In less than two hours, the Fort Oglethorpe City Council agreed to investigate one of its own, to provide firefighters with new uniforms and adopt a budget for the coming year.
Councilman faces possible removal due to charge of sexual harassment
It will require a unanimous 4-0 vote, but the Fort Oglehtorpe City Council could remove one of its elected members.
Following a 50-minute long executive session held as part of their regularly scheduled Oct. 22 meeting, Mayor Lynn Long announced Council members' decision to investigate and conduct a public hearing about allegations that Councilman Charles Sharrock sexually harassed a female police detective.
This is the third time that Sharrock, who is serving his second term on the Council, has faced charges that he sexually harassed an employee. Similar charges were leveled against him in 2008, his first year on the Council, and again in 2009.
City Manager Ron Goulart said an investigation of the alleged actions will be conducted and Sharrock will be provided a written statement detailing those claims and findings.
The next step in the process will be a public hearing "no sooner than 10 days after notice is served" to consider the charges, Goulart said. During that hearing both the accuser and accused and/or their attorneys will present evidence and call witnesses, he said. Afterward, the Council will deliberate in private before making their decision public.
Unlike a congressional impeachment hearing, where the accused can be censured yet retain their position, the city's charter allows no such flexibility, Goulart said.
"The only options are removal or not. There's no in-between and no lesser action they can take in the matter," he said.
Like the decision to conduct an investigation and public hearing, all Council members - other than Sharrock - had to agree for the process to move forward.
"Any decision has to be unanimous, 4-0, before he would be removed," Goulart said. "Otherwise, he remains."
Firefighters change uniforms
The city's firefighters will soon change both the look and manner in which they acquire their uniforms.
Chief Bruce Ballew presented a request that rather than the cotton blend t-shirt and trousers now worn by firefighters when at their stations, the department change to a uniform that closely resembles that worn by police officers.
The uniforms would be rented, not purchased, from Kleen-A-Matic in Rossville and consist of a collared shirt and cargo pants. Both garments will be dark blue and made of Nomex, a flame-resistant polyamide material.
"These will look better for citizens," Ballew said.
Not only will the uniforms provide a more professional look, they carry a five-year warranty, meaning that if a firefighter experiences a split seam or tear the garment will be replaced.
Each of the city's 12 full-time firefighters will be issued three uniforms. The fire marshal and fire inspector will each receive two uniforms, as will the department's two part-time firefighters. Of the city's volunteer firefighters, 40 - those who attend regular shifts and training sessions - will be issued a uniform for wear on the days the serve.
The City council was unanimous in granting the request to annually spend a total of $4,500 to "lease" 85 complete uniforms complete with embroidered patches and name badges.
City to maintain ISO 3 rating
In another fire department-related matter, Goulart said the city should maintain its current Insurance Service Office rating, a measure used by insurance companies to determine a city's risk and set rates for insuring against fire-related losses.
"The Fire Department is meeting with ISO," he said. "The ISO inspectors are pleased and we should maintain an ISO 3 rating."
The city is undergoing a review of its insurance rating due to its having incorporated the former Post Volunteer Fire Department into its city-managed services. Any changes in coverage necessitate an ISO reevaluation.
Close to adopting a 2013 budget
During last week's meeting, the Council adopted on first reading the 2013 budget and set the time for a second reading and public hearing regarding next year's budget.
That second reading and hearing for the proposed $13.5 million budget was held yesterday afternoon, Oct. 30 at 10 a.m.
This latest budget is unchanged from one rejected earlier this month except in one area: Rather than approve across-the-board raises as proposed in its earlier incarnation, this latest budget holds money for employee raises in a contingency fund, which is essentially an escrow account.
The money will be allotted - but not allocated until the Council decides on a formula to determine "who gets how much" when raises are granted next March.
The city must conduct three readings and a public hearing before it can adopt a budget, something that must be done before Dec. 1, according to the city manager.