Mableton City Council gets a “first read” of franchise fee agreements necessary to fund the city

Mableton District 1 Councilman Ron Davis, Mableton District 2 Councilwoman Dami Oladapo, Mableton District 3 Councilwoman Keisha Jeffcoat, Mayor Michael Owens, Mableton District 4 Councilwoman Patricia Auch, Mableton District 5 Councilman T.J. Ferguson, Mableton District 6 Councilwoman Debora Herndon all seated in a row at a tableL-R Mableton District 1 Councilman Ron Davis, Mableton District 2 Councilwoman Dami Oladapo, Mableton District 3 Councilwoman Keisha Jeffcoat, Mayor Michael Owens, Mableton District 4 Councilwoman Patricia Auch, Mableton District 5 Councilman T.J. Ferguson, Mableton District 6 Councilwoman Debora Herndon (Photo by Larry Felton Johnson/Cobb County Courier)

Short outline summary of meeting:

  1. The council voted 4-3 to approve payment for members to attend the GMA’s annual conference and training, June 23-27 at a cost of $815 (excluding travel and accomodations) per attendee. Four members have decided to attend.
  2. The council was given the “first read” of boilerplate ordinances to set up the basic structure and rules for Mableton’s government. (two reads of ordinances are required by the city charter before an ordinance can be enacted.
  3. The council was given the “first read” of the franchise agreements that will create a revenue stream for the city from franchise fees, the largest single source of revenue for the new city

Video of the meeting


Franchise fee agreements with utilities

The Mableton Mayor and City Council, at the third transitional meeting held last Wednesday, received the first official reading of proposed ordinances granting franchises, which represent agreements with utility companies that operate in the area (to see copies of the proposed agreements follow this link).

Interim City Attorney Emilia Walker-Ashby said that a series of productive meetings between representatives from the City of Mableton and Cobb County officials, as well has meetings with utilities seeking franchise agreements, have set the stage for Mableton to receive revenue starting in July.

Walker-Ashby said that Georgia Power had asked that the company be able to extend the city a six-month advance payment, because month-to-month wasn’t administratively feasible.

Advertisement

According to the feasibility study conducted by UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, franchise fees will provide the largest single source of revenue for the new city, at an estimated $4,677,658 out of projected revenue of $14,612,652.

The ordinances under consideration are for franchise agreements with Georgia Power Company, Cobb Electric Membership Corporation, Greystone, Comcast Cable, AT&T, Spectrum, Scana Energy, Atlanta Gas Light, Georgia Natural Gas, and Gas South.

Under the franchise agreements, each company that has an agreement will be able to do the infrastructure work (installation, maintenance, and repair) it needs to do in order to provide the service tp customers, and Mableton will receive a percentage of the company’s revenue produced from customers within the city boundaries.

These two sections from the proposed Georgia Power franchise are typical of the arrangements. Section I outlines what the company can do in the city, and Section II describes what the city will get in return:

SECTION I. Be it ordained by the governing authority of the City that the authority, right,
permission, and consent are hereby granted to the Company, for a period of thirty-five (35) years from the date of the Company’s acceptance hereof, to occupy and use the streets, alleys, and public places of the City within the present and future corporate limits of the City as from time to time the Company may deem proper or necessary for the overhead or underground construction, maintenance, operation, and extension of poles, towers, lines, wires, cables, conduits, insulators, transformers, appliances, equipment, connections, and other apparatus (hereinafter referred to collectively as the “Company’s Facilities”) for the business and purpose of transmitting, conveying, conducting, using, supplying, and distributing electricity for light, heat, power, and other purposes for which electric current may be or become useful or practicable for public or private use, and to re-enter upon such streets, alleys, and public places from time to time as the Company may deem proper or necessary to perform these functions, and to cut and trim trees and shrubbery when and where necessary, in the judgment of the Company, to insure safe and efficient service.


SECTION II. Be it further ordained that the rights, permission, and consents herein contained are
granted for the following considerations and upon the following terms and conditions:
1. Starting July 1, 2023, the Company shall pay into the treasury of the City a sum of money
equal to four percent (4%) of the gross sales of electric energy to all of the Company’s customers served within the corporate limits of the City during the previous month, which shall include sales of electric energy to all customers served under residential and commercial rate schedules (as prescribed by the Georgia Public Service Commission) within the corporate limits of the City during the previous month and four percent (4%) of the gross sales of electric energy to customers served under industrial rate schedules (as so prescribed) within the corporate limits of the City during the previous month. Payments collected by the Company for such gross sales shall be remitted to the City within thirty (30) calendar days of the last calendar day of the preceding month.

The franchise agreements are critical in order for the city to begin receiving revenue so that it can fully function.

