Mayor and Commission online 9/15/2020

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission met over Zoom on Tuesday for a special called session and agenda setting session. (Photo/Jake Drukman)

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission discussed the possibility of limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer people at residential properties to combat the spread of COVID-19 during a special called session Tuesday evening.

District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson said he would like to see the mayor and commission come together as early as this Thursday to put new ordinances in place.

Denson noted that other college towns have already limited gatherings. The city of Hanover, New Hampshire, which is home to Dartmouth College, restricted residential gatherings to 10 on Sept. 1. Police in Pullman, Washington, home to Washington State University, have said they will issue tickets to people who attend gatherings of more than 10.

Denson also discussed taking action against tailgating during upcoming football games at the University of Georgia. UGA’s Athletic Association already prohibited on-campus tailgating for the fall 2020 season, but Denson said commissioners need to take a similar effort for off-campus tailgating.

Mayor Kelly Girtz said he made an informal request to Gov. Brian Kemp’s office to allow communities that are experiencing significant COVID-19 spread to impose a 10-person limit on gatherings.

District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link said the county needs to get “more creative” in enforcing measures to control the pandemic. She attributed ACC’s high number of COVID-19 cases “almost solely” to UGA students, and said the governor has “effectively tied [ACC’s] hands” when it comes to enforcing measures to control the pandemic.

The mayor and commission also approved the closure of a section of Newton Street between Prince Avenue and Meigs Street during the special session. The closure was requested by the owners of The Grit and Taziki’s, and will allow the two restaurants to expand into the street and provide an outdoor space for public gathering.

There will be a multi-use path set through the center of the closed street to allow pedestrians and cyclists to move through the area. The design will be implemented by the Athens Downtown Development Authority.

The ADDA sent a letter to the Mayor and Commission supporting the idea of the closure, saying that it will aid the commission’s goal of expanding local business opportunities and provide for additional pedestrian safety. The closure will last through the end of Athens’ COVID-19 emergency.

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