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Highlights from this week's Richmond Hill City Council meeting
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Tuesday night, the Richmond Hill City Council discussed fire department business, amendments to the 2018 general fund budget, and the possibility of working with the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra.

At the last meeting, held Aug. 6, the council approved the purchase of a SPLOST VII fire engine in an amount not to exceed $450,000.

City Manager Chris Lovell came back to the council Tuesday to ask them to rescind the purchase and to approve the same engine’s financing through SunTrust Bank at a rate of 2.35 percent. The council unanimously approved both measures.

Lovell said the financing would be a better interest rate than what they were currently getting.

Fire Chief Brenden Greene presented a mutual aid and assistance agreement between Southside Communities Fire Protection Inc., doing business as Chatham Emergency Services, and the City of Richmond Hill. According to Greene, the agreement would not require Richmond Hill Fire Department to respond to every call for Chatham Emergency Services, nor vice versa. It would, however, allow both entities to seek out the other’s assistance.

“If they need us, they’ll call us,” he said. He also explained the agreement would give Richmond Hill Fire Department access to a ladder truck, aerial fire response, another engine, and a burn facility for training.

Council member Kristi Cox applauded the fire department and police department for the number of hours of training they put in this month, and the council approved the mutual aid agreement.

The council approved the amendments to the 2018 general fund budget presented by Lovell. According to Lovell’s report, actual revenues in fiscal year 2017 exceeded the original budget by approximately $724,000, thanks in part to a Convention and Visitors Bureau loan, but the total expenditures exceeded the budget by approximately $828,000.

According to Lovell, the increase in expenditures is due in part to a CVB office building project at an approximate cost of $400,000 and road paving projects totaling approximately $300,000. However, Lovell said the city has, at best, a seven-to 8-month reserve and the fund balance is “strong.”

Though the council did not take a vote on a presentation from Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra Executive Director Terri O’Neill, Mayor Russ Carpenter voiced his assent to a discussion about bringing symphony music and community projects to Richmond Hill. O’Neill addressed the council about the 2021 orchestral season, saying the seasons are planned two years in advance.

She expressed her desire to see the philharmonic orchestra work with the city to bring their programs to Richmond Hill.

The session closed with a fond farewell from Council member Tara Baraniak, who is moving to Jacksonville, Fla., and cast her last vote Tuesday.

Her remarks to the community, to those running for council, and those seated in city government were filled with gratitude and hope for the future of Richmond Hill.

She thanked the city staff for their hard work and for being “the heart of the city.”

For her fellow council members, she expressed her gratitude for their mentorship and friendship, though council member Bill Donahue was not present for the meeting.

For Lovell, she said, “I think you’ve got nothing but good intentions.”

To the community and those running for city council, she had a word of caution: “Try not to assume the worst…I think this community has gotten into the practice of assuming the worst…but this is an amazing team.”

She also asked the community to pay close attention to who runs for council and to fight for another ambulance.

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