[Editor’s note: The following is the text of Mayor Kim Learnard’s first State of the City Address.]
Jan. 20, 2020 Mayor’s State of the City Speech: City Council Meeting
I’m Kim Learnard and I’ve been Mayor for two weeks.
I ran for Mayor because I’m passionate about preserving our Peachtree City quality of life. The five of us on Council have been busy meeting, getting to know each other, and making plans.
It’s important to remember we have a weak Mayor form of government, which means it is this body of five that makes the decisions. This is a knowledgeable, highly qualified Council and we are already collaborating on our priorities for this year and beyond.
This is not my first term on Council, it is my third. I served as a PTC Council Member for eight years, from 2010-2017, before I term-limited out at that time. Starting in 2010, I worked hard to balance our City budget following the Great Recession.
My fellow Council members and I scrutinized every line of every department, made cuts, froze hiring, raised the millage rate, and, later, restructured or paid off every one of our debt instruments. That paved the way for today’s reasonable millage rate, 49 percent reserves, and zero debt. We are in a strong budget position.
Our most valuable city asset is our employees, and this evening Council will be considering a new, comprehensive pay and benefit structure that brings Peachtree City into a strong competitive position among Georgia peer cities.
With this proposal we have the opportunity to standardize our job classifications, increase minimum and maximum pay ranges to industry norms, and provide internal equity and external competitiveness. We intend to stay competitive in our pay and benefits.
In my first few weeks as Mayor, my number one priority is to reach out to meet with the people and organizations that keep Peachtree City safe, healthy, green, productive, educated and prosperous.
I have enjoyed orientation with the CM and all department heads. I have met with my fellow Fayette County Mayors, each of our County Commissioners, school leaders, the Chamber, the Rotary Club, and the SCT. I have our Development Authority and GDOT on the calendar. I intend to forge positive, mutual relationships that work for all of us communitywide.
By March I plan to host a municipal summit in Peachtree City, and welcome elected officials and City Managers from all five Fayette cities, as well as our near neighbors to the west, Newnan, Sharpsburg and Senoia.
I don’t think this has been done before, but we all have a lot in common and have a lot to learn from one another. To share just one example, Newnan sustained a devastating tornado that tore through their historic district in March. Their storm disaster recovery was exemplary and they have agreed to lead a brief discussion about storm disaster recovery. Fayetteville can speak to how they created a new City Center, other communities may focus on paths and trails; and every community has something to share.
But at the end of the day, it’s all about the citizens. My philosophy is I cannot represent citizens if I don’t hear from you, so with that in mind I’ve scheduled two Town Hall meetings to get us started.
The first Town Hall will be this Saturday, January 22, on the topic of City Communications. Now that we no longer receive a local newspaper on our driveways, we need understand how our citizens get information on what’s going on in Peachtree City and whether we can improve. We’ll be discussing the City website, social media, blogs, and other avenues. So join us from 9-11 a.m. in City Hall.
My second Town Hall will be on the topic of Recreation. On Saturday, Feb. 5 we will be discussing the state of our Recreational facilities and services as they reflect Peachtree City on a local, regional and national stage.
It will be important to get people talking, and I look forward to a productive sharing of ideas and suggestions on everything from parks to pickleball, disk golf to the Peachtree City Athletic Complex, Kedron Fieldhouse and Aquatic Center, and everything in between.
It is possible we will decide, as a result of these conversations that it’s time to create a new Recreation Master Plan, as the last one was dated 2011.
In addition to improving communications and putting fresh eyes our recreational facilities, we have a lot of work ahead of us in City Planning. This year we will be discussing a short-term rental ordinance, potentially a noise ordinance, and updating our Unified Development Ordinances.
In 2022 we’re due to complete our five-year Comprehensive Plan update. Council has already appointed our citizens Steering Committee and they are ready to get started; we will be soliciting public input on a number of fronts so watch for news and information and PARTICIPATE. The kickoff will be a workshop on Tuesday evening, February 1st at 6:30 p.m., open to the public.
The second half of that Feb. 1 workshop will be on the topic of the 2022 SPLOST. We have a current SPLOST, the one penny extra in sales tax that goes to fund local projects. The current SPLOST is a 6-year SPLOST that began the summer of 2017 and ends at the end of June, 2023.
Therefore, the County has indicated there will be a SPLOST proposal on the ballot this November for a back-to-back SPLOST. That means cities and the County will be creating a new SPLOST projects list. Once again, our City Council has appointed a steering committee and their kickoff will be the Feb. 1 Workshop.
I want to talk a bit about a SPLOST. A SPLOST effort is citizen-driven. It is a transparent process; the list of projects is voter-approved. Out of 159 Georgia Counties, I believe 152 of them have a SPLOST. SPLOST monies come in part from people outside Fayette who come here to shop and dine. Which means we are paying into the SPLOST in other counties, when we shop or dine in Coweta, Henry, Fulton and others. And if we don’t have a SPLOST, we’re paying into theirs but they are not paying into ours.
The current SPLOST has funded the golf cart bridge over the Peachtree City spillway, allowed us to update Glenloch Pool and build a new Splash Pad, install restrooms at Line Creek Nature Center, create the seven-acre Spyglass Island Park and bridge, purchase 268 radios for Public Safety that are compliant with the County’s upgraded 911 system, buy one replacement Fire Ladder Engine, replace one Ambulance, we added more golf cart paths and connections, and much more.
This year, Based on Council input and citizen input that I received so far, Council will also be discussing and prioritizing safety on our paths, restoring some of our library hours, understanding what we want in terms of connectivity with our neighbors, more uses for the Fred, and the possibility of a Parks Commission, just to name a few.
My priorities as Mayor will center around Three “R’s” — roads, redevelopment, and recreation.
• Roads — Traffic solutions are a top priority! I expect Peachtree City to continue to cultivate positive working relationships with Fayette, Coweta, and Tyrone officials, and together we will work with GDOT to address the increasing congestion on Highway 54. In the meantime, we are referring to the POND Traffic Study and I foresee we will continue to implement improvements.
• Redevelopment — Peachtree City is about built out! But there are some areas of the city that could be much better utilized. Kmart and Huddleston Road come to mind.
If Peachtree City is going to remain a leading city with a robust tax base and a bustling local economy, we need to introduce some new, dynamic options, attract young families, and create nightlife – quality of life for all of us!
I look forward to finding ways to tie in the anticipated sewer plans for Huddleston Road with ideas for a food truck park, boutique retail, restaurants, brew pubs and community gathering spaces.
• Recreation — I will renew our resolve to protect our beautiful greenspaces and look for opportunities to partner with the Southern Conservation Trust to not only protect our nature areas, but conserve land wherever possible. We must take the necessary steps to assure safety and usability for all, on our paths. And I support investing to maintain quality parks, paths, trails, and sports facilities. Peachtree City’s amenities are what make us a standout.
In the next four years, you can trust that this Administration will be forward thinking in our governance, focusing on rebuilding unity, fostering cooperation, and preserving the unique character and traditions of our community.
I’m excited, Peachtree City, about all that lies ahead.
[The above address was delivered by Mayor Kim Learnard at the Jan. 20, 2022 Peachtree City Council meeting at City Hall.]