The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission added items to the consent agenda for its Oct. 1 regular session and approved reimbursement for investigative expenses on a drug and crime task force at a Sept. 17 meeting at City Hall.
One item approved for the consent agenda recommended a pilot program for motorized vehicles, such as electric scooters, be presented to the commission in the form of a work session. The “shareable dockless mobility devices” were banned for a maximum of 12 months on Dec. 4 last year to allow time to develop language for the pilot program.
“We’re discussing motorized apparatuses much like the scooters that littered our sidewalks for many months here in town,” Mayor Kelly Girtz said at the special-called and agenda-setting meeting.
Girtz assigned the pilot program to the Legislative Review Committee on Jan. 8. District 4 Commissioner Allison Wright, the chair of the LRC, opened discussion on the item at the Sept. 17 meeting.
“It’s been a lot of studying and we’re ready to study it with the rest of you guys,” Wright said to her fellow commissioners. “We’re trying to get a good, respectful and responsive company, but there are a lot of details to iron out.”
The special called session agenda item involved reimbursements for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The item passed with seven yes votes from the nine commission members present. District 1 Commissioner Patrick Davenport was not present, while District 2 Commissioner Mariah Parker voted no and District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson abstained from the vote.
On Sept. 4, a Federal Bureau of Investigation representative notified Athens-Clarke County Police Department the department could seek reimbursement for about $68,061 worth of OCDETF equipment. The expenditures include computer forensic software and training, covert cameras and tracking devices.
Parker and Denson both raised concerns during discussion of the item.
Denson referenced a task force in Atlanta that recently received a denial from the federal government allowing badge cams on officers on this task force. The reimbursement funds come from the U.S Department of Justice.
Denson said the denial is a “red flag” for Atlanta and Athens because officers on the local task force should wear badge or body cams.
“I would like us to at least look into that further to see what we could possibly do,” Denson said. “I definitely have concerns if the response back to that is the same as Atlanta, which is body cams are barred from the task force.”
Parker expressed uncertainty about the necessity of the task force expenditures and did not feel comfortable supporting the reimbursement at the moment.
The proposed community police review board that is curently being researched could review the details to “determine whether or not this is in the best interest of the safety of our community,” Parker said.
Along with the item on dockless motorized vehicles, the Commission approved a measure to convert five part-time Athens-Clarke County Animal Control Shelter positions to three full-time positions.
The Animal Control Shelter item was a response to citizen input at the Sept. 3 commission meeting. However, the commission did not improve an audit of the animal shelter to the consent agenda at the Sept. 17 meeting.
The commission added an item approving the concept for a park on 125 E. Washington St. under the Hot Corner mural as well as another project concept for Athens Music Walk of Fame public art.
“I am excited about this item, and I am excited for some opportunities for some more public art,” District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link said. “Especially music-related public art and some injection of history, our music history.”