Peachtree City Mayor Kim Learnard delivered her annual State of the City address at the Jan. 19, 2023, City Council meeting. Following is her address in its entirety:
2022 was certainly a unique and exciting year for Peachtree City. Together City Council worked to revitalize our city communication system. We successfully negotiated the Local Option Sales Tax agreement with our Countywide partners, unanimously passed a strong budget, and we remain vigilant on our goals related to traffic, recreation, redevelopment, and public safety. We have attracted new talent to our city government, and we continue to work to maintain Peachtree City’s unique and quality lifestyle.
Right away in January of 2022 we held a City Communications Town Hall so we could hear comments and suggestions from our citizens. Council’s goal is to provide full transparency in what we do, with relevant and timely information for our Peachtree City citizens who wish to be accurately informed about city issues.
To accomplish this goal, we have developed a strong PTC Communications Team led by our City Clerk Yasmin Julio. We were delighted to bring onboard Andre Walker, a video communications professional who comes to us from CNN and Hannah Thomas, a talented graphic designer. Our Team is busy with an improved weekly e-newsletter, revitalized PTC Facebook page, and Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Our citizens have responded enthusiastically, with increased viewership and followers on social media.
We are also in the process of redesigning our city website and will soon be releasing a new App for wayfinding specific to our multiuse path system.
Through these communication channels we now provide consistent updates on city events, projects, and meetings, as well as major city issues like Local Option Sales Tax negotiations, budget, SPLOST, and our Comprehensive Plan work.
Local Option Sales Tax negotiations happen once every ten years, following the U.S. Census. This is the time when every County in Georgia must renegotiate their agreement to distribute sales tax funds to their municipalities for the next decade. In January, the Peachtree City Council started with a very productive meeting among all five Fayette municipalities. Working together, we came to an agreement first among ourselves, then with the County in February. BTW, Counties that did not come to agreement by December 31st would lose their LOST tax revenue altogether. (You may remember Fulton County made the headlines when they finally came to agreement with their 15 cities in November.) We were gratified to come to a mutual agreement and in fact the Georgia Municipal Association THANKED Peachtree City for our role in helping Fayette to become the first in the state to finalize our LOST agreement.
In August, City Council passed a city budget that included a zero-millage rate increase. We are holding at 6.043 mills even as we maintain our excellent service levels and retain and hire the most professional employees possible. Should SPLOST 2023 pass, Council’s goal will be to budget no millage rate increases over the next five years. We stand at a $46 Million annual budget. Our budget is posted on our Peachtree City website. We’ve even added a professionally made video, “How are my taxes calculated?”.
City Council convened a SPLOST 2023 committee of citizens in the spring and they exceeded expectations in soliciting public input, meeting with staff department heads, and creating a SPLOST list of projects with something in it for everyone in Peachtree City. The SPLOST vote will take place March 21 and, if passed, SPLOST 2023 will replace the current SPLOST 2017 which expires this summer.
Peachtree City’s list of projects heavily favors infrastructure needs such as maintenance of our roads and cart paths as well as public safety support.
•49% of our list is roads ($5M per year paves 8 miles per year) (15 miles total each year)
•19% of our list is cart paths ($575,000 per year paves 3 miles per year) (10 miles total each year)
•17% is public safety, Police, Fire and EMS.
•5% is recreation, with most of the recreation dollars allocated to playground equipment improvements and new restrooms at Drake Field.
•That leaves 10% contingency.
The total anticipated SPLOST amount will be $67 million for Peachtree City over the next six years. Our comprehensive SPLOST 2023 Manual is published in its entirety on our Peachtree City website. As an added note: ALL of the SPLOST 2017 projects are either complete or now in progress. The last project to be approved is the new double-wide cart path bridge over Lake Peachtree at Highway 54.
Our city’s Comprehensive Plan is updated every five years. In 2022, City Council convened a citizen committee, which was a cross section of our diverse community, and once again solicited extensive public input. The result is a responsible foundation for land use that directs growth and development going forward.
We asked our citizens What do you love most about Peachtree City? The answers were: #1 Path system, #2 Greenspace, #3 Sense of Security: support for and appreciation of our public safety.
We ask our citizens where can we make progress? And the answers were #1 54/74: address traffic congestion, #2 Development Policies: suggestions ran the gamut from stop all growth to provide more housing options, and #3 Special events: want more, AND maintain our recreational facilities.
Our 2022 Comprehensive Plan is posted in its entirety on our PTC website.
This year we elevated our relationship with the Georgia Department of Transportation to alleviate traffic congestion problems. We met with GDOT representatives early in the year. We also hosted a joint meeting with the Fayette County Transportation Committee. In attendance were GDOT engineers, our GDOT State Board Representative, City and County transportation officials, and our State Representatives. At the meeting we received updates on the Hwy 54/74 Displaced Left Turn project that is right around the corner.
Several of the smaller “fixes” we want to see, like no right turn on red 74S to 54W, as well as changes to signalization, will be implemented as part of the DLT project.
Additionally, we are working with GDOT to create a dual left out of Huddleston Road onto 54W as a pull-ahead.
And in the next few weeks, Council will decide whether to have standard GDOT green highway signs and signposts as part of the DLT project on 74 Northbound and 74 Southbound or spend extra money to upgrade the signage to decorative, more classic sign pillars, trusses, materials, and lighting. So, stay tuned.
Our parks and recreation facilities are a great asset to Peachtree City lifestyles. In August we held a ribbon cutting ceremony to open the brand new All Children’s Playground, for children of all abilities, and the place is packed!
