Peachtree City Mayor Vanessa Fleisch recently gave a State of the City speech to the Peachtree City Rotary Club in which she addressed accomplishments from the past year as well as challenges and future goals for the city.
Fleisch spoke to the ongoing investigation into Police Chief William McCollom’s shooting of his wife on New Year’s Day. McCollom remains on paid leave as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation continues to conduct an investigation, now in its third week. No charges have been filed against McCollom. His wife, Margaret McCollom, has since been treated and released from the hospital with some reports that she is paralyzed from the waist down.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with Maggie McCullom while the investigation of this tragic incident is ongoing,” Fleisch said in her address. “There has been a good deal of speculation and gossip that accompanied the headlines and articles about the shooting. There are a lot of people out there with anger, toward police in general, and that anger was focused on our department this month.”
Fleisch said that no matter the results of the GBI investigation and independent internal investigation into the incident, the Peachtree City Police Department acted “with utmost integrity. Please continue to take pride in our officers for their diligence.”
As to this year’s budget process, Fleisch said it went “slightly off-track, with last minute changes and cuts that made implementing some of our goals more difficult, particularly in the area of road paving.”
Her comments referenced the successful effort by Councilman Eric Imker to overhaul the proposed budget on the night it was to be adopted, removing a millage rate increase and some of the expanded services that would have been funded by that increase, including road paving. Imker was supported by council members Mike King and Kim Learnard on that vote.
Another much discussed topic was this year’s vote to increase salaries for city employees while adopting a new salary and classification system. Fleisch acknowledged that change was widely discussed and drew some controversy, but she felt part of the story was missed.
“Each year, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs does a municipal salary survey and each year it showed that our salaries were lower than other municipalities in Georgia of a similar size. The survey done by the City verified a fact that many had known for several years; the salaries for our city staff were not competitive. Our police and fire starting salaries were very low, and we were having trouble filling open positions throughout the City. This is why Council stressed the importance of this complete study and plan,” Fleisch said.
One of the largest ongoing concerns, Lake Peachtree, was addressed at the top of Fleisch’s speech. She said the city got its “best-case result” when the news came in December that the lake’s dam would be reinstated to a Category 2 status. That decision from the state, she said, would likely save taxpayers at least $4 million on the cost of repairing the spillway.
Fleisch offered a list of highlights from the year including:
- City sports associations hosted 17 tournaments that netted $1.8 million economic impact last year
- The city hosted the Diva Marathon, which had almost 4,000 participants and filled area hotels, generating an estimated impact of $1.6 million towards the local economy in one weekend.
- Major repairs and renovations were completed on the dams at Rockspray Pond and the ponds off Kedron Drive, and all were on schedule and on budget. Some of the storm water projects that were completed this year were identified in 2000 as needing repair.
- The Fire Department has equipped all of their ambulances with life saving automated compression machines for cardiac patients.
- The Wyndham Hotel did extensive remodeling and investing in their facility.
- Peachtree City was named one of 6 Top Hidden Golf Destinations in the South by Convention South Magazine.
- After many years Canongate has changed hands and is now owned by Club Corp. ( Fleisch said “I look forward to working with them in the future as they are the largest owner of developed land in the city and their golf courses are a major factor in the quality of life we enjoy.”)
- Peachtree City received official designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community
Fleisch also credited the Convention & Visitors Bureau for its efforts in bringing revenues from the local hotel//motel tax, citing increased revenues of around $300,000 over last year.
Looking forward, Fleisch said the city has a number of issues on its radar.
“I hope you’ve noticed some improvements in landscaping throughout the City. In October, we brought a lot of the landscaping back in-house. Our Public Works crews have made a sweep of every subdivision entrance and island clearing dead and overgrown plants. They’ve also been tackling many of our parks and facilities one at a time, and are now hard at work on the Highway 54 landscape beds. Should they have missed any public spaces in your area please contact Public Works,” Fleisch said.
In addition to improved maintenance, which includes an extended contract for mowing along highway medians, Fleisch said the city will be looking to get state approval for golf carts to cross Highway 54 in two locations near Publix.
“State law has changed to allow this, but the DOT has not developed any standards yet, so we will be working with the County on these two locations to see if we can develop those standards before looking at other intersections. Safety will remain the number one issue,” Fleisch said.
Other traffic concerns include the extension of MacDuff Parkway to Highway 74, which Fleisch said should see “significant progress,” and ongoing evaluation of traffic solutions for the Highway 54 corridor, which are being evaluated through GDOT.
She also said the “Peachtree City Center” concept will be emphasized as an ongoing effort to connect City Hall to surrounding parks and facilities. This plan includes a priority of bringing electricity to Drake Field so more events can be held there.
“There are a number of exciting announcements that should be made within the next couple of months. These announcements are events and economic redevelopment projects that are on the horizon, but not quite finalized,” Fleisch said.
“My goal is to keep this beautiful city in the running for these types of quality projects, and continue to make Peachtree City a wonderful place to live,” she concluded.