Statesboro city council members will consider a request from First Baptist Church to aid in the installation of a water line to feed the church's planned sanctuary expansion during Wednesday's regular meeting.
According to a Memorandum of Understanding included in the council agenda packet, First Baptist would pay for all materials involved in running a new 10-inch water line from the intersection of Hill and Oak Streets to the new church sanctuary. The bigger water line is needed to meet the fire flow requirements for the fire sprinkler system in the new sanctuary.
In addition to the pipe and related materials, First Baptist would pay for any repairs to the street or sidewalk surfaces damaged by putting in the extension. The city, in turn, would provide the labor necessary for the extension of the water main. The total cost of the labor and equipment needed to install the new water line was not outlined in the council packet and city staff could not be reached to confirm a total figure.
Councilman Travis Chance said he wants to wait and hear the presentation from Frank Hook, who will make the presentation for First Baptist, before making a decision.
"The First Baptist Church is a private organization, but it is still something for the betterment of the community. It is a religious organization that does provide substantial value to Statesboro and its residents," Chance said. "We're going to listen to the proposal put forth by First Baptist on Wednesday and we're going to talk about approving the memorandum of understanding. I can't say if it will be passed or not."
Councilman Will Britt said the city has considered putting water and sewer into areas in the city that are not currently on the water system, but the council has been told by city staff on more than one occasion that the city would never recoup any installation costs. However, Britt said the city has a responsibility to provide a certain quality of life.
"I think Merrywood (Subdivision) is one example. If we put sewer in Merrywood, we'll never get money back for that," Britt said. "There's not expansion behind it, we'll never get it, but it still is something that we're actually looking at."
Britt said he had not studied the memorandum in detail and that there would be public testimony given at the council meeting that he said he would consider before he makes a decision. But he said the church's initial request to have the city pay for all the costs associated with a new water line would not have been something he favored.
"I don't have as big a heartburn as it is written now. I had a lot of heartburn in the way it was written originally when the rumor was that we were going to pay $100,000 to run this water line," Britt said. "And I said, ‘If we've done it in the past, OK, but if we've never done that in the past...' and it was shown that we had never done that in the past."
Chance recognized an affirmative vote could open the door for more requests.
"It definitely sets a precedent," Chance said. "But you know what, if something is for the betterment of the community as a whole, whether it's First Baptist or First Methodist - whatever church it is, whether it's on the north, east, west or south side of Statesboro - if there is a reasonable expectation or request to contribute, if it is not going to burden the taxpayers, then I'm not going to stand in the way."
Also on Wednesday's agenda, the council will consider granting a non-exclusive franchise to Bulloch County Rural Telephone Cooperative Inc. for the installation, maintenance and operation of a cable system within the city limits. According to the agreement that needs to be approved by the council, Bulloch Rural would be able to offer cable service, Internet service, pay-per-view service or any other transmission by means of its coaxial cable system.
The city also plans to adopt a list of city street speed limits as recommended by the city's engineering department and approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation. The adoption of this list by the council is one of the steps required by the state in order for the city to be able to use approved speed detection devices (e.g. radar or laser detectors) to enforce city and state speed limits within the city.
Due to the Labor Day holiday, the council meeting was pushed back to Wednesday morning, which is a typical practice following a Monday holiday. The meeting will start at 9 a.m. on the second floor of city hall.
Phil Boyum may be reached at (912) 489-9454.