November 20, 2018, City Council Workshop

Savannah City Government



November 20, 2018 – 9:00 a.m.

PRESENT: Mayor Eddie DeLoach, Presiding

Aldermen: Carol Bell, Julian Miller, Brian Foster, Bill Durrence, John Hall, Tony Thomas, Estella Shabazz, Van Johnson, II (left after Executive Session returned at 12:10 p.m.)

Rob Hernandez, City Manager

Bret Bell, Assistant to the City Manager

Brooks Stillwell, City Attorney

Jennifer Herman, Deputy City Attorney

William Shearouse, Assistant City Attorney

City Manager Hernandez welcomed everyone to the meeting and briefly reviewed the agenda.

Workshop Agenda Items
1. Personnel

Upon motion of Alderman Johnson, seconded by Alderman Durrence, and unanimously carried Council went into Executive Session for the purpose of discussing Personnel.

Upon completion of this session, a motion was made to come out of Executive Session by Alderman Durrence, seconded by Alderman Johnson, and unanimously carried.

2. Litter Initiative
112018 Litter Initiative.pdf

Gene Prevatt, Sanitation Director, was present to inform Council and request their support for a major event coming up in the first quarter. He began by introducing his staff Quhannah Andrews, Assistant Sanitation Director, and Carliss Bates, Education and Outreach Coordinator. Additionally, he acknowledged members of the Keep Savannah Beautiful Board (KSB).

Carliss Bates, Education and Outreach Coordinator, stated the Sanitation Department has been working with the members of KSB to address issues of litter throughout the community. KSB is currently working on a big initiative to address litter in our community which will kick off this spring. Ms. Bates introduced LaToya Brannen, KSB chair, to discuss the initiative.

Ms. Brannen acknowledged Hallie Anderegg and Trish McLeod, additional KSB members. Ms. Brannen stated KSB is excited to announce the 2019 Great Savannah Litter Pick Up Day which will kick off Saturday, March 2, 2019, and will be a 3 month initiative. She stated KSB will be the lead organization and the primary focus will be litter. Ms. Brannen continued stating they are currently in the process of trying to engage all neighborhoods, businesses, civic organizations, schools, churches and citizens to participate and help prevent litter in the community. She concluded stating they continually encourage participation in the Adopt-A-Spot program and are asking any organizations that currently have a spot to coordinate with them to schedule a date to assist with the initiative.

Ms. Bates stated in addition to the litter initiative, KSB and Sanitation will continue working throughout the community engaging neighborhoods and schools to promote KSB providing education to the community and recruiting more partners for the Adopt-A-Spot program. She stated they have been very successful this year with increasing the numbers of local and civic organizations that are currently participating. She stated they will be highlighting some locations such as City owned parks that they would like local organizations and schools to participate in adopting. Ms. Bates continued stating they will also be reaching out to elementary and middle schools to educate them on the message, "Don’t Litter, Litter Costs You." She concluded the presentation stating they need volunteers, donations and sponsors so everyone is doing the same thing at the March 2nd event. She asked Council to actively participate in the cleanup and to reach out to their constituents.

Alderwoman Bell asked what the requirements are for the Adopt-A-Spot program. Ms. Bates replied they ask organizations to commit for at least one year to anything, anywhere there is a need in the community. She stated a spot can be a park (City owned included), a lot, a street, or a house.

Alderwoman Bell asked for clarity on the requirement(s) or expectation(s) of maintenance, as she doesn’t necessarily see much activity and often times feels it’s free publicity for the organizations.

Ms. Bates replied KSB has been kind of dormant for a while, but they are up and running again. She stated there are some very engaged citizens and one of the things they have been working on is that they have developed and finalized their 2019 strategic plan which includes doing an assessment of all current Adopt-A-Spot locations, and will be reaching out to them to ensure they are still interested in being a sponsor.

Mr. Prevatt added those are minimum requirements, there are some organizations that are great examples in the community and the goal is to encourage neighborhoods to adopt their own streets.

