A big step for a mixed-use development in downtown Cumming, numbers from the Cumming Country Fair & Festival and a program to help aid the Cumming Police Department were among items approved at a Cumming City Council work session held on Wednesday.
Work sessions are typically held on the first Tuesday of each month, but this week’s meeting was moved due to the city’s election on Tuesday.
All items were approved 5-0 unless otherwise noted.
Mashburn Village moves ahead
City Council members voted 4-0, with Councilman Christopher Light recused, to approve the rezoning of 55.6 acres on Meadow Drive and Veterans Memorial Boulevard to the city’s planned unit development (PUD) with a conditional-use permit for alcohol licenses and sales.
Plans for the development, known as Mashburn Village, includes 193,000 square feet of total retail, 320 rental units, 85 single-family homes and 31 townhome units.
The project will include a multi-story self-storage unit, restaurant, civic space, open and preservation space, a multiuse trail and other amenities.
The estimated buildout time for the project is 22 months for the commercial and retail portions and five to seven years for the residential.
The project also calls for the city to extend Buford Dam Road through the middle of the development to create a new thoroughfare between Atlanta Road and Veterans Memorial Boulevard.
Mashburn Village was at the heart of the controversy earlier this year over the fate of Orchard Apartments, a pair of small complexes for low-income senior citizens that have been one of the only reliable sources of affordable housing for seniors in the city since their construction in 1981 and 1985 by Dr. Marcus Mashburn Jr., a one-time prominent physician and civic leader who owned the property.
Residents received a letter in early March from management stating there was a “good possibility” the land the apartments sits on off Meadow Drive and Orchard Circle would be sold in early fall and were “strongly advised” to find a new place to live.
News of the Orchard residents’ plight sparked outcry in the community, and the Mashburn Family Trust, which owned the complexes and the property, later told the Forsyth County News that the apartments would not be affected by the proposed Mashburn Village.
Big year for Fair
With the 2019 Cumming Country Fair & Festival behind us, city officials have had time to look at the numbers for attendance and revenue, and this year’s fair set some records.
“Basically what you’re looking at when it comes to revenues for the fairs, you have three categories that will generate the majority of your revenue. You’ve got your gate, your midway and your parking,” said Fairgrounds Administrator Tracy Helms. “In 2019, out of those three numbers, we had four record days, compared to three last year.”
Helms said the net revenue was down 2% from 2018. Helms said though the fair was rained out for a day in 2018 but none this year, the 2018 closure was on a free admission day and there was wet weather on the last Sunday of this year’s fair, typically one of the busiest days.
“We were down 50% on that day for what we usually bring in on that day, so that’s why that number is down,” Helms said.
Over the fair, records were set for sponsorships, gross food sales and Coca-Cola and water sales, and Helms said this year was “the highest gross revenue fair we’ve ever had.”
Asked by Mayor Troy Brumbalow, Helms said the new pedestrian bridge connecting the fairgrounds with a parking lot across Castleberry Road, and a new ticket booth with it, helped visitors get in the gate more quickly.
“We were able to have a minimum of three, up to six windows open at one time. In the past at that gate, we never had more than two open at one time,” Helms said. “People got in a lot faster.”
Moving older booths to the other entrance also increased flow at that gate, Helms said.
New police program
Officers of the Cumming Police Department will soon have access to a new records management program.
The council approved a bid for a $60,000 license from Central Square Technologies for the same program used by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. Cumming Police Chief David Marsh said the sheriff’s office purchased the system with the expectation that other agencies, including the county fire department, would use it.
“This is to replace our existing records management system. It’s aging. We can’t do reports or any kind of paperwork inside our vehicles on our mobile data terminals,” Marsh said.
Marsh said the bid would go toward a number of licenses for officers and office staff and would not require any software or hardware upgrades.
“The other alternative is to buy our own records management program, and I got a couple of quotes on that from the same company and others, and those are in the neighborhood of $260,000-$280,000 for us to run our own,” Marsh. “The downside to that is it wouldn’t talk to the county’s.”
The licenses are a one-time purchase and will not need to be renewed.
Budget first look
City leaders took a look at the preliminary 2020 budget and can take action on whether to approve it at the regular meeting later this month.
The expected expenditures and revenues for next year are balanced at $14,235,356, down from the current 2019 budget of $14.3 million and the amended 2018 budget of about $15.1 million.
“Our general fund budget has gone down for each of the last two years,” Brumbalow said. “We’re $800,000 below where were in 2018, so we went down back-to-back years.”
The highest proposed revenues in the budget are $7.7 million from administrative sources, about $1.7 million from the city’s aquatic center and $1.6 million from fairgrounds.
The city’s highest expenditures next year are expected to be $2.5 million for the police department, $2 million for parks and recreation and $1.9 million for streets.
For the water and sewer department, the 2020 budget will be balanced at $24 million, up from $22.4 million in 2019 and $20.6 million in 2018.