Kelly Girtz, mayor of Athens, Georgia, takes notes at the Athens Mayor and Commission meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. (Photo/Jason Born)

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission added items to its Nov. 5 consent agenda and discussed raising the minimum drink price during its Oct. 15 agenda-setting meeting. The items include multiple applications for public transit funding for the 2021 fiscal year and an agreement with the Athens Downtown Development Authority for a downtown park.

One item that produced extensive discussion regarded a report from the Legislative Review Committee considering increasing the minimum drink price for downtown bars from $1 to $2. 

The measure was recommended in a Downtown Public Health study. District 4 Commissioner Allison Wright, who chairs the LRC, was not present at the Oct. 15 agenda meeting. 

Commissioners agreed on a need to address binge drinking downtown but dissented on whether raising the minimum drink price was the best way to solve the issue. The item was not placed on the consent agenda.

District 1 Commissioner Patrick Davenport took issue with the measure, saying it could be bad for business and hurt low-income people.

“Athens already has a moniker over its head that we are anti-business, and this will be another nail in the coffin to hurt the businesses across Athens-Clarke County,” Davenport said. 

Davenport also said that the requirement will affect businesses not downtown that use the $1 drink price to attract customers. 

District 7 Commissioner Russell Edwards, who is a member of the LRC, said he has not heard from anyone in the community expressing dissatisfaction with the minimum. 

Four separate resolutions authorizing the submission of grant applications to fund public transportation were added to the agenda.

The first resolution authorizes an application for federal funding managed by the Georgia Department of Transit that would go toward ACC Transit operating and capital expenses. Another resolution authorizes an application for funding that will go toward improving bus stop facilities. The other two resolutions added to the consent agenda allow for applications for funding relevant to the Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study area.

The agreement between the ACCUG and ADDA would approve a project for a downtown park located under the Hot Corner mural at 125 E. Washington Street. The agreement states that the final design for the park must be approved by the Mayor and Commission, District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson said. 

District 6 Commissioner Jerry NeSmith said the park should be family-friendly. Many commissioners have expressed the same desire in previous meetings due to a lack of child-friendly spaces in the downtown area. 

“I’m looking forward to public input on this,” said District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link. “There is so much potential to do something really unique and that really screams ‘This is Athens, Georgia.’”

Another item, which would rename Trail Creek Park to Virginia Cofer Walker Park, received unanimous support from the commission but was left off the consent agenda to allow the commission the opportunity to honor Walker, rather than the item pass on consent without discussion at the Nov. 5 meeting. Walker, who passed away in 2018, was a local civil rights activist.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article said the four transit resolutions were approved, however, the commission does not vote on items at its agenda-setting meetings.

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