Alderman Miller stated this has been an issue of great concern in District 4 and he is really excited about it. He added this initiative is not clean out your garage day, it’s a pickup litter day. The big thing is to get the participation of the people in the neighborhoods, because if it’s done for them they’ll want to know when it will be done again, but if they are participating with the support of the City it will have a lasting effect. He concluded stating one of the ideas that was exciting to him was partnering with schools as many neighborhoods tend to clash with schools because of parking and noise, but this is an opportunity to work with the schools and build a relationship with the neighborhoods.

Alderman Foster asked where do donations go and who manages it. Ms. Bates replied the donations being referred to will be for the actual event on Saturday, March 2nd. She stated there will be a kickoff and wrap-up at one central location. Items needed include grabbers, bags, gloves, if a lunch is provided refreshments are needed. In addition, if there is a neighborhood that is conducting a cleanup she is asking them to partner with a church in the neighborhood to provide a restroom for volunteers.

Alderwoman Shabazz thanked staff and stated she would like to be an active part of the initiative. She stated she has about six schools in her district, and once you create a good and healthy pattern in the lives of youth they carry it on as an adult, as this is something that has to be taught to people.

Alderman Hall asked that staff keep Council involved, as each district has schools in them and this is a wonderful resource to have. He concluded stating it will start teaching, especially elementary school students, about not littering.

Mr. Prevatt thanked Alderman Miller for giving them the spark to get this together.

3. 3rd Quarter Capital Projects Report
112018 3rd Quarter Capital Projects Update.pdf

Heath Lloyd, Chief Infrastructure and Development Officer, turned the presentation over to Marija Baumgartner, Special Projects Coordinator, who presented Council with the 3rd quarter Capital Improvement Projects report. She stated there were 362 projects with 55 Project Managers citywide, of those six were in the Project Management Group in the 3rd quarter. She briefly reviewed the breakdown of projects stating the majority are in Water and Sewer. Ms. Baumgartner briefly reviewed the 3rd quarter projects progress which included:

  • 27 new projects added
  • 16 projects progressed to design/pre-construction
  • 10 projects progressed to implementation/construction
  • 6 projects were completed

Ms. Baumgartner turned the presentation over to Cristy Lawrence, Office of Capital Project Management Director. Ms. Lawrence stated there are six project managers, 59 active projects, and an active total project budget of $72.5 million. She highlighted large 2018 projects which include the following:

  • Cultural Arts Center estimated for completion January 2019
  • Bilbo Canal estimated for completion March 2019
  • Pennsylvania Avenue Family Resource Center estimated for completion April 2019
  • Central Precinct estimated for completion June 2019
  • Sweetwater Fire Station recently completed

Ms. Lawrence turned the presentation over to Leif Blomberg, Capital Project Manager, who briefly discussed the Sweetwater Fire Station. Mr. Blomberg stated the Sweetwater Fire Station began service about one month ago. It’s a new permanent fire station serving the Sweetwater Station area and southwest Savannah, which includes Districts 5 and 6. He stated it’s a replication of the Bradley Pointe Fire Station design and meets FEMA guidelines for critical facility standards for use in disaster events.  Mr. Blomberg stated the fire station is located at 1751 Grove Pointe Road and briefly reviewed the development of the site work, showing Council pictures of the clearing which began in August 2017. He stated there were a lot of issues with water on the site associated with the rain and Hurricane Irma. Mr. Blomberg then provided Council with a summary of the timeline. He stated the majority of the funding for the project came from SPLOST 6. The budgeted cost was $3,515,000 and the estimated costs to date are $3,345,000 (final numbers have not come in as of yet). He concluded stating the grand opening will be held on December 7th at 2:00 p.m.

Alderman Miller asked was anything cut out of the original plans to meet the budget considering delays? Mr. Blomberg replied no.

Alderman Foster asked how much of the cost was funded by SPLOST? Mr. Blomberg replied $3 million was funded by SPLOST and $500,000 came from the General Fund.