We are currently replacing the Riley Fields running track.
We resurfaced the tennis courts at Blue Smoke and Glenloch Parks. Early in 2022, we opened six new pickleball courts at Braelinn Park.
Due to popular citizen interest, we included one new 12-court pickleball facility with lights, in our SPLOST 2023 list. We are planning new bathrooms at Drake Field and a renovation of Battery Way Park.
We renewed our emphasis on maintenance at our City Tennis Center and this year we will be discussing the best way to fund replacement of 25-year-old courts, outdated lights, and a broken irrigation system.
In May, Council voted unanimously to create a partnership agreement with the Fayette County School System to construct Stagecoach Road to the new Booth Middle School, as well as to construct a golf cart path for safe access to the school.
The Fayette County Board of Education opened the Center of Innovation at the former Booth Middle School location right in the heart of our city. The COI features both Clayton State University and Southern Crescent Technical College and will mean not only dual enrollment and adult education, but also partnerships with our industries. Classes started in August and the formal grand opening will take place soon.
Throughout 2022, Council stayed in conversation with Kimco Realty, the Owner/Developer of the former Kmart location in Braelinn Village. So far, we have been unable to attract sports bar, restaurant, or entertainment facilities; however, conversations continue as we work to attract an appropriate venue to the empty space.
Huddleston Road needs sewer and WASA is ready to go. We are taking a comprehensive look at the area and will be working with property owners to identify what we want the area to be and plan our next steps.
In April, PTC promoted Assistant Chief Clint Murphy to the role of Fire Chief. Chief Murphy has been with the Department since 1997. Since 2012, he has served as the Assistant Fire Chief of Training and Special Operations. Chief Murphy is vastly qualified, and we’re fortunate to have him leading PTC Fire and Rescue.
Keeping our Public Safety ranks fully staffed is an ongoing challenge. Peachtree City hosted the Georgia House of Representatives Committee on Public Safety to discuss salaries in September; this gave Police Chiefs and Sheriffs from across the state a chance to share their challenges and suggestions with Georgia Legislators. Our own Police Chief Janet Moon really took the spotlight and gave a no-nonsense factual account of why our officers leave and what needs to be done to keep them. Council recently approved take home vehicles and an increase in signing bonuses, in addition to an across-the-board staff COLA increase of 5 percent that started in December.
PTC is committed to fully staffing and fully funding our Police, Fire, and EMT ranks, and we will do whatever it takes to maintain staffing levels for these critical services.
In August, we had a devastating fire in our local Walmart, calling for engagement of Coweta and Fayette counties, and Fayetteville fire departments to help us put out the blaze. Our PD investigation began that same night, and an arrest was made promptly. The City did as much as we could to assist Walmart in reopening as quickly as possible, to serve PTC residents. The ribbon cutting was in late December after only four months of closure.
In 2022, we opened a new at-grade cart path across Highway 74 at Panasonic.
In addition to several regional tennis tournaments, our City Tennis Center hosted the national PPA Classic Pickleball tournament that attracted more than 700 pickleball players and a huge audience over several days. The event aired live on the Tennis Channel! Tennis Center events bring in between $1.5 and $2 million in economic development every year.
We had another sellout season at The Fred.
We continued our tradition of family events with the Night Market, Sunset Sounds, Hometown Holiday, and a list of multicultural festivals and celebrations.
Last month, City Council welcomed our new Council member, Mr. Clint Holland, who brings a new and welcome perspective to City Council.
This month, we welcome our new City Manager, Bob Curnow. City Council undertook an exhaustive regional search for our new City Manager. Bob was a Deputy City Manager in Coral Springs, FL, and he has deep experience in IT, Finance, Community Development, Public Works, Public Safety, Innovation and Project Management. Peachtree City is thrilled to welcome Bob and his family, grateful they have decided to call Peachtree City home, and we’re looking forward to Bob’s leadership and expertise.
Throughout our entire City Manager search process, which took the better part of the year, City Council had total peace of mind with our interim City Manager, Justin Strickland. Justin showed the utmost professionalism, carrying our city forward flawlessly. We owe Justin a debt of gratitude and we’re glad that he will continue as our Assistant City Manager.
I am proud to say that Peachtree City has a governmental staff that is second to none. We excel especially in technical expertise, customer service, and communications. Everywhere I turn I see incredible education and experience among our ranks. I am honored to be working with this amazing team.
If 2022 was a year of filling our ranks and getting our bearings, 2023 will be a year of actively planning for the future.
In 2023 we’ll develop and implement Unified Development Ordinances (UDOs), a tremendous Planning Department undertaking that will result in updates and reorganization of our city’s planning standards across the board. We will also update our Recreation Master Plan, as the last Recreation Master Plan was done in 2011.
Also in 2023, with a recalibrated Council and with Bob’s leadership, I anticipate developing a Strategic Plan for Peachtree City. Dozens of high caliber cities in Georgia have embraced the process of soliciting citizen input, on various aspects of their city, for the purpose of developing a Strategic Plan. This creates an overarching vision for the city’s future five, ten, and twenty years out.
A Strategic Plan will put the “planning” back into our planned community. It will help us all identify who we are now and who we wish to be as a city. With a Strategic Plan in place, then, future decisions about budget, projects, and priorities fall in line with stated mutual goals.
When I look at Peachtree City I see generations, now, of families, more and more young people, new and expanding businesses, boundless educational opportunities, and amenities and quality of life that are second to none. I’m proud of the work we have done in 2022 and I know we are poised for robust planning in 2023, and a positive vision for Peachtree City for the next 20 years and beyond.