Porterdale sets election for council

PORTERDALE - The City Council passed a resolution Monday night calling for a special election to fill the unexpired term of former Post 5 Councilwoman Kay Piper, who resigned late last month.

The election is slated for March 17. City Manager Tom Fox, who also serves as elections superintendent, will set qualifying times and fees for the election.

Piper resigned Oct. 22 citing health issues and concerns about the direction the council is headed.

Piper was elected to the council in 2005 to fill the Post 5 seat vacated by Bobby Hamby, who was elected mayor that same year. Both she and Hamby took office early, in November of that year, to fill unexpired terms.

In other business, the council voted unanimously to approve seismic testing of the brick walls that remain standing in the aftermath of a fire that destroyed the historic Porter Memorial Gymnasium in 2005.

City Manager Tom Fox said architect Janice Wittschiebe, of Richard Wittschiebe Hand Architecture Interiors Planning of Atlanta, recommended the testing to determine how much of the remaining structure is stable enough to be used in reconstruction of the building.

Hamby recommended the testing, saying that the city would ultimately save money if it can be determined the walls are stable before construction is begun.

The testing will cost an estimated $3,000 to $4,000 in addition to the $24,000 earmarked for the first phase of a multi-phase renovation project.

Council members also instructed Fox to reinstate a policy of allowing Porterdale police officers to drive home their patrol cars. The benefit was suspended in September due to budget cuts. However, with the price of fuel down, coupled with the fact that most of the officers live within a 5-mile radius of Porterdale, council members decided to reinstate the policy.

Not all members of the council were in agreement, however. Mayor Hamby reiterated his earlier position that the police department has not been affected by budget cuts, while other departments have cut staff and hours.

Councilwoman Linda Finger noted that the police department did not get a 3 percent salary increase this year as other departments did. Instead, she said, the officers were allowed to take home their patrol cars.

Hamby said any increase other employees received has been canceled out by the budget cuts.

"The rest of the city has taken a cut to make up this budget shortfall," Hamby said. "The police department has done zero."

In addition, Hamby said some employees who have lost hours have found it necessary to drop their health insurance due to increased premium costs passed along to employees this year. "Yet we keep giving the police department everything they want," he added.