City manager: SF can-do attitude prevalent as community looks to a brighter future

City manager: SF can-do attitude prevalent as community looks to a brighter future
Staff Reporter
South Fulton city manager Debra Craig is looking ahead with optimism.
Last year wasn’t without some challenges in South Fulton, but she’s heading into 2012 with a can-do attitude and a to-do list for improvements in the community she is proud to serve.
“I encourage the citizens of South Fulton to take pride in the city, despite what outsiders have said. We’re all in this together,” she said, explaining she wants to see improved public perception.
Mrs. Craig said her goals for the new year include finding ways to continue to provide services to benefit the citizens of South Fulton and to better serve them.
She has worked as South Fulton’s city manager since May 2011 after being hired in April to succeed Jeff Vowell, who resigned in December 2010 to accept a job in banking. Vowell was then appointed in May 2011 to fill a vacancy on the South Fulton City Commission created by the March resignation of Keith Curlin, who had submitted his resumé for the South Fulton city manager’s position.
Mrs. Craig said the city manager’s position has kept her busy and kept her challenged, but she enjoys working with the people of South Fulton. She would like to continue to promote unity in the community and “pulling everyone together.”
“And I can only say positive things about the mayor and the commissioners. They are working hard and handle adversity well,” she said.
Despite the challenges, Mrs. Craig said there were several positive accomplishments in 2011 and the City of South Fulton “tied up some loose ends on some things.”
There was a turnover in the city’s Public Works department due to the March 2011 terminations of several employees, including the director, and a lawsuit from the four former employees was resolved with a settlement in October 2011.
Several new employees were hired and the department is under the leadership of new director Wesley Joyner.
Mrs. Craig said there were some compliance concerns last year in Public Works and now all of the department’s personnel have required certifications and all outstanding violations from the prior year have been addressed and corrected.
“We got an outstanding, clean inspection the last time,” she said, attributing the action to the new employees and encouraging current employees to be open to positive changes.
During the last quarter of 2011, the Twin City Ambulance Service was in jeopardy due to a financial crisis and South Fulton was among the communities which rallied to find a solution to save the service. The situation was ultimately remedied when Parkway Regional Hospital made an offer to lease the service and a three-year contract was drafted.
South Fulton’s rural fire subscription policy was in the national spotlight again in early December 2011 following a rural fire that destroyed a mobile home on East Cavitt Lane just outside the city limits. The occupants had not subscribed to the rural fire service offered to county residents and the city’s firefighters could not extinguish the blaze. The occupants later told The Messenger they knew they had not paid the fee and had no ill feelings toward firefighters.
The situation was similar to a 2010 rural fire incident that brought national attention to South Fulton and all of Obion County over the rural fire subscription service.
It was revealed at the December 2011 South Fulton City Commission meeting that a review of the city’s rural fire subscription program will be on the agenda for the panel’s January meeting later this month.
“We are still looking at (the rural fire policy) and, like commissioner Vowell said at the last meeting, it has some flaws and we will review it in January,” Mrs. Craig told The Messenger. “We want to make sure there is no burden on the city’s taxpayers.”
Mrs. Craig said the City of South Fulton was awarded a Community Development Block Grant for sewer rehabilitation again last year — “definitely one of the best things” — and meetings will start soon with economic development contacts and contractors for the second phase of the project. The first phase was done in 2010.
South Fulton’s appearance was also targeted in 2011 and citywide cleanup began with the demolition of three houses that were uninhabitable and were condemned. The city does not have a code enforcement officer or building inspector and Mrs. Craig said city officials have carefully worked through the process for the cleanup.
“We all have to work together to go through the process to ensure it’s done right,” she said. “We hope to do more cleanup and hope to do some demolition of other structures in 2012. We may revitalize the code enforcement program.”
South Fulton was also a part of the Twin Cities’ innovative “Let’s Paint the Town” revitalization program that resulted in exterior improvement to several buildings in the downtown area.
Plus, the city implemented a pothole detection program last year. It has drawn positive feedback and become part of a daily routine for city employees, according to Mrs. Craig.
City employees have also compiled a list of all South Fulton streets which need repair — “quite a few,” she said — and there is some money set aside to make repairs.
“There is not money to do all of them, but we will prioritize the list,” she said, explaining it will be partly based on criteria such as how much a street is traveled by the public.
City officials will also do more research on South Fulton’s flooding problem during 2012. Mrs. Craig said they have already talked with the West Tennessee River Basin Authority in regard to Harris Fork Creek and have received some feedback.
She will also be seeking “all the grant opportunities we can possibly find” for South Fulton in the coming year for areas such as mitigation and parks and recreation. She said the city “desperately” needs some type of family-oriented structure or park for the community.
As long-term goals, city officials will also be seeking grant opportunities for renovations to the city’s wastewater plant and will work toward implementing a replacement schedule for city vehicles.
Internally, upgrades will continue on the city’s computers and billing software and Mrs. Craig said she hopes improvements can be integrated into the city’s website in order to allow citizens to download forms and receive information.
“We want to be more user friendly for the citizens,” she said.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at Published in The Messenger 1.6.12

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