After three months in session, the new Dearing Town Council is tackling many projects.
The last monthly council meeting lasted nearly two hours because of the discussion of so many different ideas. Mayor Sean Kelley said he didn't like the length of the meeting and hopes to shorten them, but discussion is necessary to see improvements.
The first project the council is working on is refurbishing the Dearing gym. The gym is owned by the McDuffie County School System. The council is working on gathering information for a grant application from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
In order to receive the grant, Mayor Kelley must prove the gym will be used to serve the underprivileged in the area. Plans for this include English classes for workers at McCorkle Nurseries and basketball camps for the Boys and Girls Club.
"The gym is in the works. ... We have already approved the rewriting of the grant. All that it is now is an information-gathering venture," Mayor Kelley said.
The next project in the works will be completed within 30 days, Mayor Kelley said. The Mayor is seeking to change heating in the Town Hall and fire stations from natural gas to propane and put them on thermostats because they are not used often. He said it will cost $265 to convert the town hall heater.
"We have to pay for the natural gas even when it's not in use, so the conversion should pay for itself in a couple of months and save us money down the road," Mayor Kelley said.
The Mayor is also changing the computer at Town Hall by installing programs that the town can use. Monday night, the council approved the purchase and set-up of QuickBooks software, which would allow them to keep track of bookkeeping without paying an accountant to record every transaction. Mayor Kelley said the total cost will be $800.
"We have this lovely computer sitting here, and it's only good for emailing. We need to get up to at least the 20th century and use it more efficiently," he said.
Approval of purchasing an answering machine for Town Hall did not take much discussion. Judy Reeves, secretary, said this would help because the outgoing message can give people information they are seeking, as well as allow them to leave a message.
A small project in the works that is important to the Mayor is having Dearing designated as a Tree City. Mayor Kelley said being a Tree City means they will plant new trees when old ones are cut down, and they will take care of their trees.
"It will be nice for us because Thomson isn't one and Harlem isn't one, so we can have a sign on each end of our town that says we are one," he said.
The biggest change, which right now Mayor Kelley said is just an idea in discussion, will be a Dearing public safety officer. The Mayor was originally pursuing the idea of having an off-duty deputy work for the town from the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department. Then he learned that Stapleton has its own full-time officer.
"They let him work his own hours as long as he works a certain number of hours a week. I talked to the mayor down there, and he said it is working out really, really well for them," the Mayor said.
Hopefully the officer's salary can be started with a grant, and then pay for itself through fines, Mayor Kelley said. He will wait until the next quarterly meeting of Central Savannah River Area Regional Development Center in Harlem to discuss the grant opportunities with the RDC representative. Meanwhile, Mayor Kelley said he will call around and find out what the average salary for policemen in the area is.
The council is also enforcing its Clean Community Act by sending letters to property owners who have trash on their property that is hazardous or an eyesore. The letters give a deadline for people to clean their property or they will be charged a fine.
Other projects in discussion are expanding the town limits, having a town newsletter, having downtown activities, becoming a Relay For Life chapter, setting up a disaster plan and collecting overdue water bills.
Mayor Kelley is encouraging citizens to attend the monthly council meetings at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month.
One citizen, Alton Davis, attended last Monday's meeting.
"I like what I hear and see. They have organization, and are working for the town," Mr. Davis said.