MARY ANN ANDERSON
Last Monday’s July workshop and last Thursday’s regular meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council could have easily been flip-flopped, as more agenda items were discussed and voted on in the workshop than the regular meeting.
Six motions were passed during the workshop, with just two passed in the regular session.
During Thursday’s meeting, the council had their hands full as they discussed myriad issues relating to Hazlehurst Water World, the city’s public splash pad.
Mayor Bayne Stone and each council member had received a letter from an unnamed local resident who complained of, among other things, children fighting, pushing and hurting one another. More recently, other patrons have complained of overflowing trashcans and garbage thrown on the ground instead of in the trashcans.
Stone, concurring with the letter writer’s comments and also referring to other complaints, went on to say that he had personally visited the splash pad on that previous Sunday morning, only to find, in his words, the “filthiest, nastiest, stinkiest place you’ve ever seen.” He said that the trashcans had “soured” and that guests had left items such as soiled diapers on the ground.
“We’ve got a real mess out there, and we’ve got $350,000 invested in it,” he said, adding that the splash pad is a “tremendous asset” that the city worked hard to get and is proud of it, but that some members of the public aren’t respecting it as they should.
Stone then told the council, “It’s our responsibility to handle it, and let’s decide what we’re going to do.”
The councilmen, after pointing out the city can’t afford to hire a full-time lifeguard, batted several ideas back and forth about how to best make the splash pad better and safer, including adding police presence, installing security cameras, forming an advisory committee to monitor the park and making sure its rules are followed, and even cutting back the hours of its current operation of 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Water quality is not a concern, stated O.P. “Opie” Hall of the city’s water treatment plant. He stated that the water safety levels of the splash pad are well monitored as to pH, chlorine and other chemicals.
City Clerk Vernice Thompson added that some issues that consumers complain about fall outside of the splash pad itself, but pointed out that the property surrounding the water park is county-owned and not city-owned.
Ward Two Councilman John Ramay suggested looking toward other cities with splash pads to see how they’re controlled, while Ward Three’s Eric Griffin voiced that community policing and making examples out of offenders might help solve problems. Ramay concurred, saying, “No one is going to pay attention until you make an example of the first one.”
For the time being, the only concrete thing that came of the discussion is that Stone plans to have the splash pad thoroughly cleaned at least twice a week as the city seeks other solutions to alleviate its problems.
In Monday night’s workshop with Ward Four Councilman John Bloodworth absent, the council, after approving the minutes of the last work session ….
…. discussed but took no immediate action on permanently closing Johnson Street to traffic and asked that City Attorney Ken W. Smith look into rezoning its surrounding property to noncommercial use only.
…. alluding to what Stone termed a “mess” with the stop and yield signs at Walnut and Odom streets and Walnut and Currie streets and the heavier traffic in the area because of the closing of Hazlehurst Bypass, instructed by motion for the mayor to get in touch with the Georgia Department of Transportation for suggestions on how to best place those signs for better traffic flow.
…. discussed but took no action on opening a separate account for income earned from fines from tickets written from the new Georgia State Patrol (GSP) station now under construction on Highway 341 South. The fines, stated Griffin, would go specifically toward repaying the loan the city took out to build the station.
…. heard an update from Thompson that Mediacom will be conducting field trials in 2020 in the area as the first company in the world to offer the 10G communications platform. She also told the council that she would be working with Georgia Municipal Association to ensure the city is getting its rightful share of franchise fees from utility companies such as Mediacom, AT&T, and Satilla Rural Electric.
…. after hearing from Minnie Watkins, approved the annual Hazlehurst Music Festival for October with the theme “A Celebration of Jacket Nation Where Music Brings Us Together.” Watkins also said activities will include a breast cancer awareness walk, the first-ever Miss Music Festival pageant, a street party, kids’ activities, and food options.
…. approved travel and expenses for National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) training in August in Nashville, Ga., for Hazlehurst Police Department employees Deborah Kornegay and Saundra Toler.
…. after hearing Ramay state that Rory Chaney of Hazlehurst Main Street is an “asset to our community,” approved her attending Georgia Downtown Conference in August on Jekyll Island, with travel, meals and hotel expenses to be paid by Downtown Development Authority.
In other action at Thursday’s meeting, the full council ….
…. adopted the updated ordinances for city cemeteries.
…. discussed at length the rerouting of about 12,000 feet of a new 12-inch waterline to Beasley Forest Products on Highway 221 North. And during Thursday’s workshop, the council passed a motion to advertise in the Jeff Davis Ledger for work related to the installation of the waterline.
…. discussed problems about the city’s water system, including backflow and water quality issues. Hall and Stone said the city will be working closely with the Environmental Protection Division in Brunswick on those matters, and the council then instructed Smith to begin working on ordinances to help improve the water system.
…. approved water and sewer adjustments for the period ending June 30, 2019, as well as June’s departmental reports and check register.
…. in Mayor and Councilmen’s Comments, Stone announced that with the addition of a 300-foot tower and generator for weather-related matters, the new GSP station will become a central communications center for the entire area.
The next workshop of the Hazlehurst City Council is Monday, August 12, with the regular meeting on Thursday, August 15. Both meetings are held at 6:00 p.m. in the conference room at City Hall.