MOULTRIE, Ga. – The Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition made a request to extend its payment terms with the City of Moultrie, a request City Manager Pete Dillard brought before the City Council Tuesday, Nov. 17, during its pre–meeting work session.

The amendment to the agreement between the two entities prompted further discussion about their contract status.

“They are supposed to pay their full $78,000 this December,” said Dillard. “Their cash flow is tight. They had to refund a significant number of deposits for this year in excess of $200,000. So they asked instead of paying all this December, pay it all on a schedule over the next year.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sunbelt Ag Expo usually held at Spence Field off Hwy. 133 every October did not take place this year. The Expo includes demonstrations, seminars and exhibitors in the agricultural industry that total more than 1,200 annually since it began more than 40 years ago. This is the first time the Expo was canceled.

Dillard said the Sunbelt Ag Expo’s payment to the City of Moultrie for 2021 would still be due in December of that year.

“Chip Blalock (executive director) says he is confident they will pay off early, but it would help them out of a cash flow bind caused by the pandemic canceling (the Expo), and so many of the vendors not only canceling but asking for a refund of their deposits,” said Dillard.

The City Manager also pointed out that the Sunbelt Ag Expo’s contract with the city ends at the end of 2021. Mayor Bill McIntosh asked about entering discussions on a new contract.

“It’s a lot of farm land that’s production farm land that profit is made on,” said Dillard. “That’s the city’s property. The Calico (arts and crafts show) and the car show are both done on city property.

“We have a very large solid waste cost we are not reimbursed, and that needs to be brought into the discussion. It does not need to be a net loss for the city. (The Expo) is a big event when it’s operating. When you combine the Expo with the farm, Calico and the car shows, I think the city is somewhat shortchanged at the moment. And they seem to understand that. I haven’t gotten anything negative back. I addressed all of those in initial discussions and negotiations.”

In the council’s regular meeting, the motion to approve the amendment for the payment terms passed without opposition.

COVID confusion

Dillard later addressed some community confusion over what is appropriate and what is not over COVID-19 protocols.

“The City is following what the state recommends, what the (Centers for Disease Control) recommends,” he said. “That’s the reason we have a different Thanksgiving ceremony … a different Christmas plan with no parade. It’s not because we want to do that. That’s what the City’s responsible for.”

A portion of downtown Moultrie, inside the walkway around the square, is the property of Colquitt County and not the city, according to Dillard. Therefore, the City of Moultrie does not control what happens there.

“I want you to be prepared if people call and say, ‘If we can’t have a Christmas parade, why can we have x, y or z on the square?’” Dillard said to the council members present. “It’s because the city is not involved in it. That’s a county decision. We don’t try to tell the county what to do. They don’t try to tell us what to do.”

That brought the discussion back to the Spence Field property where the Moultrie Auto Swapmeet and Calico took place this year though the Sunbelt Ag Expo did not. Dillard said the contract is for the land, but the city does not control what is done there. He said Expo personnel are reporting that they are following public health safety guidelines, what happens is mostly outdoors, and the venues are not sponsored by the City of Moultrie.

Council members suggested some sort of pandemic related clause in the upcoming contract or any other contracts.

“I’m pretty confident 10 or 20 years ago, there wasn’t consideration of a pandemic,” said Dillard. “I’m pretty confident 24 months ago, there wasn’t consideration for a pandemic.”

Alcohol license law

In other action, the city council unanimously passed an amended alcohol licensing ordinance, one that would not require applicants to go before the council in a public hearing. 

Instead, applications will be handled by the city manager and city clerk, who will send them to city departments to review matters of finances, location and background checks.

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