Mayor and Commission May 5 meeting

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission held its May 5 voting meeting over teleconference due to the coronavirus. (Screenshot/Athens-Clarke County Unified Government YouTube channel)

Bird scooters won’t see the streets of Athens-Clarke County until at least Dec. 4.

The ACC Commission unanimously approved Tuesday evening an extension to the now two-year-long moratorium on so-called “shareable dockless mobility devices.” The commission meeting was held via livestream due to the coronavirus.

The extension will allow the Legislative Review Committee to prioritize more relevant legislation such as non-discrimination legislation and a loud or unruly gathering ordinance, said Allison Wright, committee chair and District 4 commissioner.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a broad plan for $1.4 million to support affordable housing, business training and public services. The plan must be approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development before implementation starts July 1.

The funds come from HUD’s community development block grant program. The commission plans to use an additional $665,000 in HOME investment partnerships as “gap financing.”

If approved, about $540,000 in the block grants will support affordable housing construction and acquisition. Other organizations will receive grants for various public services and business training. About $45,000 will fund the resurfacing of the East Athens basketball court.

ACC will receive about $830,000 in additional CDBG funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The local government is waiting on more directions on how to use those funds, Mayor Kelly Girtz said.

To help local artists during the pandemic, commissioners approved $100,000 to fund public art created by local artists through the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission. District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson wrote the commissioner-defined option to bring in $85,000 from the local coronavirus resiliency package. The other $15,000 comes from the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission budget.

Denson said he sees the awards as an opportunity to move resiliency package money to people who need it.

“As we know, this pandemic is affecting our entire population, our entire workforce, including artists, musicians and creatives, especially in this town that’s kind of, you know, famous for those artists and musicians,” Denson said.

The commission unanimously tabled an agreement to manage a crew of unpaid inmate workers that would maintain corridors owned by the Georgia Department of Transportation in ACC. Under the agreement, the local government would use GDOT funds to purchase equipment and pay the salary of a correctional officer to oversee the crew.

District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link led the discussion of considering ways to compensate inmates for their work, which other commissioners supported exploring. Link asked for first-hand testimony from former inmate workers and information on such programs’ effect on recidivism, which is the tendency for someone who committed a crime once to commit a crime again.

She said she felt like the program and other training and education in the jail has value for inmates’ mental health but that the unpaid labor “is a serious ethical issue.”

County Manager Blaine Williams told commissioners he didn’t know how long GDOT would wait for an agreement, but he said they could ask for an extension. He said the goal was to come to an agreement before the next fiscal year starts on July 1.

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