Cooks, Lundy complain about delayed contracts
by W. Winston Skinner
In discussion that was at times heated — and at other times confusing — the Grantville City Council talked about delays in contracts for a proposed skate park and for water lines on Meriwether Street.
The issue centers around whether Mayor Jim Sells has the authority to delay a contract approved by the council. According to the analysis given by City Attorney Mark Mitchell, he does.
According to the city’s charter, the mayor is given oversight “to control the work of all offices and employees of the city,” Mitchell said at Monday’s council meeting. “He’s the executive head of the city and is responsible for certain day-to-day duties.”
Councilman Johnny Cooks was clear that he did not think the process should work that way. “If he wants to stop it, he should go to the council,” Cooks said. “I don’t think he has the authority to stop it.”
Mitchell said he also had some questions about the contract for the skate park, which has been the center of controversy in the south Coweta town. “I had asked for some additional information” to ensure the company meets state requirements requiring documentation for workers with regard to immigration status.
As of late Monday, Mitchell had not received that information.
Cooks made a motion to proceed with the skate park contract, and Councilman Barham Lundy seconded the motion. After considerable discussion, when the time for the vote came, Cooks said the motion was to authorize Sells to handle the matter. Lundy then said he had not seconded a motion, but proceeded to do so.
The motion passed with Lundy and Cooks voting against it.
Sells spoke out about his decision to delay implementation of the contract. “I am the one who stopped it, and I’ll tell you why. We don’t know what we’re doing. We have a lot of money to spend on recreation, and we’re going to spend it on recreation. We need to spend it wisely.”
Sells said he had talked with two professionals in the recreation field who told him a skate park is “way down the line” in terms of needs. He said experts are recommending “a multipurpose recreation field that will allow soccer, lacrosse, flag football” and other activities for both adults and children.
Sells said he visited recreation facilities, including Coweta County’s Hunter Complex on Highway 16, during the weekend.
Building the skate park is “ill advised at this time.”
Cooks again disagreed with the mayor. With regard to his concern about spending lots of money without adequate information, Cooks said, “I wish you had had the same opinion when you had the $200,000 splash park,” and told Sells, “I understand your ignorance.”
The skate park “is not something as complicated as the splash park,” Cooks said. “The $50,000 we need for the skate park is not nearly what you will need for the (multipurpose) facilities.”
Cooks noted Sells had been against a gymnasium in the past.
“All of a sudden you’ve changed your mind,” Cooks said. Sells said he had changed his mind because he had studied the issue.
Councilman Leonard Gomez said although he has “nothing against skateboard parks at all,” other needs should be met first. “A skateboard park right now is not the answer,” he stated.
Lundy said he did not believe the town will get the multi-purpose building and said he is for the skate park, favoring getting “what we can get.”
The council also discussed Sells’ delay of a contract approved earlier to place fire hydrants on Meriwether Street — in Meriwether County and just outside the city limits.
Cooks said the work should be done because of the future possibility of development and water sales.
If the town is not interested in such actions, “maybe we should sell our utility business to someone else,” he said.
Sells responded that — rather than deal with the issues at hand — Cooks has a tendency to “throw hand grenades on it.”
The council ultimately agreed to give Sells 90 days to revisit the issue with Meriwether County officials — to see if Meriwether will pay more or all the costs of the project.
Lundy voted against that plan, saying it was time to make a decision on the issue.
“Why don’t we end, this. Either we’re going to do it, or we don’t,” he said.