Ms. Lawrence discussed district specific projects, highlighting one per district:

  • District 1 - Highlands Park Development
  • District 2 - Waters Avenue Corridor Improvement
  • District 3 - Holly Heights Park
  • District 4 - Cedar Street Improvements
  • District 5 - Cann Park Sidewalks
  • District 6 - Mohawk Park

Ms. Lawrence then reviewed upcoming projects looking ahead to 2019:

  • Waters Avenue streetscapes (Phase 2)
  • Broughton Street streetscapes
  • Whitaker Street sidewalk improvements
  • Augusta Avenue streetscapes
  • Savannah Shines Neighborhood improvements - Edgemere/Sackville
  • Summerside Park
  • Bonaventure Cemetery restrooms
  • Holly Heights Park
  • Stratford Park
  • Highlands Fire Station
  • Mohawk Park
  • City Facilities at Interchange Court to move City Lot

Alderman Miller asked if the Whitaker Street sidewalk starts at Bay Street? Ms. Lawrence replied yes.

Alderman Foster asked if that will be funded out of the parking fund? City Manager Hernandez replied understanding the project history of it has to deal with the construction of the parking garage at Ellis Square and the restoration of the square which was a compromise reached with property owners in the affected area.

Mayor DeLoach asked for clarity about total cost. Chief Lloyd replied the total cost of projects currently being managed is approximately $72.5 million. He stated it’s a fairly aggressive schedule and he understands the importance of getting the projects completed. He concluded stating they have a lot of work to do, and are looking forward to the future.

Alderman Miller stressed the importance of communication. He suggested staff possibly send a note out to residents about when projects will begin.

Alderman Thomas added don’t do it until staff is certain the project is going to start.

Alderman Durrence also added the suggestion to inform them if and when there are hiccups.

Chief Lloyd replied as a part of the City Manager’s quarterly update Council will also be made known as well.

City Manager Hernandez stated the third quarter projects report is posted online.

4. Downtown Streetscapes

City Manager Hernandez stated a discussion will need to be held after the presentation for Council to provide staff with direction on how to move forward.

Bridget Lidy, Director of Planning and Urban Design, stated this project includes three corridors in downtown Savannah which include:

  • Broughton Street
  • Bay Street
  • River Street

She stated initially when the project began the goal was to realize each street’s full potential as a rich and varied pedestrian experience. Staff also thought it would be good to tap into existing plans previously invested in by the City to ensure those concepts, goals and objectives were also incorporated into the overall streetscape program. In addition, another key goal was to focus on implementation.

Ms. Lidy briefly reviewed the key focus areas which include:

  • Pedestrian and ADA safety
  • Bicycle safety
  • Vehicular Functionality
  • Smart Transportation Design
  • Historic Preservation
  • Visual Identity
  • Activities and Events

She stated the main focus is to provide a positive experience for both the residents and visitors of the areas.

Ms. Lidy then updated Council on the progress of the corridors.

River Street:

  • Approximately $250,000 is set aside for the project. Currently they are working on upgrading the electrical system in Rousakis Plaza. It is presently going out to bid and should be presented to Council at the last meeting in December for approval. The goal is to commence the work in January 2019, with an estimated completion in March 2019 (by Saint Patrick’s Day which would be a great benefit to the merchants and vendors). In addition, outside of the $250,000, staff is looking at some type of public restroom on the eastern end of River Street, near Morrell Park.

Bay Street:

  • This project focuses mostly on the eastern and western ends. Specifically on the eastern end, it is not pedestrian friendly or safe. The western side between Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Montgomery there is no pedestrian connectivity. The project cost estimate is $3.6 million to pursue.

Alderman Thomas asked when you turn off Bay Street headed to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard east  there is a busted planter that is being used as a parking lot that keeps getting worse, will this project take care of that? Ms. Lidy replied it should address some of that. Alderman Thomas stated he doesn’t understand why the hotel allows that in front of its property. City Manager Hernandez stated he will have Code Compliance look into the issue. Alderman Durrence asked as it relates to the parking lot, are there any plans to get it beautified? Ms. Lidy replied not with this particular effort, but staff is trying to engage with the property owners. Alderman Thomas stated on that parking lot, Best Western sells daily passes for that lot. City Manager Hernandez asked if that is a grandfathered parking lot, as all parking lots have to meet the Historic Design Standards. Ms. Lidy and City Manager Hernandez stated they will have staff look into the concern.

