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Lula budget keeps water rates stable, won't collect property tax

The Lula City Council plans to approve a budget Monday that continues the city’s tradition of not collecting property taxes and that keeps water and sewer rates the same.

The approximately $1.19 million budget includes $28,000 for street maintenance, $20,000 for events like Railroad Days, Christmas in the Park and the Fall Festival, about $14,000 for park maintenance and improvements, and almost $30,000 for street lights.

But the city also has about $2.6 million it could spend on projects, although actual spending is unlikely to reach that amount, according to City Manager Dennis Bergin.

Council members discussed some project ideas at a work session on Friday and will soon be finalizing which options will be priorities in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

One option is a new gravel parking lot on Athens Street. The city recently purchased 6015 Athens St., across the street from Napoli’s Pizza, for $42,000. The property, which housed a deer processing business, could become  a new parking lot for downtown if council members decide to go forward with that approximately $30,000 project.

Councilman Lamb Griffin said he would also like to see more sidewalks on Athens Street.

“It has been a good cement sidewalk in years past, but people probably don’t walk it like they did,” Griffin said.

Mayor Jim Grier said increased activity downtown could justify making the area more pedestrian-friendly.

“As we open the depot and have more activities there, or down at the ballfields, they’ll be walking as well as parking,” Grier said. “Connectivity in that area is going to be really important.”

Councilman Marvin Moore said he would like to see more directional signage to help people get around.

And Councilman Matt Hamby said he would like to install more lighting.

“We’re expanding the trail system now, and we talked about connectivity in downtown,” he said. “As the demand grows and our usage grows, there might be a demand for lighting.”

The city is working on an expansion of the trail system at Wellness Park. The new trails will connect to the existing path and go around the park’s outdoor classroom.

Councilman Garnett Smith said he hoped the city could invest in holiday decorations and improvements at the cemetery.

The depot in downtown is being renovated and is scheduled to reopen later this year as a community events center. Some upgrades there are also being considered as capital investments for the city, which received the depot as a donation from the Lula Area Betterment Association in 2017.

Audio-visual and security equipment for the depot would cost about $20,000 but could be a worthwhile investment, Bergin said.

“The depot is a good meeting place and we need to offer audiovisual in there,” Bergin said. “In other words, we need to allow for screens to carry demonstrations and presentations. And the security, we have quite an investment down there, and we want to make sure that we can manage any opportunities against security.”

Community members can comment on the budget Monday.

Lula City Council

When: 7 p.m. Monday, June 17

Where: Lula City Hall, 6055 Main St.

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