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Americus Mayor and City Council vote on law enforcement requests and services for citizens

Americus Mayor and City Council held their voting meeting on Thursday, May 20th via Zoom. As requested by some of the council, Bartow Williams of Georgia Two-Way (GTW), a local provider of communication technology, presented the offerings his business can offer by way of a new communication system which Americus Police Department (APD), Sumter County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) and the Americus Fire Department (AFD) would be utilizing. As was established during the agenda setting meeting, a grant of $50000 was awarded to APD. In addition to this, a SPLOST vote which the citizens passed in 2019 had designated funds for a new radio system to be utilized. In total, there was $2 million available to bring this project to fruition. As Motorola had done at the agenda setting meeting, Mr. Williams presented his capacity to the council. His package was presented at the price of $1.2 million. Mr. Williams, while admitting he was not certain of Motorola’s bid, said he met the same number of radios as Motorola. Daryl Dowdell questioned him on mobile units he had offered in the bid. Mr. Williams indicated he felt the mobiles were a necessity for premiere safety options. Chief Scott did confirm the Motorola did not include mobile units in their bid. Dowdell submitted that Motorola’s coverage map had limited to no coverage on Highway 30 and questioned GTW on their coverage. Mr. Williams clarified he had not submitted a coverage map to compare against Motorola, but he felt his system could provide coverage. Interim City Manager, Diadra Powell then asked Mr. Williams the same questions she asked of Motorola.

In reviewing the grant, Powell states the “grant itself…specifically says it (the new system) needs to be P25 compliant (meet the public safety standards), the 700 MHz radio system, and what’s listed in here is Motorola, so I’m assuming it can be compatible.” Mr. Williams’ bid indicates the radio equipment would be provided by Kenwood. Powell continued with her questions, the first of which was: How many customers where utilizing the system presented? Kenwood’s representative, Mr. Earp was on the call and addressed the question. Wanting to understand Earp’s answer better, Powell asked for further clarification. She specifically wanted to know how many Kenwood systems, like the one being proposed in the bid, where in the state currently. Earp admitted they had none. Regarding coverage, Earp admitted the coverage they could offer was “physics” and in all likelihood, if radios are the same, the coverage for both companies “will be equal.” Powell asked a question related to the 911 dispatch operation. Williams explained how radios work and indicated there will be solid communication between 911 center and APD with their product. Powell then questioned a statement made in the GTW bid. The statement indicated the system proposed would require the “Motorola 800 system radio.” A Motorola “key” was then explained. According to GTW, the key is “a string of letters and numbers that Motorola has to get into their system.” A key is required and according to GTW, will be provided. Dowdell then questioned Powell regarding a copy of the grant, as he had previously asked for it and not received it. Powell offered her apologies for misunderstanding the request and sent the grant out to the council during the meeting.

When it came time to vote on approving the recommended Motorola system (at a cost of approximately $1.6 million), Powell indicated her recommendation was based upon the fact the citizens had already voted to purchase a new system, and when spending “million dollars or more, I prefer we have a radio that other people in the state are using.” Additionally, she respected the fact that the chiefs of the departments involved desired the Motorola system. Lastly, the Department of Justice (COPS) grant had specifically mentioned Motorola as a deliverable in the grant.  The motion was made and seconded and the vote passed 5-1, with Dowdell opposing the purchase.

A vote cultivating much conversation at the agenda meeting was also brought up. A bid for city transit providers was put out by the city in 3/2021. The contract was for 5 years. Only one bid was received, that of RMS, who is the city’s current provider. The motion and the second for awarding the bid to RMS was offered and the council vote split evenly with Chase, Christmas and Brown voting in favor and Dowdell, Pless and Wilson opposed to awarding the contract. With the vote split, Mayor Barry Blount cast the deciding vote, which was to approve the contract.

According to Nelson Brown there is a need to pave the parking lot of Brookdale Park. He mentioned the increased traffic at the park, partly due to a public garden being house there. Brown made a motion to collect bids for the paving of the parking lot. Dowdell received clarification it was to collect bids and not for further action. The council rejected this motion by a vote of 2-4 with Dowdell and Brown voting in favor of procuring the bids.

The last agenda item involved the Americus Trolley. Currently it has been deemed irreparable and has been retired due to safety reasons. For various reasons, to include the revenue the trolley generates, Powell is requesting permission to go forward with gathering information on buying another. Although she reports preferring a used one around $75-80,000, there are none to be located and a new one runs close to $200,000. Lou Chase indicated the importance of the trolley and Blount also reports its significance to the citizenry. Powell was given permission to seek out further information on replacing it.

Other items included in the meeting were appointments of citizens to commissions, authorities and boards, a public hearing a vote on a loan for Graceful Hands, repairs to fencing, a vote to prohibit curbside alcohol delivery and approval of the consent agenda. The votes to approve these items were unanimous.

In closing, Dowdell wished to be heard. On the transit service he wanted a meeting with the provider every 4 months to address concerns. In response, the mayor requested Powell to schedule such on a quarterly basis. He then requested Powell to get in touch with him regarding the schedule of the street sweeper. Lastly, he wanted to give his reasons for voting on the radio system in the negative. He stated his distrust of the “legal gazette” (Americus Times-Recorder) to “post what I say.” He reports not being against better radios. He wants to review the grant. He feels if Kenwood is good enough for SCSO, they are good enough for our public safety, he made an argument about “interference,” he then said he wanting to spend in the best interests of the tax payers, and added he wanted to see the money stay local.

Chase indicated her favor for open communication with the transit provider.  Further, she stressed should a council person receive a complaint or a compliment they should relay the information “as soon as they can to the city manager.” Chase indicates such documentation will help the city run more effectively.

Nelson Brown also wanted to be heard before closing the meeting. He wanted to “piggyback” on what Dowdell had mentioned. He too wanted the “legal gazette” ( Times-Recorder) “to be a little bit more accurate.” Then he invited the legal gazette to go take a picture of the Brookdale Park parking lot. He offered appreciation for various people to include city workers and various citizen groups. He addressed the council vote on the park by saying, “I’m not angry because this is government, and we have different people on government that think different ways.” He reports people ask him questions and he directs them to specific council members. He then addressed the legal organ again and directed the Americus Times-Recorder to listen to recording of meeting and present information accurately.

Mayor Blount closed the meeting by congratulating and wishing the GSW golf team great success as they are in the final four and having an opportunity to bring home a national championship. Blount closed by wishing everyone a good evening and weekend.