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Taxes, history, fire trucks discussed at RH City Council meeting
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Tuesday, Richmond Hill City Council met in regular session to discuss millage rates, historic designation and a fire department purchase.

A public hearing on the 2019 tax digest and levy was held, but the council heard no questions from the audience. Council approved a 2019 millage rate of 4.132 mills.

Though that rate was the same in 2018, there is an inherent increase of 2.66 percent on property taxes because the city didn’t adopt a rollback rate of 4.025 mills.

In other business: The council heard a status update and historic survey presentation from Rebecca Fenwick of Ethos Preservation on the ongoing historic preservation study for Richmond Hill.

Fenwick’s presentation included a survey of Richmond Hill’s areas of historic significance within city limits. This survey included buildings, structures, sites, objects, and landscape features such as houses, cemeteries, copses, bridges, and commercial buildings.

Fenwick said she was delighted to meet with homeowners of Richmond Hill who were more than happy to talk about the historic significance of their home: “It’s amazing to see a frown turn into a smile when you ask someone about their home,” she said.

Many of the homes were recognizable as Ford Era structures, she said. Those included wood siding, a central recessed porch, front gable bungalows, and side gable roofs built in the 1930s and 1940s when Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, built The Ford Plantation in Ways Station, now known as Richmond Hill. This was the beginning of Ford’s philanthropic and entrepreneurial enterprises in which he built affordable housing and provided opportunities for employment and education, according to The Ford Plantation Club, Inc.

According to Fenwick, 120 resources can be attributed to Henry Ford’s interest both economically and agriculturally in Richmond Hill. Those include the saw mill, bakery, and community house, just to name a few.

Recently, Richmond Hill was awarded a grant in the amount of $18,000 from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Historic Preservation Division to complete design guidelines and a local district designation report for the Ford Avenue Commercial District.

According to Scott Allison, assistant city manager, this is a 60/40 grant with a 40 percent match from the city and National Park Service funds dispersed through the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Fenwick encouraged the council to go ahead with the local district as it would afford more historic protection than a listing on the National Register would offer. That protection includes design review and demolition protection through the Historic Preservation Commission.

However, she thought the eventual listing on the National Register would be a positive prospect for the city. Fenwick also mentioned The Bottom, Blueberry Village, and the area adjacent to the Richmond Hill Pre-Kindergarten and Richmond Hill School Gymnasium as potential local historic districts as well.

In other business: Fire Chief Brendan Greene proposed the purchase of a Pierce Saber customer pumper in an amount not to exceed $450,000 to replace an engine that is 18 years old and used in District 2.

According to Greene, the search for a replacement engine has been ongoing for the last 18 months. In that time, his department found three options to present to the council. He recommended the Pierce Saber, not because it is the least expensive, but because it will be available sooner, with a lifespan of 20-25 years and a full warranty, and according to Greene, the need in District 2 has doubled with no signs of decreasing.

The council approved the purchase of the engine.

City Manager Chris Lovell proposed a mutual aid agreement between Richmond Hill and Pembroke.

According to Lovell, the Richmond Hill Fire Department responded to a recent fire in Pembroke, and this agreement would make their mutual aid official.

Lovell said this agreement is similar to other agreements held with Bryan County and Chatham County. The council passed the mutual aid agreement as well.

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