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Mayor and City Council vote to approve paving project

Mayor Barry Blount and the Americus City Council met for their regular meeting on Thursday 3/18/21. The voting agenda was limited; however, the council passed the lengthy consent agenda unanimously. Additionally, the second and final reading of sign ordinance was completed.

First up for a vote was the amended sign ordinance. The council voted to unanimously pass the ordinance and it will go into effect on April 1, 2021. The second vote was also passed unanimously. The second vote was on using funding, some of which is grant funding, towards paving JR Campbell and Cotton Avenue. These areas were chosen because of the need, as well as the expectation a new museum on JR Campbell will bring much traffic.

The final vote brought more conversation than the other items. An inter-governmental agreement between the city and the Board of Education was to be voted upon. To introduce the issue, Mayor Blount gave “background to where we are tonight.” City Attorney, Jimmy Skipper, then outlined the inter-governmental agreement in relation to a lift station servicing the new high school.  When Skipper concluded, Councilman Nelson Brown interjected with his opinion on the poor communication between the BOE and the City of Americus. He requested the mayor, or the interim city manager write the BOE a letter to this effect. Mayor Blount appreciated the comment, however he clarified that he has spoken with BOE Chairman, Rick Barnes, as well as Superintendent Choates and suggested the agreement be voted upon and the council be “on their merry way” as time was of the essence in providing the new high school services. Brown then agreed, he would vote the agreement be approved, but he was disappointed in the BOE’s communication effectiveness. At this point, Councilman Daryl Dowdell spoke up and wanted to “piggyback” upon Brown’s comment. While Brown thought the communication issue primarily laid on the BOE, Dowdell said he didn’t know who was at fault, the BOE, the city or both. He then went on to clarify his meaning. Although he did not mention the BOE further, he voiced his opinion on the communication amongst the mayor and city council. “The mayor, and I think he mentioned Ms. Powell, knew about this before the rest of city council. I just think that it’s not getting—I don’t think the communication was given out— and I’m–I said it before, I want to know everything—all the business that’s going on with the city—just like Ms. Powell knows—just like Mayor Blount knows. I don’t want to know at the council meeting. Y’all find out—y’all get an email I think we should get one too. The mayor and the city manager does not run the city without the city council.” Dowdell then made more comments about “beefing up communication.” Dowdell finished out his statement by saying, “I think if mayor knows, everybody should know.” Mayor Blount then addressed the comment. Blount responded, “Mr. Dowdell, you found out as quickly as we found out about this letter. We got it at 5:00, there’s no way to tell you before the meeting starts at 6:00. We told you at 6:00 that we got the letter at 5:00 so I don’t know how else we could have communicated that any faster so you’d know—” At this point Dowdell interrupts the mayor with accusations that the mayor had interrupted him. When Mayor Blount realized Dowdell was speaking over him, he acquiesced the conversation and let Dowdell continue. “I ask you could I talk and you interrupted me—you would have had enough time—” when Dowdell accused the Mayor of interrupting him, the Mayor asked for pardon by offering “Excuse me, I thought you were through talking.” Dowdell continued saying, “You busted in the middle of a conversation, go ahead because you always do it.” Upon receiving Dowdell’s command to “go ahead” the mayor did, by saying, “Go ahead and finish Mr. Dowdell, then I’ll finish, OK?” After a lingering pause and Dowdell not responding, the mayor asked, “Do you have anything else to say?” After another lingering pause, the mayor offered Dowdell yet another opportunity to speak by saying, “Mr. Dowdell?” Again, after another lull, Lou Chase addressed the mayor by saying, “Mayor call the question to a vote please.” With no further input from any of council, the mayor honored Chase’s request by asking for a motion. The motion and second were received and when asked for any discussion, no council member indicated a need for such. The vote was unanimous to accept and send forth the inter-governmental agreement to the BOE.

Interim City Manager Diadra Powell then gave her updates. Secondary to a stimulus package, the city will be receiving an estimated seven million dollars over the next two years. The conditions placed on the funding will be explored to ensure the city uses the money within the parameters of the package rules. A storm water project on Sun Valley is under strong consideration and the council can expect a resolution on the issue next month. The city will continue to work to completion a project on N. Lee Street, and Powell suggests that Lester Lane should be considered for the next drainage improvement area. Additionally, the City of Americus has been named as a Top Micropolitan City. Powell indicates this will allow more name recognition and with the Sumter County Development Authority’s help, economic development will continue to grow.

For final voting issues, council then appointed several citizens to serve on various authorities and the Walk of Fame.

When Mayor Blount offered council an opportunity to take the floor, Nelson Brown spoke up. Brown gave “much needed appreciation” and gave an update on Brookdale Park. Daryl Dowdell then took the floor. He stated he wanted to “go back to what I was saying.” He reiterated his desire for information as a council person. He then gave his opinion on further issues from the night. “Second, I want it to be known—I don’t know how Ms. Chase gets to pinpoint and tell us when to go on and tell you when to go to vote. I would like that same, I want to do the same also.” Mayor responded, “Ok, thank you.” After asking for any further discussion or comments, none were heard, and the Mayor made an announcement. The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) has awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting to City of Americus for its comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019.  He congratulated Powell and her staff for their good work and believes the city has received this award for 30 years. When asked, Powell states winning such an award is the fruit of “teamwork,” then expressed gratitude for “working with a great group of people.” Mayor Blount then closed out the meeting by wishing everyone a pleasant weekend.