Water project prompts more accusations
by Clay Neely - firstname.lastname@example.org
Accusations of racism continued to permeate the atmosphere at the Grantville City Council meeting Monday night when Mayor Jim Sells proposed to negotiate a change to the recently-approved water line/ fire hydrant contract with Meriwether County.
“The previous council agreed to put fire hydrants and lines into Meriwether County at Coweta County’s expense and I’m asking for the mayor to negotiate with the contractor to possibly eliminate the contact or substitute other work and bring a proposal back to the council. I’m looking for a motion to accept that,” said Sells.
The two newly-elected councilmen, David Riley and Leonard Gomez, supported Sells’ efforts. “I make a motion to accept,” said Riley. “Second,” responded Gomez.
“Once again we have another area that’s on a minority street,” said Councilman Johnny Cooks. “The majority is black and we’re making another decision on these issues to apparently eliminate the contract on getting it done.” “Grantville is unique as a city that we have such close proximity to all of our surrounding counties and it’s a matter of goodwill in that we work with each other in supporting the needs of the counties and citizens who are in between,” said Cooks. “Apparently the council members want to again take away power from the council and give it the mayor to allow us to no longer service this area or [have the] goodwill opportunity to work with Meriwether County who has asked us to do it.”
“If we’re going to keep setting precedents like this, if the city manager could identify the subdivisions that are not in our city or territory, I would suggest to him that since we don’t have enough policemen that we don’t provide police service to those people as well. If we’re going to use these precedents, we shouldn’t just use them on blacks,” said Cooks.
Responded Sells, “One of the things that recreation has failed to do is help those kids on Meriwether Street.
“They’re cut off because of Highway 29,” Sells said. “They play in the street when they’re out of school. There’s no recreation on Meriwether Street, so I’d like to see this money used for a 2.5-acre piece of land that Coweta County owns that’s fairly level. It’s overgrown. I’m talking to Coweta County about turning it into a park and maybe put a basketball court over there, and most certainly a playground. That would be a much wiser investment for this money than putting in water lines and fire hydrants into Meriwether County for people who don’t want water taps.”
“For taxpayers who put this money up, its not beneficial,” said Sells. “I’d like to see any money that is spent on Meriwether Street on recreation.”
“I appreciate your direction and where you’re going with this,” said Cooks. “To be honest with you, I’ve been black a long time. One of the things they told us is that we don’t want to give you water but we’ll give you a basketball court.”
“I think you’re going in the wrong direction,” Cooks said. “That money does not come out of our SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds. That money is coming out of our general funds to do that work, so that money could not be used for recreation.”
Councilman Barham Lundy noted that the last council voted unanimously to extend the water lines into Meriwether County so the residents could have access to a fire hydrant.
“They had a fire on Meriwether Street about four or five years ago and the house burned because there was no hydrant. The last council approved and passed the water line. Our mayor opposed it because I have a business on that street,” Lundy said. “He thinks that by not extending the water line, he’s hurting me. But he’s not hurting me — he’s hurting the residents who need access to a fire hydrant. This is a quality of life issue.”
“If each one of these individuals on this council lived on that street, they would want access to a fire hydrant. But to go along with the mayor because of his dislike or hatred for me is crazy,” said Lundy.
“It was inappropriate that throughout the negotiations you never disclosed your restaurant,” began Sells.
“I didn’t have to,” interrupted Lundy.
“Mr. Lundy, when you speak, I allow you to finish. It is rude and downright disrespectful to interrupt when you don’t like what I’m saying. When I finish speaking, you will again have another turn,” Sells said.
“Yes, you have a business,” Sells said to Lundy. “It was disappointing, not illegal, that you never disclosed that you had the only business on that street. Let me tell you my real objection. The money belongs to city of Grantville.”
“You know, we’re getting to the real reason the incumbents are gone,” the mayor said. “The rudeness and disrespectful behavior of elected officials by one who used to sit next to me, the constant interruptions as is going on tonight.”
“The incumbents that are gone are the ones who voted to use Grantville city money to run fire hydrants into Meriwether County. That’s one of the reasons they are gone,” Sells said. ‘The one thing I’m trying to do is correct that. I have a different business method than the previous council and that fact that these two new members are here is a vote of confidence that we need to make some changes in Grantville.”
“My changes are not personal or bigoted,” said Sells. “They’re things that make this city a city that which is run for the benefit of all of its citizens. If I’m not doing it right, when the incumbents are on the board next year when I re-run, you’ll see citizens put them to the curve ball. The citizens are running this council. Twice as many citizens showed up to vote this time than they ever have. They have spoken and I am speaking for them,” said Sells.
“Yes, patron,” said Lundy.