MARY ANN ANDERSON
During last week’s workshop and regular monthly meeting of the Hazlehurst City Council, more than a dozen motions were carried, all but one unanimously.
Last Monday night’s workshop was highlighted by an impassioned plea from Oak Street resident Larry Hutley who, along with several of his neighbors, have been having serious water issues and want something done about them.
“I’m tired of the water on my side of town,” Hutley said in his emotion-filled statements. “It stinks. It’s been going on for months and years.”
The Ward 2 resident went on to say, “It’s terrible. It smells just like sulfur. Everybody in my neighborhood is talking about it. It’s pitiful. I want something done about this water. I don’t even trust the water for my dogs to drink it, and I’m sick of having to buy bottled water to drink.”
Mayor Bayne Stone went into a lengthy explanation of how the city has had issues with both the Gill Street and Baxley Highway water wells – there is a third on Odom Street – including problems with chlorine flow that have affected Hutley’s neighborhood. Both wells, said Stone, have been down “off and on,” but added that if all three wells were running properly at one time, that the issues Hutley is having wouldn’t exist.
But exist they do, and Hutley said that even bleach won’t take the discoloration and smell out of the water.
“It’s disgusting,” he finally added.
Stone said that Hutley’s neighborhood is in a “dead area of circulation” for chlorine treatment, telling him that the city is “fighting hard” to solve the problem, promising him and his neighbors, “We’ll solve it, if we don’t run everybody in town off. We’re going to eventually solve the problem. We just haven’t yet. If I knew how to fix it, I would have already.”
Hutley asked for an adjustment on his water bill to compensate for the trouble, but no action was taken at the meeting.
During Thursday’s Citizens’ Comments section of the regular meeting, Landon Chavis of the Flower Gallery, a downtown business on Hinson Street, asked the city for its help to improve downtown, including taking out some flower beds and replacing them with lower-maintenance sod, removing the high-maintenance brick planters that line Tallahassee Street to make way for other improvements including street lamps and sod, repairing sidewalks, re-striping parking lots and removing space-grabbing concrete islands in those lots, and adding a pedestrian crosswalk on Hinson Street for downtown visitors to have a way to cross the street without jaywalking or possibly getting hit by fast-moving cars.
Chavis also lamented the lack of parking, saying, “Our downtown is quite busy right now, and we’ve got a lot of stuff going on. I’m proud of that, but I also don’t want anyone to turn away because they don’t have a place to park or because they feel they can’t get to our businesses safely.”
Earlier in the meeting, Stone had acknowledged that for health-related reasons both Chairman Bobby Googe and member Buddy Spann asked to resign from Hazlehurst’s zoning board. After a short discussion, the council agreed to table the item for 30 days for more study to find replacements for Googe and Spann.
But fate intervened quickly. With the entire council impressed with Chavis’s presentation and agreeing with him on every point that he made for repairs and revitalization of downtown, even to the point of joking that building a parking garage or walkways over downtown streets would help, Ward 4’s John Bloodworth then asked him and Matthew Rentz of Mocha on Main, another small downtown business, to serve on the zoning board.
After Chavis and Rentz both agreed to the council’s request and then some discussion about their meeting residency requirements, confirmation of their appointments is planned for October’s meeting.
In other action at the Monday night workshop, the council ….
.… agreed to accept a proposal to contract with Kendall L. Davis, a Hazlehurst certified public accountant, to complete the 2019-20 audit for $12,000, which Stone pointed out is a substantial savings from the $26-28,000 that Henderson and Godbee of Valdosta is charging for the 2018-19 audit that has yet to be completed, even though, Stone pointed out, the city long ago provided everything needed to Henderson and Godbee to finish the audit. Stone also added that Davis said he will have the city’s audits current by the second week in December, well ahead of schedule.
…. okayed Stone to sign a contract with Croy Engineering for $23,000 for work at Hazlehurst Municipal Airport, with the money being paid upfront to Croy within 12 months but to be reimbursed to the city at a later date.
…. approved a motion for City Attorney Ken W. Smith to prepare a temporary public parks zoning ordinance for Thursday night’s regular meeting, with the council agreeing that the wording for the temporary ordinance, which expires Nov. 20, be used for the final ordinance. At Thursday’s meeting, Smith gave the first reading of the ordinance to make it permanent, with the second reading set for October.
…. agreed to donate new playground equipment, valued at $5,000, to Jeff Davis County for installation at the county-owned recreation park near Jeff Davis Library on Highway 341 South.
…. in a 4-1 vote with Ramay voting nay, approved Hazlehurst Police Department new hire Corey Googe for the Basic Law Enforcement training course at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Tifton from Sept. 23-Dec. 11.
…. after hearing a request from Hazlehurst Main Street’s Rory Chaney in Citizens’ Comments, agreed to move forward with assisting with the Halloween Boo Bash Oct. 31 and Hazlehurst Hallmark Christmas Dec. 12, with social distancing rules in place for both events and with the city and the police department assisting with traffic control and street closings. Also in this section, okayed a low-interest loan from the Hazlehurst-Jeff Davis County Joint Development Authority to purchase new Christmas decorations, with the loan to be repaid from the rental of downtown property by City Switch II-A LLC for cell tower placement.
…. during Mayor and Councilmen’s Comments, listened as Stone reported that the city has received several financial windfalls lately, including the sale of a city lot for just over $11,000, payments from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and about $80,000 in proceeds from the sale of the industrial park located in Telfair County that was owned by the Joint Development Authority of Hazlehurst, Lumber City and Telfair County. In Thursday’s meeting, the council voted to use the proceeds from the sale of the city lot and industrial park to make roof and other repairs to the city-owned building located at the corner of Cromartie Street and Alma Highway.
In other action during Thursday night’s regular session, the council …
…. after hearing a lengthy narrative from Kevin Mathis, who stated that the city should be accountable for water damage to one of his rental properties because of miscommunication, and which the city agreed, voted to compensate him $575 for repair costs and lost rental income.
…. authorized the mayor to sign a contract for pavement rehabilitation at the airport.
…. requested a checklist from Opie Hall, supervisor over the Bully Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, for completing the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s watershed protection and flood prevention plan.
…. after hearing Smith give the second reading of an amendment to the solid waste ordinance that includes stronger penalties for littering, unanimously passed it.
…. approved departmental reports, water and sewer adjustments and paid bills for the period ending Aug. 31.
… in Citizens’ Comments, after hearing from Smith about issues with the signage and lighting at the four-way stop at Jefferson Street and Charles Rogers Boulevard and Pine Forest Avenue, Stone said he would direct the Streets Department to assess those problems.
…. in Mayor and Councilmen’s Comments, Stone addressed the council about the “tremendous problems” that the city has had over the years with the Baxley water well system and that its old pump was damaged beyond repair. The most recent repairs, completed by Woodrow Sapp Well Drilling of Brunswick, cost the city $31,500. Stone asked for authorization to cash in an unrestricted water and sewer certificate of deposit of $43,000 to pay the bill, which was unanimously passed.
The next workshop of the Hazlehurst City Council is Monday, Oct. 12, with the regular meeting Oct 15. Both meetings are held at 6 p.m. at City Hall on South Cromartie Street.