M&C 10.5.2021

In a voting session, the Athens-Clarke County Commission unanimously expanded the 911 Alternative Response Team.

The Athens-Clarke County Commission voted Tuesday night to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day annually on the second Monday in October. The commission also approved a resolution creating a downtown public restroom and expanded the 911 Alternative Response Team.

Expanding alternative response for police

The commission unanimously approved the expansion of the Alternative Response Team project to act in conjunction with the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.

The ART is responsible for responding to non-violent calls where the request is outside the scope of ACCPD’s services, such as calls regarding mental health issues. A team consists of an EMT, a licensed clinician and a peer specialist, according to the proposal.

In 2019, two response teams were formed and another is currently in training. The ACCPD now has a goal of seven field teams by June 2022, according to the proposal. 

Funding for the expansion is sourced from the American Rescue Plan, a federal allocation of money to state and local governments to ease economic fallout caused by COVID-19 and facilitate recovery.

Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognized

The commission unanimously approved a resolution recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of October.

Specifically recognized within the proposal are the Cherokee and Muscogee, or Creek, People and the benefits that ACC received because of the forced removal, exploitation and genocide these people have endured.

Alongside reimagining Columbus Day, the resolution states that the county will support events on this day to encourage education about Indigenous traditions, culture and history. Also included is a declaration to work with Indigenous peoples to correct omissions of their presence in public places, resources and cultural programming.

The resolution applies to the second Monday in October of every year, not just in 2021.

District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson explained how Athens’ history connects to his decision to vote in favor.

“We have to grapple with our own history and tell a true history here,” Denson said. “Especially here in Athens when our own Wilson Lumpkin was one of the most pivotal individuals in creating the Trail of Tears and enacting the Indian Removal Act, in which we have streets and buildings named for him.”

Downtown public restrooms

The commission approved the creation of a public restroom located in the downtown area, despite some opposing community input. The vote passed 7-3 with District 9 Commissioner Ovita Thornton, District 10 Commissioner Mike Hamby and District 4 Commissioner Allison Wright dissenting.  

During the citizen input portion of the meeting, which preceded voting, several members of the community expressed concerns about the restrooms, citing security issues such as drug use and vandalism that arose when similar facilities were implemented in Portland, Oregon.

District 6 Commissioner Jesse Houle responded to these concerns.

“I’ve had the fortune of spending a lot of time in Portland and using these bathrooms. My partner lived there for years and used these bathrooms,” Houle said. “They are generally fairly well-used and maintained and thought of quite positively.”

Although all commissioners supported the concept of the bathroom, some expressed an interest in obtaining more research and input from the community before continuing. The ACC government collected public feedback from April 30 through June 15, leading staff within the government to recommend the bathroom.

Nathalee Simoneau began her foray into journalism at The Red & Black in spring 2021 and is the current assistant city news editor. Specific areas of interest include food insecurity, housing/land development and local government ordinances.

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