Ms. Lidy continued discussing the progress of the corridors.

Broughton Street:

  • On the Council agenda for today, item 45 has to do with the revocable license encroachment agreement. She stated this is necessary in order to address the properties that have basements on Broughton Street that go underneath the sidewalks. Prior to the City of Savannah commencing any type of work in those areas, a visual structural assessment needs to be done and a report provided to the property owners to identify any needs prior to construction beginning so the City can be held harmless for maintenance and liability of any existing conditions.

Alderman Miller asked if this is necessary because some of the basements extend under the sidewalk? Ms. Lidy replied yes, they go underneath the sidewalk and some extend all the way to the curb.

Alderman Miller asked if there are any owners to date, not willing to give that permission. Ms. Lidy replied there are about 17 properties she is honing in on and has received very good responses from the remaining property owners.

Ms. Lidy stated there are 3 options for Broughton Street and staff needs direction from Council:

  • Option 1 – Festival like atmosphere between Whitaker Street and Broughton Street.

Ms. Lidy stated it would be located in the festival zone area and would be differentiated by brick paving material, the street would be raised to be flush with the sidewalk, and bollards would be placed to have a delineation between the street and sidewalk. Additionally it would be bicycle friendly.

Alderwoman Shabazz asked if this is the standard design. Ms. Lidy replied these are the designs that came forward through the process.

Alderwoman Shabazz inquired about the loss of parking. Ms. Lidy replied there wouldn’t be any parking spaces lost.

Alderman Durrence asked if the two block festival zone is for temporary events only. Ms. Lidy replied yes.

Ms. Lidy stated going to the full extent the cost for Option 1 is approximately $17 million. The total cost for the project is budgeted for $14 million which includes Broughton, Bay, and River streets.

City Manager Hernandez stated there is about $12 million available right now for construction.

Alderman Thomas stated if he is understanding correctly we are over budget. City Manager Hernandez replied for just Broughton Street.

Ms. Lidy continued to Option 2:

  • Option 2 - Scaled down version which eliminates the festival zone, there will be brick/tabby-like sidewalks and tabby-like crosswalks, different types of light fixtures, no bio-swales at the intersections, and eliminates the tree gates. She stated the estimated cost would be $11 million.

Alderman Miller asked for clarification of bio-swales. Ms. Lidy stated they retain water and enhance the look of the intersections by providing more greenery.

Alderman Foster asked if the tree grates are necessary for the life of tree? Ms. Lidy replied from her experience they become ash trays and prevent proper growth of the trees.

Ms. Lidy moved on to Option 3:

  • Option 3 – The estimated cost is $7.6 million, this will eliminate the festival zone, bio-swales, compass rose, crosswalks, and tree gates. This option will have the brick/tabby-like sidewalks, and different types of light fixtures.

Alderman Durrence asked if in each model if the brick for café seating will remain. Ms. Lidy replied yes.

Ms. Lidy stated there would be initial enhancements with additional planting around the bases of some of the tree wells in order to enhance what the area will look like.

Mayor DeLoach stated if planting is done around the tree wells they will be walked down and dead within a year.

Ms. Lidy gave a brief bird’s eye review of the options design.

Option 1:

  • Designs are complete
  • Permitting is complete
  • Funding needed – approximately $9.4 million

Mayor DeLoach suggested do away with Bay Street and use those funds to focus on Broughton Street. He continued stating bid it out for the entire amount and then see what comes in. He also suggested taking the $3 million to the Tax District. Alderman Durrence stated the TAD ends at East Broad, and none of this is in the TAD. Mayor DeLoach stated his point is that it is used for the Tax District, and that’s how it should be paid for.

Alderman Miller asked Mayor DeLoach for clarification on which option he was making the suggestion for. Mayor DeLoach replied for bridging across East Broad.

Alderman Durrence stated it may be possible to use the TAD for the East Bay Street improvements.

