Fleisch: city needs to focus on maintenance
In deciding to run for mayor next year, Peachtree City Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch said she wanted to make sure she got a major accomplishment under her belt before making the commitment.
That accomplishment was a year-long work in progress that culminated in a vote to increase the city’s hotel-motel tax rate from 6 to 8 percent to provide extra money to help maintain the city’s existing recreation venues.
The theory is that by properly maintaining the rec facilities, the city will be able to attract large sports tournaments that will help the hotels fill empty beds on the weekends when their business traffic is down. That theory was confirmed by a professional evaluator, and also the Atlanta Sports Council, after they toured the city’s rec facilities, Fleisch said.
The city already hosts a handful of major sports tournaments including a lacrosse tournament estimated to pad the city’s bottom line by $200,000.
The hotel-motel tax increase is not a slam dunk, as it must be approved by the legislature and it has to eclipse the negative connotation of a non-unanimous vote as Mayor Don Haddix voted against the proposal. Fleisch is hopeful the legislature will see the benefit of the tax increase, which was supported by a vast majority of hotel companies and will add roughly $150,000 a year to help maintain city recreation areas.
Fleisch said one of her goals as mayor would be to improve professionalism at council meetings, particularly since they are typically the only exposure the public has to their council members.
“Even though we are five very individual individuals, we are seen as a group at those meetings and that is the public perception, so it’s important to improve that,” Fleisch said.
In addition to the work on repairing the city’s rec venues, Fleisch is also pleased with the beginnings of the economic development coordinator position that the city funded with the Fayette County Development Authority. One of the biggest benefits is having a dialog with existing companies to help keep them here, as the city can’t afford to lose any of its businesses, Fleisch said.
“Keeping them is just as important as bringing in someone new,” Fleisch said. “We can’t have any more empty buildings.”
The city’s airport is also a key player in the economic future of the city, Fleisch noted, with 60 acres for future on-airport businesses and the new instrument landing system that allows planes to come here even in inclement weather.
Fleisch also said she was pleased the city’s decision to renovate the former recreation administration building to use as a new venue for senior citizen programming offered by Fayette Senior Services. Without the renovation, the most the city could have used the building for is for storage since the city can’t afford to hire additional staff for the building.
Earlier this year following the reorganization of the recreation department, the recreation staff was moved to existing office space at the Kedron Fieldhouse, leaving the facility vacant.
In terms of future city spending, Fleisch noted that there is a need to modernize some areas such as human resources that have still been using pen and paper instead of taking advantage of efficiencies by using electronic records. At the same time, an effort to purchase new records management software for the police department will have to wait until it is more feasible.
“We don’t need to be the ‘latest and greatest’ sometimes,” Fleisch said, noting that police cars are being outfitted with new laptops this year and all city hall computer workstations have been replaced with new, modern equipment. “I don’t see us looking at luxuries for a while. You take care of your needs and then you do the ‘wants’ if you can.”
For the past several years, Fleisch has been focused on improving the city’s maintenance particularly after an election-time anecdote she heard from a resident who had tried to lure her company to relocate here. After a tour of the town, the boss said the city “looked like a place people used to care about,” Fleisch said.
“That was like a dagger through my heart ... and that’s been a focus of mine: to turn that around,” Fleisch said. ... “We have to be very conscious of home values and by doing these things, fixing the city up, we are making sure we are valuing all our recreation facilities so people realize it’s worth coming here.”