January 8, 2014

City Council brings the roof down

January 8, 2014 Matthew Woody The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — On Tuesday night, during the first work session of 2014, the Valdosta City Council was hearing a proposal from Director of Utilities Henry Hicks about approving a contract for smoke testing the city’s sewer system, when all of a sudden a large chunk of plaster fell roughly 25 feet from the ceiling, crashing onto the green carpet below.

Thankfully, no one was sitting in that area, and no one was injured.

City Manager Larry Hanson said the City recently had the ceiling painted, and will ask the same contractor to repair the plaster before the next meeting on Thursday.

Before the ceiling incident, Hicks took to the podium to present the contract requests for the city’s smoke testing of their sewer system. Hanson described this as a “Find and Fix” project.

Hicks explained that Valdosta received bids from five firms, but only open the envelopes from the three most qualified firms. The top ranked company, Constantine Engineering, submitted the best price at $122,920, per year allowance for 2014 and 2015, $122,920 plus escalation costs (based on Georgia Bureau of Labor Statistics data) for 2016, and $242,840 plus escalation costs for 2017.

SPLOST VII funds will be utilized for this project, Hicks stated.

Mayor John Gayle asked if smoke appears on residential or commercial land, will the occupants be responsible for the repair, and Hick answered, “Yes. They will be notified and given 30 to 60 days to repair the problem.”

Councilman at Large Ben Norton asked if smoke would breach toilets connected to Valdosta sewer lines because he could imagine the horror on his young daughter’s face if smoke came out of their toilet.

Hicks answered that the P-trap pipe would prevent any smoke from entering homes.

Another item the Council will vote on Thursday will be to amend the Entertainment Ordinance due to public safety issues.

Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress approached the council requesting the council limit the hours of operations to entertainment establishments to 2 a.m.; this stands for establishments both with and without alcohol licenses.

“What we’re asking for is currently there is no regulation for entertainment establishments, specifically clubs that are popping up all over the place, these ‘Teen Clubs, there is no ordinance to dictate when these clubs close,” Childress said.

Childress explained that the police department has not only been receiving complaints, but they have responded to several service calls at multiple clubs because of “drunkenness, gang-related activities, drug issues, shootings, stabbings, and so forth,” Childress stated.

Hanson added that some of these facilities are not even opening until 2 a.m., and Childress explained these establishments are waiting until other bars that sell alcohol to close, then they charge a cover for admittance.

“It’s creating major problems. It’s increasing crime rates and traffic issues. We’ve actually had people on Ashley Street and East Park Avenue, and in other parts of town, we’ve had crowds out in the roads,” Childress explained. “Now, were not anti-teen club. You can have your club, but we want them to shut down at 2 a.m.”

Newly elected councilwoman Sandra Tooley asked if the Chief foresaw any issues with the early closing time, and Childress thinks that if the clubs close before two in the morning, then the nuisances will disappear.

Emily Davenport, Valdosta’s stormwater manager, approached the council requesting they consider approving an Interagency Agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for flood mapping and modeling.

The Lowndes County Commission approved the same request during their Nov. 12 meeting of 2013.

Davenport stated that Valdosta has not had a contrast since the 70's or 80's, and reminded the council that the city’s topography has changed.

If the city decides to enter into this agreement, they are under no obligation to utilize the services. This agreement only allows them to take advantage of the advanced LIDAR technology at cheaper rates.

Other items for the council’s consideration are:

• To close an alley located between East Moore Street and East College Street. This request was tabled at the Dec. 5 meeting.

• To abandon an unused portion of right-of-way on Clark Street. This property is owned by the Scruggs Company, and the city does not use this easement.

• To approve bids for the extension of water and sewer services to Annexed Island Phase One – Island 77C. The city received three bids and is considering approving the lowest bidder, Radney Plumbing for their bid of $688,006.50 plus a 10 percent contingency to handle any unforeseen circumstances.

The City Council will meet on Thursday to vote on the items discussed during their work session.

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