City Manager Hernandez stated he will have to do a financial analysis on that. He reminded Council that the TAD revenues are pledged to pay off the bonds that were floated to do the infrastructure improvements. He continued stating the TAD would have to be amended in order to do this.

Alderman Thomas asked if a Business Improvement District (BID) could be created.

City Manager Hernandez replied we can but his understanding is that it has been a controversial topic in the past.

Ms. Lidy stated Option 1 will go out to bid. Alderman Durrence asked if that could be done today. City Manager Hernandez replied it can be done today, and he will have an idea within 30-45 days as to what the market will bear.

Mayor DeLoach asked if there was a consensus from Council to put Option 1 out for bid. Council agreed.

Alderman Thomas stated Council needs to see real numbers as this can’t really be estimated. He also added that the City has $600 million in bondable capacity and believes the Council should create it.

Alderman Durrence stated we started off making this project the best it could be and he feels it should be continued in that manner.

City Manager Hernandez stated there is the danger that this goes back out to bid which will take about 45 days, if Council then decides they don’t want to move forward with it, it will have to be redesigned and those 45 days have been lost. It will then go out for redesign which will also take another month or month and a half.

Mayor DeLoach stated it is his opinion that the project will not be redesigned rather specific things will be taken out to make it come close to the bid process. He stated he would rather do it right than half do it.

City Manager Hernandez stated there will have to be some redesign. He suggested putting Option 1 out to bid and at the same time pursue some redesign work to prevent a delay in the project for an additional 60 days, to move things along a little quicker.

Heath Lloyd, Chief Infrastructure and Development Officer, agreed with the City Manager stating it allows us to work simultaneously on two streams. He stated he still needs guidance from Council as to whether staff will be pursuing Option 2 or 3.

Alderman Durrence stated Option 3 is a why did we even bother approach.

City Manager Hernandez stated there could be an Option 4, maybe there is a way to implement certain aspects of the design, such as beautifying the corners and festival zone, and make necessary repairs and improvements along the existing sidewalks. He continued stating maybe there is a way to keep what works now and make improvements where necessary.

Alderman Durrence stated he would like to see Option 1 and Option 2a, which would be using the elements there and applying them now.

Alderman Miller stated he doesn’t think that’s a bad idea to look at, but the hard part is to envision what is being talked about. He stated Council needs some type of illustration.

Alderman Durrence suggested possibly doing what he suggested in the context of Option 1.

Alderman Thomas stated what could help is to get someone out there with a pressure washer to clean the sidewalks.

Alderman Foster asked if Council will be getting funding options?  City Manager Hernandez replied the only funding option he has is to issue more debt.

Mayor DeLoach asked what money does the City currently have? City Manager Hernandez replied about $12 million currently.

Chief Lloyd cautioned Council about using some of the existing elements if the idea is a consistent look.

City Manager Hernandez asked what are the elements absolutely needed?

Mayor DeLoach replied all those people were brought in and they said this is what they wanted and now discussions are being held about walking away. He concluded stating it needs to be priced out, and do what was agreed upon and do it right.

City Manager Hernandez asked if there was consensus to move forward with Option 1 from Council.

Alderwoman Bell stated the public has been engaged and Council has a credibility issue.

Alderman Miller stated he thinks Option 1 with the City looking at if we have the money to adjust the festival zone.

Alderman Durrence suggested removing the lights.

Mayor DeLoach stated just price it.

City Manager Hernandez stated one thing that could be done to get more cost efficiency is to bundle it with Whitaker Street.

Alderman Thomas stated Council needs to be careful when bundling things, the thought is to create a great Broughton Street and a great Whitaker Street and he fears bundling it would be the City trying to take on too much at one time.

City Manager Hernandez stated the advantage of bundling is one contractor, one mobilization, one demobilization, and coordinating with one contractor on traffic issues.

Alderman Thomas stated attempting to do Whitaker and Broughton together would be a coordinated disaster as traffic in downtown Savannah is already a disaster.

