MOULTRIE — If the Moultrie City Council approves its proposed budget, residents’ property tax rates won’t increase, but their utility bills will.

Mayor William McIntosh told residents at a public hearing Tuesday that the millage rate will remain at 10.902 mills for 2008-2009. While the rate remains the same, the tax itself could increase if the property has increased in value.

On the other hand, a $4 fee will be added to utility bills to increase funding for the city police and fire departments, City Manager Mike Scott said. That announcement came in response to a request from Ernie Feille, a downtown resident, who urged the city not to cut funding to police.

The public safety fee would give about $163,000 a year to the police and fire departments, and Scott said both have needs to fill with the money. The police department would hire three additional patrol officers and pay for their patrol cars and fuel. The fire department would use the money to make improvements and to relocate its Station No. 2, currently located on West Boulevard.

Scott said the proposal for the public safety fee came from feedback from residents throughout Moultrie. Throughout a series of neighborhood awareness meetings and a survey conducted by Valdosta State University, the highest recommendation was to have more police officers and make them more visible.

“The fee is a response to the public demand of adding more officers and providing a higher visibility throughout the community,” Scott said.

Feille came forward a second time and asked the council to set aside $40,000 so that a second prison detail can be used to clean up Westview Cemetery. Feille said the detail was needed because the cemetery, despite the efforts of the Magnolia Garden Club, still needs a lot of work to get overgrown weeds cleared out.

“There is only so much that can be done with [one] prison detail,” Feille said. “It’s a disgrace and nothing to be proud of.”

McIntosh said the city is fortunate to have had the rain it’s had this year even though it has created the weed problem also. He understood, however, a project like cutting weeds at a cemetery is very specialized and labor-intensive and could cost more even with a second detail.

To form at least a temporary solution, McIntosh said the city would encourage funeral homes to let them know about work that could be done for a funeral. City workers could come out and clean up the immediate area to make the cemetery look its best for that burial.

“Let us know if an area needs attention,” McIntosh said.

Following the public discussions, Scott talked about the city beginning to use roll-out garbage cans to help save the city money. City and residents can save a projected $323,000 over the next six years, he said, by switching from the current in-ground containers.

Scott said maintaining the in-ground system can cost residents an additional $30 minimum each year per trash can. A roll-out container holds the same as three in-ground containers, he said, so the city could reduce the number of collections and save fuel. Meanwhile, the in-ground lids are getting more expensive. The roll-out cans are built to be easily used, he said.

Public Works Director Danny Ward said only two other communities in the United States use the in-ground trash cans. One of those, Smyrna, Ga., is currently moving to the roll-out cans, which is an industry standard.

The roll-out garbage cans will be phased into the city over a period of several months if approved with the proposed budget, Scott said. A final public hearing on the proposed budget and millage rate will be held as part of the council’s meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at 6 p.m. at the council chambers, located at 21 First Ave. N.E.

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