Beltway trail, alcoholic beverage license and jetvac truck discussed at Americus City Council meeting

Published 5:11 pm Friday, September 22, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

AMERICUS – Sumter Cycling president Ryan Iafiglioa went before the Americus City Council (ACC) on Thursday, September 21, to discuss a proposed construction of a beltway multipurpose recreational trail through the city of Americus and to other parts of Sumter County.

“What I want to present to you is what we are tentatively calling Our Town Beltway Trail,” Iafigliola said. Iafigliola went on to explain the type of multipurpose paved trail that he was talking about through a slide presentation. “It’s a beautiful place to be able to walk, to bike, to push a stroller, move any other kind of natural way. You can skate board up and down that trail, but multi use trail is what we are here to talk about.”

Iafigliola went on to say that he was there to remind the city of Americus about the 2014 Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) in which a multipurpose recreational beltway trail was included. “I’m here today to be a voice to try to help the city and make some suggestions as to how maybe we can move forward with that concept here in our community,” Iafigliola said.

He went on to tell the ACC that $1 million was set a side for that and that some of those funds were doing what he called the Connecting Americus Plan. He referred to a bike trail that was already completed that connects Georgia Southwestern State University with Downtown Americus and all the way to Boone Park.

“The city has sponsored the creation of this plan and it was adopted by the Council in 2020,” Iafigliola said. “Our suggestion with this is not to continue doing special projects like putting paint on the road. We don’t think that’s the most efficient use of funds. We’re glad for what we already did. Our suggestion is that those would be included when roads are resurfaced or restriped.” He went on to say that he didn’t want to encourage the use of the trail funds to be used for this specifically.

Iafigliola went on to show that there are other trails that have been built in the big cities and other small towns throughout Georgia, such as the city of Albany getting funds to add 13 additional miles to its trail. “Either cities like Americus can embrace this or become a part of it, or we wait to see 10 years from now the impact this is having in other places and then we’re just further behind trying to play catch up,” Iafigliola said. “Our suggestion is that we begin taking the steps that we can to move forward.” Iafigliola also sited the other benefits of having a beltway trail, such as health and wellness for the community. He added that he would like to see the trail connect all the schools so that the schools can have programs out on the trail and that the trail can be used for people traveling from place to place and a means for transportation.

“We do find that trails build up that sense of place, that this is a place that you want to belong to and people want to come to and retire here, or come to work here,” Iafigliola said.

He went on to show a picture of what he would like the trail to be: a 17-mile long trail that connects a number of places, including the city of Plains. “If we had this today, Americus would be known for it all over the state of Georgia and beyond Georgia,”Iafigliola said. “I think that’s the bottom line. If we had this, this would be a draw for the city. I don’t think anyone can really doubt that.”

Iafigliola stated that he and others have done some land surveying and that he believes that the trail could start around Muckalee Park all the way through the wooded and low-lying areas to Magnolia Manor, which is about a three mile stretch.

He added that one advantage of this stretch is that there are relatively few landowners to deal with.

In closing, Iafigliola stated that he wanted to come before the ACC to discuss this and see what the council’s response would be and he added that one of the first real steps would be to figure out the feasibility and cost of the project. “We would like to pursue grant funding to help us pay for the feasibility and cost study. He added that it is very important that the funds that the city has set aside for the project remain set aside for it and not be utilized for any other purpose. He also added that the city has to have the will to pull off this project.

Mayor Lee Kinnamon asked the members of the council if they had any questions or comments and nobody had anything to say, but Kinnamon added that he was sure that the discussion would continue.

In other news from the meeting, Henry Williams Jr. and his wife Pamela came before the ACC to request that they be granted a license to sell alcoholic beverages at his club called Venue 49. “We are here because originally, we had an issue with a church being next door to us and we were not allowed to sell alcohol,” Williams told the ACC. “But we were told that we could have consumption of alcohol on the premises and that has occurred many times without incident.”

Williams went on to say that the church that is located next to his establishment is no longer in existent and it hasn’t been since he took ownership of the property. He added that there haven’t been any church events since he took ownership of the property and he added that the church building is for sale. “We’re here again seeking approval from the council for alcohol sales on premises,” Williams said. He went on to reiterate that they have not had any incidents involving the police and stated that his establishment has security cameras inside and outside the establishment and that they are on all the time. Pamela Williams told the ACC that Venue 49 has had 200 events where alcohol was present and did not have any issues or incidents.

Mr. Williams added that even when he spoke with the pastor of the church next to his property, the pastor was totally fine with alcohol being sold and had no objections. “In fact, he had a really funny comment in saying that ‘Ok, I see you want to give your patrons communion’. We thought that it was kind of neat that he didn’t had any opposition,” Williams said.

Williams added that the church building is on the market to be sold, which in his mind meant that he should have the ability to sell alcohol at his establishment.

Council Member Juanita Wilson stated that she liked the idea, but wanted to know where the ordinance stood as far as zoning. Jimmy Skipper, the city’s attorney, stated that he didn’t know what the zoning would be, but somebody said that it is C1 Commercial. Skipper added that they would need to confirm that the church building next to Venue 49 is no longer a church, but if they sell the property to another church and they have services there, then there would be an issue.

Williams replied that according to the conversation that he had with the pastor, the pastor told him that they would no longer be using the church building because they joined with another church to where they are having combined services.

Skipper replied that he understood what Williams was saying, but he didn’t want to get into a situation where a license is issued and then all of a sudden, a church pops up. Skipper added that another thing that would have to be done is to amend the event center ordinance, which currently states that event centers are not allowed to sell alcohol. It was also brought up that the Venue 49 owners could change their establishment to a restaurant and as the result of doing that, could then sell alcohol.

Skipper also added that Venue 49 would have to have a certain percentage of non-alcoholic drinks sold at the establishment to qualify for that.

Williams asked the ACC if the ordinance is written for an event center, why is it not ok to write into the ordinance that the alcohol sales are ok? “If the church was not there, I don’t think we would be having this conversation,” Williams said. “I’m trying to understand it because if you will allow patrons to bring in big bottles of alcohol and it be ok to sit there and drink it at the church and get drunk in some cases. Can somebody please help me understand its better to where I’m serving alcohol to a patron and I see that they’re a little too intoxicated, I can shut them off,” Williams continued.

Mayor Kinnamon replied that the concern is that this would be applicable to all locations categorized as event centers. Therefore, there’s a broader application to the ordinance. Skipper also stated that if Mr. Williams wants to sell alcohol at his establishment, the ACC would have to amend the ordinance that would allow event centers to have an alcoholic beverage license.

Mayor Kinnamon recommended that the issue be further researched and studied.

“The thing that concerns me whenever we look at ordinance changes is unintended consequences,” Kinnamon said.

No vote or action was taken regarding the matter, but the issue will be further studied and researched.

Suzanne Peterson was presented by Council Member Charles Christmas as the Honorary Council Member for the month of September.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

In other news from the meeting, the ACC voted unanimously to approve keeping the 2023 millage rate at 11.12. Council Member Juanita Wilson made a motion for approval and Council Member Kelvin Pless seconded the motion. The ACC voted and the motion passed unanimously.

The ACC also approved the request from Department of Public Works Director Mike Sistrunk to purchase a jetvac truck from Vacutek for the amount of $504,000.00.

Council Member Kelvin Pless made a motion for approval and Council Member Charles Christmas seconded the motion. The ACC voted and the motioned passed unanimously.

Council Member Charles Christmas also presented Suzanne Peterson to serve as the Honorary Council Member for the month of September.