Cranky Commissioners Fight Over Firefly Trail, Nonprofit Funds


Final week’s Athens-Clarke County Fee assembly began with an uncommon dispute over minutes and went downhill from there.

Commissioner Allison Wright objected to the dearth of public touch upon a Lexington Street residence advanced throughout a known as assembly Feb. 8. Mayor Kelly Girtz defined that public remark had been taken on the event at two earlier conferences and wasn’t required. He wound up having to interrupt a 5–5 tie to approve the minutes, setting the tone for the almost six-hour session.

Commissioners hotly debated the route for a piece of the Firefly Path close to Winterville. Commissioner Patrick Davenport gave an in depth presentation on why the path ought to be moved off an deserted railbed to run alongside Moores Grove Street as a result of a few of his constituents don’t need it of their yard.

“I can’t consider individuals who stood in these backyards assume it’s OK to disrupt the surroundings and wildlife pond, take out all these bushes,” Wright stated. “You’re speaking about disrupted, 24/7, twelve months a 12 months, these residents.” She and commissioners Ovita Thornton and Mike Hamby additionally supported that proposal, though Hamby later voted to maintain the path on the railbed.

Commissioner Carol Myers put ahead a proposal that addressed a few of residents’ issues and saved the route as initially proposed, which gained the help of seven commissioners. They expressed issues concerning the legality of adjusting the route that voters had permitted as a part of SPLOST, and about individuals strolling and biking alongside high-speed Moores Grove Street.

“At 50 miles an hour, you’re extraordinarily more likely to die if you’re struck by a automobile,” Commissioner Jesse Houle stated, including that the path could be a vacationer attraction all through the eventual 40-mile path to Union Level.

Girtz proposed to spend $969,480 in unspent federal CARES Act funds from final 12 months to increase the Athens Eats Collectively program via the top of Could. Run by the Athens Neighborhood Council on Growing older, this system has supplied greater than 250,000 meals to eight,000 native residents.

Commissioner Tim Denson put collectively a proposal with Hamby to “fund this for a few months however… open this as much as different organizations which might be additionally doing incredible work and likewise need to be funded.” Denson’s proposal supplied $510,000 for Athens Eats Collectively and outlined a course of for different organizations to use for the remaining, with a vote scheduled for Apr. 5.

Hamby, nevertheless, then put ahead an inventory of particular organizations that he wished to fund, which he acknowledged “would make individuals uncomfortable” however contended would assist these principally smaller teams construct capability.

Distributing the funds on the fly “may put us in authorized jeopardy,” although, stated Commissioner Russell Edwards, who’s a lawyer. Houle agreed with Hamby that the funding might be distributed extra equitably however stated Hamby’s listing “was written up on a serviette” and included a gaggle that served dinner at certainly one of his marketing campaign occasions. Commissioner Mariah Parker known as the listing “slapdash.”

Commissioners spent the weekend making an attempt to hash out an extension of the Athens Eats Collectively program, which was about to expire of cash, they usually apparently had some sharp disagreements about the best way to transfer ahead.

“It’s been tense these previous couple of days, and it’s been very anxious for a few of the commissioners,” Thornton stated. “There’s been some breach in relationships on this fee.”

Thornton initially backed Hamby, however each later voted in favor of Denson’s movement. It handed 8–2, with Davenport and Wright opposed. ACC has now opened up applications to teams that present meals help, housing help or homeless companies for a share of the remaining $460,000.

The fee punted on one other contentious subject, a scholar housing improvement on Mitchell Road, by voting to ship it again to the planning fee for additional overview. It handed a master plan for the redevelopment of Bethel Midtown Village and public housing off School Avenue right into a mixed-income neighborhood.


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