Student Government Association executive officers took a literal seat at the table with the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission on Thursday.
UGA and ACC representatives feasted on Mama’s Boy biscuits and reviewed issues facing their respective communities at the annual SGA meeting with the ACC Mayor and Commission at the Dougherty Street Governmental Building. SGA President Ammishaddai Grand-Jean, Mayor Kelly Girtz and multiple commissioners were among the approximately 30 UGA and ACC officials distributed among five tables.
The discussion alternated between three topics: sustainability, transportation and accessibility. Attendees discussed each topic within their table groups for approximately ten minutes and shared their takeaways with the room.
SGA Vice President Charlene Marsh said the meeting served as a way for the concerns of UGA students to be voiced to city officials The SGA executive officers also learned of multiple ACC initiatives which they said intersect with issues faced on campus.
“As students who are stakeholders in the Athens-Clarke County community, it’s very important for us to make our voices heard at the table but in ways that develop and build this community and not just based on self-interest,” Marsh said.
One topic of conversation centered around a new grocery store coming to town. Girtz and District 6 Commissioner Jerry NeSmith confirmed the opening of a Piggly Wiggly within a larger mixed-use development on Prince Avenue and talked with SGA Treasurer Destin Mizelle about its potential benefits.
The store will not only provide a source of groceries for locals, Mizelle said, but also for UGA students who live nearby.
Girtz also shared an ongoing ACC initiative aiming to reduce the number of glass bottles stocked in Athens bars, a project Grand-Jean was sure to make note of. Bars receive a discount of up to 50 percent on their liquor licenses if they switch to draft or stock aluminum cans instead of glass bottles for their high volume domestic brands.
There is less of a market for recycled glass than aluminum, Girtz said, and glass waste is tougher and more dangerous to handle.
UGA representatives raised concerns over the lack of disability access downtown, specifically citing tight and uneven sidewalks. In addition, some establishments are only accessible by stairs. NeSmith said ongoing renovations planned on Clayton Street will result in the more accessibility on the sidewalks involved.
Benefits of the discussions was a two-way street. While UGA representatives were thankful for the chance to hear from the Mayor and Commission, Girtz said he also received input regarding what’s important to representatives of the university and its student government.
“We benefit from the research and the public service and outreach that’s coming out of the university,” Girtz said. “We’re a better community for that.”
The three executive officers are nearing the end of their time in office. The new SGA administration will be inaugurated in April following the SGA elections on March 4-6.
At least one more meeting between SGA and ACC officials awaits in the future. Girtz and NeSmith said the Mayor and Commission plans to visit SGA members on campus at an undetermined date after spring break to continue the discussions which began Thursday.