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Americus Mayor and City Council suspend rules and act on several items

Mayor Barry Blount and the City Council of Americus met on Thursday 6.24.21. All of council was in attendance with Lou Chase having to limit her participation due to prior commitments. Nelson Brown was unable to attend due to family obligations. The council acted on several items such as rezoning properties for the furthering of businesses wanting to offer services in the city limits of Americus.  The first was to rezone property 716 Felder Street to institutional for Innovative Senior Solutions to acquire the neighboring property to expand their office space and continue to provide services for the elderly. The council passed the request unanimously. Second was for a property located on 119 E Forsyth Street to be changed to commercial status so a car wash could move onto the location. The vote was unanimous in its passage.

Several readings on new or amended ordinances were held. The first was to amend a current ordinance which would allow a solar farm to be built in the city limits. The second, was to address activity taking place in the parks and recreation areas of the city. The ordinance would outline both prohibited as well as allowable activities within the areas. Additionally, the council will explore establishing employment options for the oversite of these properties to ensure the residents have a point person to represent them and provide needed information to secure the parks for events. Parks and Recreation has seen an increase in utilization over the past year, presumably secondary to COVID-19 related restrictions which made the parks an attractive choice for those wishing to find pandemic friendly activities. With the rules suspended so city employees could take immediate action, the vote was passed unanimously.

Other news of the night had a local property owner receiving unanimous approval for the building of a historically correct decking on North Jackson Street. The deck will be waterproof allowing pedestrian traffic underneath the deck to have shelter from rain showers. However, to build the deck, the city had to approve an easement which would allow the structure to utilize a limited amount of the sidewalk. Roger Willis, who oversees zoning as well as building inspections expressed the structure is visually appealing and would serve as an example for other owners to add curb appeal to nearby structures. In a short history lesson, it appears the decking is a throwback to times past as the new structure is reminiscent of architectural features indigenous to buildings. The vote passed unanimously.

Two other voting items were up for consideration. The city’s trolley has been deemed irreplaceable and a new one has been identified. The new trolley will be paid for with federal funding and will take months to build as trolleys are built when a need is determined, rather than having pre-built for purchase. All present council members voted in favor of going forward with the purchase as the trolley has proven beneficial for both the city, visitors and residents alike.

Secondly the first payment to Motorola for public safety communication systems was passed. All council members present with the exception of Councilman Dowdell voted in favor of making the payment for the system to come to fruition.

Public hearings were also held, some of which impacted the evenings votes, some of which will have action taken at a future meeting. The only input from interested parties was the property owner of the Forsyth Street property who was in favor of rezoning it to accommodate the purposed car wash. Ultimately a vote was taken and passed unanimously to allow for the rezoning. Also receiving an unanimously passed vote included the property to be used for a solar farm. A second hearing will be held on establishing an Arts and Cultural District in the Finn/Jackson Street area. As presented in the meeting, an example of passage would include an artist being able to use their residence as an art gallery while also living in the residence. The idea of an Arts and Cultural District has been presented by interested parties in the past and according to their presentation would enrich the city with such offerings.

Lastly, in closing the meeting City Manager Diadra Powell gave updates to include ordinances regarding cemeteries among other items. As for comments, Daryl Dowdell followed up on a citizen’s comment/complaint on shootings in the area in which the citizen’s mother’s home received the impact of a drive-by shooting. The citizen was not pleased with Chief Mark Scott’s nor Mayor Blount’s responses. Dowdell followed up with Diadra Powell to ask if she had passed along Scott’s response to her follow up with the chief. Powell reports she would do so if she has not already. Able to speak on his response, Chief Scott listed the efforts and the plans in place to address the violence taking place. Chief reports the department is both aggressive and proactive.  He also addressed an arrest being made in a quick manner after the most recent crime involving a gun which took place within hours of the council meeting. A search warrant was awaiting approval as the department felt the gun used might have been involved in other shootings. Dowdell questioned Blount on why he hasn’t procured television time regarding violence and what the council could do to address the issue. Mayor Blunt reminded Councilman Dowdell that he had researched out experts in the field who were housed in the Columbus area who had been successful in assisting larger communities address this type of problem. The mayor reminded the council that, at the time, no one had shown interest in such an intervention. Dowdell stated his reasoning in his disinterest was not seeing how anyone in Columbus could prove to be of benefit to Americus. While true the agency addressing the issue of violence was housed in Columbus, they are proving themselves beneficial to multiple communities. It was also established the agency’s work would be specific to addressing needs of our city and would involve professionals, vested residents and lay persons in Americus. Dowdell then remarked again that the council should be public in addressing the issue.

With no further comments from council members, the mayor adjourned the meeting and wished the viewers and participants a good evening.