Quincy officials reappointed

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By Robert Allen

The Quincy City Commission moved quickly through a number of issues at their regular meeting June 24. Commissioner Keith Dowdell was unable to attend the forum in person. He contributed, however, via speakerphone throughout the session, allowing him to engage in discussion but not vote on motions. 

With a 4-0 vote, the commission unanimously reappointed Jonathan Kent Robbins for another three-year term as the code magistrate for the city, as recommended by the city staff. 

The magistrate is a specific type of judge, invested with authority to hold hearings regarding the infringement of city code. The position wields the power to issue fines.

According to the city’s agenda, Robbins has settled more than 70 code cases since his initial appointment in May 2010. While he has no legal background, the city’s staff recommendation reads, in part, “he is very judicious in his handling of cases and treats every code violator with respect fairness and even handedness and pays particular attention to the requirements of the code as he deliberates each case.”

Similarly, the commission unanimously reappointed Larry L. “Don” Sirmons as a Quincy representative with the Gadsden County Airport Authority. 

The airport authority is comprised of five volunteer members. According to the city’s agenda, the city appoints two members, the county appoints two members and those four members appoint the fifth member. 

The city also discussed their continued search for new legal representation. A recent request for proposals returned two results. 

Mike Wade, interim city manager, said the commissioners could ask the city staff to begin engaging the firms in a dialogue about contracts or the commissioners could interact directly with the candidates. 

“I’m a little disappointed that we’ve only had two firms respond to the RFP,” said Commissioner Andy Gay. “I would like for us to interview both firms.”

Gay suggested this could happen in the next few weeks. 

Commissioner Daniel McMillan motioned to hold a special workshop for the purpose of allowing the commissioners a chance to personally interview representatives from both firms. Gay seconded the motion. It passed unanimously. 

The city’s still-evolving financial situation was another topic of discussion at the meeting. 

“Currently, our revenue is roughly $2 million and some change higher than our expenses — which is absolutely wonderful,” said McMillan. “But I want to know where that $2.5 million is if we’re looking at a deficit.”

Joe Weil from the city’s finance department fielded this question. 

“You can accrue revenue that you might not collect,” said Weil, explaining the financial situation looked better on paper than in person. 

“I’m almost scared at the optimism,” he said. “Let’s be cautious.” 

Weil wasn’t alone. 

“I couldn’t agree more,” said McMillan. “It’s one of those things where it looks like we’ve got more money than we really do — so we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves.”

During his report, McMillan continued to talk about the city’s finances, specifically concerning the future of the city’s telecommunications business.

“It’s alarming what we would have to charge our customers to get to a break-even point,” said McMillan. “Our current customer, paying $32.95 a month, would have to be paying $304.71 a month for us to get to a break even-point — and that’s without paying a bond payment. With the bond payment, that $32.95 actually goes to $552.52 a month. So basically they’re making a house payment for Internet if we’re going to break even. And I just don’t feel comfortable with those numbers.” 

McMillan also spoke about the city’s budget. The commissioner said Talquin Communication’s bond payment, interest rate and principal amount are nowhere to be found in the annual paper work. 

“That’s an expense that’s easy,” said McMillan. “We can come up with it. It’s consistent every year. The reason why it’s not in out budget, in my opinion, is because we’re trying to muddy the waters so you can’t tell what’s going on. And we can’t have that any more.”