Mayor and Commission 2/5/19

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor works with a 10-member Commission to pass legislation. (Photo/Spencer Donovan)

The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission heard around 25 people speak during citizen input for non-agenda items at their Sept. 3 meeting. Around 12 speakers addressed the county’s handling of the Athens-Clarke County animal shelter.

Members from the audience accused the local government of providing misinformation in press releases about the shelter and described conditions of mismanagement, lack of vaccinations and active illnesses as major problems.

“How we treat our animals reflects how we treat our people,” said Janet Martin, the Athens Area Humane Society Medical Director.

Martin said a “poor response to emergent issues” and a lack of sustained protocols were areas in which the ACC Government has failed.

All 10 commissioners expressed concern about the issues addressed by the speakers and said they will take action to fix the problems.

“This is our responsibility to have an impact,” District 9 commissioner Ovita Thornton said.

Thornton recommended the next government audit should address the animal shelter and supported the creation of a community committee, something suggested by one of the speakers.

The Mayor and Commission also spent a large portion of the meeting discussing the list of 2020 legislative items to suggest to the state legislature. The Commission needed unanimous support of the list to present to local delegates at a meeting next Tuesday. The list was amended after a motion filed by District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson called for the voting of non-unanimous items during a special session next Tuesday before the meeting with delegates.

District 4 Commissioner Allison Wright was not in favor of minimum compensation for school board members, reversing the ban on undocumented residents receiving drivers licenses, wage increases for lower-paid UGA employees and re-establishing the income cap on the HOPE Scholarship.

Wright said she did not want to include these items due to lack of research on their unintended consequences.

An additional item regarding an increase on gun control measures was also deferred to the special session after District 6 Commissioner Jerry NeSmith said he did not support language in the item calling for mandatory registration of firearms. NeSmith declined District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link’s offer to amend the language to include only assault weapons. Members of the commission expressed hope in working out language to get the item added to the list.

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