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Soccer park plans revamped; new city judges named

 

Jason Browne

 

The Columbus City Council never heard from city engineer Kevin Stafford Tuesday night, as was scheduled, because there wasn''t much to report about the proposed soccer complex at Burns Bottom. 

 

Stafford intended to give the council a progress report after bids closed Monday morning. However, the lowest bid came in at $4.6 million from Ellis Construction, $1.7 million over the original budget. 

 

Stafford said after the meeting that the $2.9 million budget was an estimate reached early in the planning before the project grew into the sprawling community park presented to the public. An additional list of amenities was not included in the base bid and will be added as funds become available. 

 

The plan going forward involves asking the city and county to take on a greater share of in-kind services, such as demolition at the park site, and eventually rebidding the project to specialized contractors, rather than one general contractor. 

 

The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors will have the final word on how to proceed. 

 

The council brought quick closure to the lingering city judge vacancy Tuesday night, voting 5-0 with one abstention, from Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem, to install attorneys Nicole Clinkscales and Mark Amos to replace the late Curtis Austin. 

 

The city decided in October to split the city judge position in two, as it has been in years past, and pay both $22,765 with retirement benefits for no more than 29 hours of work each week. 

 

Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin asked if Clinkscales'' appointment violated nepotism laws because of her relationship to a court employee. Columbus Drug Court Coordinator Angie Verdell is Clinkscales'' sister. 

 

Mayor Robert Smith said Verdell offered to resign if Clinkscales was named to the judge''s seat. 

 

The vote was unanimous when the council decided to appoint City Attorney Jeff Turnage and Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor to a committee to meet with representatives from the county and Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau to discuss a 1986 city ordinance, which created the CVB. 

 

Turnage skipped his intended explanation of the bill and asked the council''s pleasure as far as addressing the outdated ordinance, which has raised questions in recent days regarding the split in authority over the CVB between the city and the county. 

 

Gavin asked whether City Administrator David Armstrong ought to be added to the committee since the county appointed its board attorney and county administrator, but the council chose to stick with Taylor. Turnage said the county might be tempted to add another member if the city appointed three members. 

 

Gavin also presented the council with a series of maps outlining potential entertainment districts. The proposed districts must be approved by the state tax commission and the secretary of state''s office, but any businesses selling tickets in those areas would receive five years worth of tax cuts. The businesses need only sell tickets with $2 from each ticket paid back to the tax commission. 

 

"This will cost the city zero dollars. All we have to do is follow the ordinance," said Gavin. 

 

The council voted unanimously to submit downtown, including a portion of The Island and a portion of Seventh Avenue North for entertainment district status. 

 

 

 

In other business the board:

     

     

  • Joined Police Chief Joseph St. John in honoring Barry Hines with the Chief''s Coin for outstanding volunteer work. 

     

  • Appointed architect Joey Henderson to the Board of Adjustments and Appeals. Henderson''s appointment fills the six-member board. 

     

  • Voted to name an occupied alley off of 12th Street South for the purpose of fire and police response. The alley was named Short 12th Street. 

     

  • Authorized City Planner Patricia Southerland to pursue a National Clean Diesel grant through the Environmental Protection Agency. If secured, the grant would pay to convert engines on trucks and heavy equipment to run off of natural gas, propane or biodiesel. Southerland says the switch will save the city fuel costs. 

     

  • Voted to abandon the right of way at 13th Street South and 10th Avenue South. The 15-foot stretch of road was never platted but will be added to the tax rolls.

 

 

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