
FOREST PARK — Officials plan to cut down about a dozen trees planted in 1980 on the lawn of City Hall because of the ongoing problem of leaves clogging drains.
Workers will replace them with a shorter variety of tree that won't shed on the building's roof, said City Manager John Parker.
The issue was one of about 11 taken up during a special called meeting Wednesday. Parker said Public Works Director Mike Gippert has enough money in his budget to pay for the removal before the next fiscal year begins July 1.
"There are roof issues," said Gippert. "The leaves fall off onto the roof and clog the drains. We'll re-plant shorter-growing trees."
Parker said city council was not required to take action on the request.
Gippert also told council that Keep Forest Park Beautiful won a $4,000 "think green" grant from Waste Management, awarded to encourage recycling. The grant request was made to replace a robot the city got about 20 years ago for educational purposes, he said.
However, the total cost for a new robot is $9,800 — which means officials will have to come up with $5,800 to augment the grant to replace it. Council members agreed to accept the grant but wanted to know if the money could be used in another educational way. Gippert said he would check into it.
The council also discussed the annual audit contract. Parker said six CPA firms responded to the request for proposals. Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord said she read through them and had concerns about all but two of the firms. One of them, Mauldin and Jenkins, conducted last year's audit. The other, Nichols, Cauley and Associates, should be considered for next year, she said.
"I think Nichols and Cauley should be high on the list next time we look at this," said Lord. "With the changes that are taking place in that department, I think if we have someone who knows what they're doing, it makes it easier. I'd stay with the one we have this year and next year look at Nichols and Cauley."
The finance director's assistant is planning to retire this year, said Parker, likely in the middle of the audit period.
Council members scored the firms according to their offices' proximity to Forest Park, the types of customers they serve and the number of people who would be dedicated to the city's audit.
"The last thing we look at is the cost," said Parker. "We want to find the best and consider the cost later."
Council members Maudie McCord and Tommy Smith agreed with Lord's choices but Latresa Akins did not.
"I feel cost is very important and I think we should go into a different direction," she said.
Parker later said the contract from Mauldin and Jenkins is the lowest of the six by $3,000 to $4,000.
The item is up for discussion again on Monday night's regular meeting agenda.
Parker also gave council members and Mayor David Lockhart draft copies of the 2013-2014 budget. Council agreed to meet May 15 and 16 to go over the proposed items. Parker said the budget must be finalized before June 30 as the fiscal year begins July 1.
The budget meetings will take about two and a half hours each night, said Parker.
Also upcoming Monday night is the presentation of awards in the "If I were Mayor" essay contest, sponsored by the Georgia Municipal Association. Lord said three sixth-grade winners will be recognized.
Council will also recognize the efforts of teachers in Forest Park schools with an appreciation plaque.
"Last year, we gave certificates to students as Forest Park Golden Scholars," said McCord. "This year, we will present plaques to the schools themselves. So many of them have problems and we know the teachers work hard."
Council also intends to specially recognize Forest Park High School for its recent ranking as a top school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.