Americus City Council holds second monthly meeting in October

Published 5:39 pm Friday, October 20, 2023

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AMERICUS – On Thursday, October 19, the Americus City Council (ACC) held its second monthly meeting. At the meeting, numerous issues were covered and Mayor Lee Kinnamon made three proclamations.

The first proclamation Kinnamon made was to honor Larry Taylor as the Honorary Council Member for the meeting. Taylor was chosen to be the Honorary Council Member by Council Member Kelvin Pless. Kinnamon also made a proclamation to honor City Manager Diadra Powell, Municipal Court Clerk Janet Shelley and Americus Police Chief Mark Scott. These three were recognized by Kinnamon for receiving a “Clearnace Rate Excellence” for the Municipal Court of Americus.

Kinnamon also made a proclamation honoring Carlyle Walton, CEO of Phoebe Sumter and recognized Thursday, October 19, as “Sumter Pink Day” in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In addition to the aforementioned proclamations, Mayor Kinnamon also made a proclamation honoring a delegation from the Sumter County Retired Educators Association (SCREA). Georgia Governor Brian Kemp recently proclaimed November 5 as Georgia Retired Educators Association (GREA) Day.

Mayor Lee Kinnamon recognizes Phoebe Sumter CEO Carlyle Walton with a proclamation recognizing “Sumter Pink Day” in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness month at the Americus City Council’s meeting on October 19.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

The ACC also heard from Anne Isbell, Director of the Lake Blackshear Regional Library. Isbell stated that everything is going well at the library. “Last year, we had 42,179 patrons visit the library to check out books, to use the internet, to attend programs and to use our business services,” Isbell said. “This is an increase of over 11 percent from the year before.” Isbell went on to say that internet use at the library was up by 8.5 percent and she added that in addition to the large meeting room, which they had for a number of years at the library, they have opened up a small classroom and two free study rooms which are available on a first come, first serve basis. “These meeting rooms were used 273 times by approximately 1,260 patrons,” Isbell said. “I’m proud to report that actual book circulation, people who came in and actually checked out a book, is up 13 percent.”

The ACC also heard from Jerry Weitz, who is the city’s planning consultant and is the city’s vendor for updating the zoning ordinance. “You hired me to rewrite your zoning code and also do some other related ordinance updates, including subdivision regulations and so forth,” Weitz said. “I’m pleased to be here and have the opportunity to work for you. Thank your for that opportunity.”

Weitz went on to say that he expects to bring the city some ordinance revisions early in 2024. “This is an important work,” Weitz said. “As you know, it hasn’t been done in a while.”

Mayor Lee Kinnamon recognizes a group of retired teachers and educators by presenting a proclamation to the delegates from the Sumter County Retired Educators Association) SCREA). Governor Brian Kemp recently proclaimed November 5 as Georgia Retired Educators Association (GREA) Day.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

Weitz went on to say that most city governments don’t do updates of this sort except for maybe every 10 years. He added that the updates to the ordinances will guide the future of Americus with regard to land use regulations for many years to come.

The ACC also heard from contractor Frank Purvis regarding the refurbishing and restoration of the Allison Building requesting to temporarily close a portion of the sidewalk and parking spaces next to the Allison Building. Purvis stated that while the remodeling of the Allison Building has been going on for three years, he added “It’s beginning to take wings at this point.”

Purvis added that the projected completion date will be August of 2024. Council Member Kelvin Pless expressed his concern that if the sidewalk is closed, the pedestrians might not have a place to walk and would then have to walk on the road. Americus Police Chief Mark Scott remarked that they have had a conversation about that and that he didn’t have a problem with it as long as pedestrians can get by and have access to the other businesses on that side of the street.

Council Member Nicole Smith asked Purvis what his temporary timeline would be. Purvis responded that the temporary timeline would probably be over the next month. Americus Public Works Director Mike Sistrunk suggested that they put some chain link material along the walkway as extra protection to protect the public.

Kinnamon asked City Attorney Jimmy Skipper how the city can go about this legally. Skipper replied that they could make a motion to add it to the agenda, but that they didn’t have to make a fancy resolution. Kinnamon entertained a motion to add Purvis’s request to the agenda. Council Member Nicole Smith made a motion and Council Member Charles Christmas seconded the motion. The ACC voted and the motion passed unanimously.

During the citizens comments phase of the meeting, Courtney Moore went up to speak to the ACC about him being denied a permit to open his business. Moore stated that back in July, he received a call form code enforcement stating that his business was being denied a permit because his facility had a shower in it.

“We attempted to do the rezoning,” Moore said. “We did the rezoning application, paid the fee.” Moore went on to say that he was told that the city made a mistake with the zoning. “If the city has messed up the zoning, why do the citizens have to pay for what the city has messed up,” Moore asked. “We did pay the application fee for the rezoning. That was also in July.” Moore went on to say that he had a meeting with the zoning board and City Manager Diadra Powell and that everybody was in agreement for a meeting to be scheduled on Thursday, October 19 for the approval of what needed to be done. Moore went on to say that he received an email from Attorney Skipper stating that the meeting would now have to be pushed back to November. “I’m very disappointed because I believe this should be an easy fix,” Moore said. Moore added that he sent a letter to Mayor Kinnamon and the ACC saying that it was discriminatory to allow a complex right next door to him operate with a single family home apartment. “I’m being denied of the same thing that is happening right next door,” Moore said.

He added that a complaint from the email stated that a citizen was concerned that the sign was removed and they don’t know who removed it. “What if somebody moved it next month? Would it be moved back to December?,” Moore said.

Mayor Kinnamon thanked Moore and added that the ACC usually does not respond during the citizen comments phase of the meeting, but being that this was an unusual circumstance, it was dicussed.

Council Member Daryl Dowdell asked why the sign was removed and who removed it. Moore said he did not move it and did not know who moved it.

Attorney Skipper stated that it is state law that a sign must be up 15 days before a public hearing is to take place. Skipper went on to say that a citizen complained that the sign was not up and that even if it was put back up earlier this week, it still wouldn’t be up 15 days. Skipper went on to say that the city has to follow state laws as far as zoning goes. He added that in all the years he has been an attorney, he has never heard of a zoning sign being moved.

Council Member Nelson Brown asked what date did the sign go up. Building Director Roger Willis replied that it was the day after the planning commission meeting. Brown later asked what the council would do in the future if this happens again where somebody removes another sign. Skipper replied that he did not know, but added that in the 37 or 38 years he has been an attorney, this is the first time this has happened where this type of sign was removed.

Council Member Juanita Wilson added that they need to remind the land owner or one that is requesting zoning to watch their sign and make sure that it is not removed during the 15 days before the public hearing.

Mayor Kinnamon asked Willis if the zoning code requires a particular type of sign. Willis replied that it must be two-sided and four square feet and it must be on the property and visible. Kinnamon went on to say that the ACC could not help Mr. Moore this evening, but told him there would be a public hearing on November 9. He added that the sign must be affixed 15 days before November 9 so that it will be much more difficult for anyone to remove it.

Moore thanked the ACC for allowing him to speak, but added that he feels like there is a target on his back. “This is a target. I’ve been targeted by this city, by the previous mayor and the Chief of Police,” Moore said. He went on to say that he has been a target since speaking out on injustice and racism in this city. Moore stated that “I’m aware that’s what this is.”