Members of the Dearing Town Council dropped a new ordinance, approved purchasing a pickup truck for the fire station and discussed implementing zoning regulations at their regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 13.
There have been numerous complaints from local residents during public input time of the past several monthly meetings, including the September meeting. The complaints are of tractor trailer trucks parking on residential streets, blocking traffic, damaging drainage ditches and tearing up the asphalt.
At the August meeting, council members and Mayor Sean Kelley decided to draft an ordinance restricting tractor trailers over 10,000 pounds gross weight from parking on city streets. The first reading of the ordinance was scheduled for the September council meeting.
But Councilman Mike McTier expressed his concern that the ordinance would hurt local truck drivers.
"For as long as I can remember, there have been owner/operator trucks in our town," he said. "And they have to deal with cuts in the economy. Now, I don't like telling them they have to pay to park somewhere else."
During discussion of the ordinance, Mayor Kelley said trucks would be allowed to make deliveries within the city, but would not be allowed to remain there.
"With all the cuts being made in the state budget, (Local Assistance Road Program) LARP funds are gone," Mayor Kelley said. "So, we no longer get money to fix a road anymore. And, those trucks do tear up a road."
After councilmen Allen Axon and Judson Story agreed with Mr. McTier, council members decided to meet with attorney Robert E. Knox, Jr., to see if there are any options other than the ordinance.
The Dearing Fire Department was awarded a $5,000 "match" grant from the Georgia Forestry Commission to purchase a slip-on unit to convert a pickup truck into an initial-attack firefighting brush truck.
Mr. Story, who also is a volunteer firefighter in Dearing, said a brush truck is needed because tanker trucks cannot be taken off the road. He said the brush truck could be used to fight structure fires, also. The slip-on could include a foam spray system as well as water.
During discussion, it was decided a pickup truck is needed with crew-cab, four wheel drive and a long bed.
Council members voted unanimously to use $25,000 to purchase the truck, lights and sirens, then match the $5,000 grant for the slip-on, bringing the total cost of the truck to $35,000.
Dearing Fire Chief Danny Cason said the department would use the pickup truck to answer medical calls, which would save them money.
"The big truck costs more in gas, plus costs more to replace it if something happens to it," he said. "All we have to carry to a medical call is the medical bag. So, it only makes sense to take the pickup truck."
During a brief discussion concerning zoning regulations, Mayor Kelley said zoning is a completely separate issue from inspections and permits. The three council members present -- Mr. Story, Mr. McTier and Allen Axon -- said they are in favor of developing zoning regulations for the town.
Mayor Kelley said he understands zoning is necessary, but he "stands to lose the most from it," because he operates his printing business from his home.
The council voted to contract CSRA Regional Development Center to assist in writing the zones.
Justin Crighton, senior planner with CSRA RDC, attended a previous called meeting with the council members to provide information and answer their questions. At that meeting, Mr. Crighton said zoning is a land development regulation tool that protects the health, safety, morals and general welfare of citizens.
"I don't want to make this a town that's difficult to live in, where we look at every little thing," Mayor Kelley said. "I want it to be where we are protecting our neighborhoods and what's moving in beside you, not where you have to get permission to sneeze."
Mr. Crighton said Dearing is more fortunate than other similar small towns, because it is set inside a county that already has zoning regulations, which eliminates businesses setting up shop just outside the town limits to avoid regulations.
Mayor Kelley called zoning "the z word," saying he knows it's a sticky topic.
"I don't see a way to protect the small town way of life without doing it," Mayor Kelley added.
The CSRA RDC is a public sector, non-profit planning and development agency that services 13 counties in East Georgia, primarily providing grant writing and economic development services.