Under Mableton’s charter, ordinances must have two readings before the council, and the council heard summaries of the enabling ordinances for the franchise agreements, in addition to a set of boilerplate ordinances that set the structure and rules for the operation of the new city.

Ordinances defining the city

The following ordinances set the structure, definitions, and rules for the city, and enable the city to create bank accounts, receive and spend revenue, and do the other practical functions of a city:

a. FIRST READ: Ordinance Creating Chapter 1, General Government, Article 1,
General Provisions, of the City of Mableton Code of Ordinances
b. FIRST READ: Ordinance Creating Chapter 2, Administration, Article 1, In
General, of the City of Mableton Code of Ordinances
c. FIRST READ: Ordinance Creating Chapter 7, Taxes, Fees and Assessments, of the
City of Mableton Code of Ordinances

To read the ordinances in their entirety follow this link.

Walker-Ashby described the first ordinance as follows.

“That first read just means that this is the first time that this is before the council,” Walker-Ashby. “Your charter requires two reads for all ordinances unless it’s an emergency ordinance.”

“But the first read of this this is a basic component of probably every every code of ordinances in Georgia. This first one and this is a general provision section of your code,” she said. “And it says that your code shall be known as the Code of the City of Mableton, Georgia.”

“It provides rules of construction. And these rules of construction are to provide definitions for when terms are used throughout your code. For example, it says that when ‘City’ used it means the City of Mableton.”

“‘City Council’ means the Mableton City Council, ‘charter’ means your charter, ‘code’ means your code,” she said.

Walker-Ashby then described the administrative ordinance, the second ordinance under consideration.

“It just basically says that your meeting time shall be prescribed as your charter, provides that if a meeting falls on a state or federal holiday that the council may may cancel or reschedule,” Walker-Ashby said. “It provides for document and records retention and just refers to the responsibilities to comply with the Georgia Open Records Act, as well as the responsibilities to comply with the Georgia Open Meetings Act.”

“It talks about subpoenas for when the council sits as a judicial or quasi-judicial body pursuant to your authority under the charter,” she said.

She said it authorizes an annual expense budget of $3,000 for each city council member and $5,000 for the mayor for expenses related to doing the business of the city.

The third ordinance under consideration mainly deals with the financial aspect of governance, including franchise fees, taxes, and assessments. It also defines the city’s relationship with insurance companies and financial institutions (e.g. setting up a bank account so that the city can accept revenue).

Decision over whether to fund council member attendance at annual GMA convention

The lengthiest discussion on the agenda was whether to fund the attendance of council members to the annual Georgia Municipal Association convention, which began on June 23 and ends today.

Walker-Ashby recommended that the council vote yes on this.

“This is a resolution where we’re asking the council to accept deferred costs that have been presented by GMA, the Georgia Municipal Association, for its annual convention that’s occurring, actually in a couple of days in Savannah, Georgia,” she said. “So just to give you context on what the annual convention is, it is a multiple-day local government retreat in the sense that local governments from likely every city in the state of Georgia convene and descend at this particular location annually, just for this convention.”

She outlined her four reasons for recommending attendance:

  1. “unrivaled training”
  2. Interaction with leaders from other cities, to compare notes about successes and failures
  3. An annual trade show with vendors for services to local governments
  4. The insurance, tax, and litigation services the GMA can offer as a non-profit association of local government officials

The cost per participant for the conference itself (not for travel and hotel accommodations) negotiated with the GMA is $815 dollars per participant, and included the training sessions.

Acceptance of the deferred funding for the convention passed 4-3, with District 2 Councilwoman Dami Oladapo, District 4 Councilwoman Patricia Auch, and District 6 Councilwoman Debra Herndon opposed.

During the discussion, Auch said that the GMA has already committed to training for the whole council in July.

“I would like to say that this is an annual convention.” she said. “It’s not like it’s a one time opportunity that we will never get again.”

District 3 Councilwoman Keisha Jeffcoat, in supporting the expenditure, said, “You’re right. It is an annual conference. But at the same time, you know we’re building a city right now. So we have to get smart, quick and fast as we’re making these decisions. And so that’s why it’s vital that we continue to get the training that we need.”

Oladapo, in explaining her opposition to the expenditure, said, “I just cannot justify this. Because we have just like the other Councilwoman said, we have a training by GMA which is the same organization for two days just focusing on us and helping us with everything that we need to hit the ground running.”

Herndon said that a GMA representative had told her that the convention should not be the top priority of the new city government at this point.

Mayor Michael Owens, District 1 Councilman Ron Davis, District 3 Councilwoman Keisha Jeffcoat, and District 5 Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem T.J. Ferguson decided to attend the convention.

Advertisement