Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

February 15, 2014

City to amend citizen input from 5 to 3 minutes

AMERICUS — The mayor and City Council of Americus held its agenda setting session Thursday during which Council member Shirley Green Reese asked to add an item to the agenda: a discussion of taking the limit for public comments at Council’s regular meetings from 5 minutes back to three.

“If any citizens have concerns, we would hear them as their representatives (in each district) instead of waiting until the Council meetings. These are our duties and responsibilities within our districts.” Reese said.

Reese moved to add the item to the agenda which was seconded by Council member Walton Grant and passed 4-1 with Council members Reese, Grant. Lou Chase and Carla Cook voting for and Council member Juanita Wilson voting against. Council  member Nelson Brown, who came in later, was not present for this portion of the meeting.

During the administration committee segment, Reese said that while she appreciates the feedback from citizens, she feels “three minutes is enough for anyone to organize a speech to this body. If not, I would advise speakers to type it out and give it to Council members.”

Reese went on to say that if the speaker doesn’t complete their speech in three minutes, come back next time, “but bring us something new.”

Reese also requested that the speakers who request being placed on the agenda to address the mayor and Council “be specific in what they’ll talk about. If we’re going to maintain an administrative body — we’re not like the school board or the county commission. We’re an executive body of this city — The citizens should come to their Council members.”

Council member Grant echoed Reese. “The speaker needs to stick to the subject and not go to other subjects.”

Council member Wilson remarked, “One reason we changed from three to five minutes was because we had lots of constituents wanting more time. We need to be consistent with things we do and not approve them and then come back later and change it.”

Reese said, “People can’t accept change ... What percentage of constituents wanted five minutes? I have seen just a few. National boards make changes all the time. I’m not knocking any constituents,” and turning to Wilson: “Your constituents need to go through you. You’re their representative. If they go through their Council member, they’ll get more results.”

Mayor Barry Blount asked if it is the pleasure of the body to have City attorney Jimmy Skipper draw up an amendment for Council to consider next month.

“We’re short on time ...” the mayor said, referring to a City-County meeting slated for 6 p.m.

Reese moved to have Skipper prepare the amendment. Grant seconded the motion and it passed 4-2 with Brown and Wilson voting against.

In other business, the Council discussed holding a public hearing at the Feb. 21 meeting. The hearing is on a request to change the name of Spring Street to Miller Fuller Boulevard, to honor the late founder of Habitat for Humanity and the Fuller Center for Housing. The information packet provided for the Council members contained the signatures of property owners on the street who support the name change. The mayor commented that this had been in the works “for quite a while.” Council member Grant said he is interested in learning the history of why it is called Spring Street to begin with.

An item for the consent agenda is the approval of a bid for nozzles and appliances for the fire department in the amount of $5,460.85 from Ten-8.

Ben Andrews, interim community development director for the City, gave a report in which he said a solar company is looking to locate here and place $1.6 million in taxable assets. He also reported two investors are considering each adding about 50 housing units, one of which is on Felder Street.

Under the finance committee, City financial director, Diadre Powell reported that she has hired an accounting technician and that her department is preparing for the annual audit. She said Mauldin and Jenkins’ representatives will be visiting in April and May to review documents. She said she is missing “a lot of information between May 2013 and October 2013.”

It was decided to amend the personnel ordinance regarding a “floating holiday” for City employees.

Another item, brought forth by Skipper, involves a maintenance hangar and land where fuel tanks are located at Jimmy Carter Regional Airport. The construction of such was funded through the PDA some time ago. The City and County were assigned the right to buy back the property for the airport authority. The PDA will refund $2,500 each to the City and County.

The matter of demolition of a burned-out structure at 108 Lily Lane was discussed. Josh Roth, the City’s planning and inspection director, said the property is 3owned by Martin Haynes who acquired it after the company that owned it deeded it to Haynes after the structure had burned. Haynes had been an employee of that company, Roth said.

The problem is that Haynes has yet to demolish the burned out structure and clean up the property, something that is beyond his means, Roth said. A Municipal Court order of Jan. 13 states that Haynes had 30 days to demolish.

Skipper said the court order gives the City the option to demolish after 30 days.

“We have the right but not an obligation to tear it down,” he said. “If he (Haynes) does it and pays the taxes (from 2013 and 2014), OK. If the City demolishes it and bills the owner, the City will have a lien on it. After it’s cleaned up, the City will have $3,000 in back taxes in it.”

Roth suggested that if the City does demolish using its own labor, the County taxes might be “extinguished” and the property could go to the land bank.

Council member Grant said, “the simple thing is to give the City the property with a deed in lieu of taxes.”

In the interest of time, the mayor suggested they leave the item on the agenda and handle it at the meeting. A motion was offered by Reese, seconded by Brown and unanimously approved.

Roth added another item to the agenda regarding online permitting fees. He said that if they adopt this method, 60 percent of the City’s permits could be done online.

The Council then voted to go into closed session to interview candidates for police chief. This process will continue at 4:30 p.m. Monday in a called meeting that will be held in closed session.

 

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