City Manager Hernandez stated he likes the idea of one contractor because then you’re dealing with one for both projects. He stated in order to complete this project if we are talking about the possibility of issuing bonds, he alerted Council of two other projects. Something needs to be done with Hudson Hill as the building isn’t looking economically feasible to restore. There’s $2 million budgeted for the replacement of the Grant Center, which isn’t enough. He suggested looking at the possibility of combining the two facilities. He stated he can’t move those projects along for anything less than $8 million. He stated as part of the legislative agenda Council asked staff to work on widening Benton Boulevard and Highlands Boulevard. On Monday, via a verbal conversation, GDOT informed the City that they are willing to fund 70% of funding for widening in the City limits, and the City would need to fund 30%. He continued stating they are ready to move forward now, and the portion the City would be responsible for is near $3.5-4 million. If the City is going to go out and bond the streetscaping project there are other pressures in the community that Council will hear from.

Alderman Foster asked if 70% is very lucrative, why can’t the $3.5 million be funded and have it put into the SPLOST to pay it back.

City Manager Hernandez replied he needs a source of funds to borrow money from.

Alderman Thomas stated Council needs to make a decision about if we are willing to borrow money because the City can’t afford anything being discussed.

City Manager Hernandez replied for the short term money has to be borrowed with the hopes that SPLOST 7 passes to pay it back.

Alderman Thomas stated he wouldn’t pin any hopes on SPLOST 7 because Council doesn’t know about it. The reality is $5 million is needed for Broughton Street, $4 million is needed for Benton Boulevard, and $6 million is needed for the Grant Center/Hudson Hill.

Alderwoman Bell asked if there has been any response from the Hudson Hill and West Savannah community regarding combining the community centers.

Taffanye Young, Chief Community Services Officer, replied at this point they haven’t had any public discussions with either neighborhood, but staff is just trying to come up with some alternatives and is currently waiting on the final report on the building.

Mayor DeLoach asked when will funding need to be made available for Benton Boulevard? City Manager Hernandez replied he isn’t sure as of yet.

Chief Lloyd stated an agreement was discussed which will determine that.

City Manager Hernandez stated staff will move forward with pricing for Broughton Street which will take about 30-45 days and bring it back for contract award. He stated at the same time he would like to pursue simultaneous tracks to include bonding options.

He suggested to Council to go ahead and approve Item 44 on the Council agenda in the event it is needed, which will save time if there is a need to do redesign.

Alderman Foster asked about the $3.6 million for Bay Street.

Chief Lloyd stated if Council wants staff to hold off on Bay Street they need to direct staff to do so.

Alderman Miller stated he suggests pulling Bay Street out and making it a two street project.

City Manager Hernandez stated he is concerned that the City has a safety issue at the east end of Bay Street.

Alderman Durrence stated he thinks staff needs to look at using the TAD for that.

City Manager Hernandez stated he will confer with the City Attorney about that intersection.

Alderwoman Bell stated staff needs to start conversations with the West Savannah and Hudson Hill communities regarding the options for those community centers.

Alderman Johnson stated they are not there yet.

City Manager Hernandez stated staff has to identify some sites.

Chief Lloyd confirmed with Council that staff will:

  • Proceed with bidding Option 1
  • Proceed with Item 44
  • Proceed with Item 45
  • Proceed with Item 11
  • Hold on Bay Street to figure out funding
5. Executive Session: Litigation / Lunch

Upon motion of Alderwoman Bell, seconded by Alderman Johnson, and unanimously carried Council went into Executive Session for the purpose of discussing Litigation.

Upon completion of this session, a motion was made to come out of Executive Session by Alderman Miller, seconded by Alderman Durrence, and unanimously carried.

6. City Council Meeting Agenda Review

City Manager Rob Hernandez presented the City Manager’s Briefing of the agenda items for the Council Meeting of November 20, 2018. The agenda can be found online and will be made a part of the permanent record.

There being no further business, Mayor DeLoach declared this meeting of Council adjourned.

The video recording of the Council meeting can be found by copying and pasting the below link in your url:

Luciana M. Spracher, Acting Clerk of Council
Agenda Plus