TIFTON — At the June 1 Tifton city council meeting, Mayor Julie Smith and council members gave separate but united statements regarding the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests that have sprung up as a result.
Smith read a prepared statement, calling the events taking place around the country “challenging and upsetting.”
The statement said that, while criminal actions have shaken the country, she wanted to reassure Tifton residents.
“The leadership of this city, along with each and every member of the Tifton Police Department, are committed to working with the citizens, businesses, property owners and visitors to this community,” she said. “In this time, we hear and understand the tremendous pain and frustration Mr. Floyd’s death reveals.”
Smith said that Tifton Police Chief Steve Hyman, the TPD, and the council are ready to listen to concerns and constructive input about how to make the police department the best it can be.
“I hope each of you
will help each of us in preventing negativity from spreading,” Smith said. “As with the current COVID crisis that we are still living through, we will work to the best of our ability to provide you with information, address your concerns and be proactive in finding solutions to protect each and every one of you, regardless. Regardless of your address, your ethnicity, your race, your age or your circumstances.”
“This is real, y’all,” said Councilmember M. Jay Hall. “If you’ve got a heart and soul, you know it’s real. Whoever you pray to, pray for this country.”
Councilmember Johnny Terrell said that recent events have brought him back to the 1960s, when he was involved in the civil rights movement.
“I came up in the movement,” he said. “We were peaceful. We didn’t want to go burning down stores and throwing bricks. If you want to protest I’ll support you, but I’m not going to support you breaking into someone’s store. Tifton has always come together to solve these problems. That’s what we should do now.”
Council member Wes Ehlers said that change has to start locally.
“If we wait for Atlanta or D.C to fix the problem, we’ll be waiting forever,” he said.
Ehlers suggested a citizen’s review board, saying that it’s better to be proactive about addressing concerns rather than reactive. Smith said that it is important to listen to the citizens and understand their concerns.
City Manager Pete Pyrzenski said that a citizen’s review board may not be the best solution but agreed that having constructive discussions about what to do is important.
Police Chief Steve Hyman said the events in Minneapolis do not define the men and women of the Tifton Police Department.
“We’re going to be judged by what we do,” he said. “And we’re going to do it right.”
At a special called meeting following the workshop, the council voted to suspend alcohol licenses for 60 days for three convenience stores that were convicted of selling alcohol to underage minors.
SpeedGo, located at 1939 Whiddon Mill Road; Handy Stop, located at 207 W. 12th St.; and Pepi’s Food Mart, located at 921 W. 20th St. will not be able to sell alcohol for two months and will each have to pay the license reinstatement fee of $250 after that time to get the license reinstated.
The council discussed amending the city’s Land Development Code to establish design standards for both commercial and residential structures as well as to allow for conditional zoning and special use permits.
The design standards would allow new construction and additions in existing neighborhoods to align with the character of the neighborhood. While no particular materials or designs are prohibited, the goal is for new additions to seamlessly blend into the buildings that are already there. The conditional zoning and special permits allow for uses that may not be explicitly listed in the zoning list to go into areas so long as they adhere to certain requirements.
The council also reviewed the board appointment policy.
Smith suggested something be added stating that board members are expected to fulfill any training requirements necessary to fill the position. Any board training required is provided by and paid for by the city.
Smith also suggested that there should be some language added to remind board members that, while sitting on a board, they are representatives of the City of Tifton and should be cognizant of that while posting on social media. She also said that board members should be upholding city policies during their tenure on a board.
Pyrzenski informed the council that the Leroy Rogers Senior Center is planning on reopening June 15. There will not be any exercise classes scheduled and seniors are reminded they need to bring and wear personal protective equipment, such as face masks, while at the center.
The council listened to a yearly update from Dave Hetzel about Keep Tift Beautiful.
KTB sponsors activities that seek to clean up and beautify the community, such as Adopt-A-Mile, the community garden, old tire collection, littering and recycling education, live-Christmas tree disposal program Bring One for the Chipper and the Beauty Spot of the Month. The City of Tifton has committed $3,000 to support KTB and its programs.