TIFTON -- During the Tifton City Council workshop meeting Monday, much time was devoted to the subject of the Historical Preservation Commission and recent problems.

"We've been blessed in this community to have had historic preservation laws since the 1980s," said City Attorney Greg Sowell. He said that the HPC has in many ways benefited to the Tifton community.

"Our tax base has increased; our quality of central housing has increased," he said.

However, the topic was featured at the meeting because of recent problems.

"There's been some tension," said Sowell.

In order to make structural changes to buildings or land in the Historic District, homeowners are required to get a Certificate of Appropriateness from the HPC. Charles Styer, chairman of the HPC, said that there are basically two problems. One of the problems is that people are often unaware that they need to obtain a certificate. Another problem is that often homeowners will get a certificate, but then do whatever they want, regardless of what actions had been approved by the HPC.

"Lately, there seems to be an increase in incidents," said Styer.

"A number of these people do things but they don't know," said the HPC chairman. "Education efforts by the city could be very useful."

Styer said that he has driven by sites and found construction taking place that had not been deemed appropriate. He said that once the construction has been started, it sometimes is too late to stop it.

"Very often, it's not possible to get it back the way it was," he said.

The city staff and the HPC gather information on Certificate of Appropriateness applications and then the HPC makes a decision based on "findings of fact." Unlike many lower commissions which are overseen by the city council, the HPC actually makes decisions, not just recommendations to the council. The city council can overturn a HPC decision, if the HPC is found to have "abused their discretion."

City Manager Charles Howell said that one of the difficulties of the process is determining what is a "finding of fact" and what is a subjective opinion.

"There's certainly no reluctance on the staff's part to work with HPC," said Howell.

"We would like to prevent violations in the future," said Styer, who also said that the HPC is a board that gives approval, but has nothing to do with enforcement of historic preservation laws.

"Once we issue a certificate of appropriateness, our job is done," he said.

Some of the councilmen felt there was a need to change some of the approval process, increase communication between the groups or improve the monitoring of Historic District sites.

"As elected officials, we don't need surprises," said Councilman Dave Hetzel. "We don't have a clue as to what's going on until it makes the newspaper."

Mayor Paul Johnson suggested that the city staff meet with the whole HPC and discuss the problems and possible solutions.

"We want it to be a positive thing, rather than a burden," said Johnson.

Other issues discussed by the Tifton City Council during the November workshop session included:

- The council discussed a 20-page report regarding Mediacom's rate filings and potential changes to the rate charged to customers.

- Several lower board members' terms will soon expire. Tom Call, Danny Bailey, Bill Park, Tommy Hasty and Guy McAllister all wish to be reappointed the CityNET board. Meanwhile, Robert Thompson does not wish to be reappointed to the planning and zoning board.

- Police Chief Jim Smith discussed with the board the potential for changes in truck routes through the city.

- An alcoholic beverage license renewal application for Beverage Shop and Carwash received a recommendation of tabling instead of passage. The reason was that the owner has several times been arrested for alcohol-related violations.

- The city reviewed bids for a backhoe for the Water Department, $35,890 from Central Georgia Equipment, $38,393 from Yancey Brothers, and $40,939 from Reliable Tractor.

- The city reviewed a bid for handheld meter reading devices, $13,805 from Northrop Grumman Information Technology.

- The city reviewed bids for a roll-off container truck, $14,111 from Carl Gregory, $14,699.25 from Jeff Fender, $14,990 from Prince Truck Center and $15,900 from Griffin Ford.

- The city reviewed bids for a service truck for the landfill, $21,997 from Carl Gregory, $24,877.28 from Jeff Fender and $26,500 from Prince Truck Center.

- The city reviewed bids for a pick-up, $14,111 from Carl Gregory, $14,699.25 from Jeff Fender, $14,990 from Prince Truck Center and $15,900 from Griffin Ford.

- The city reviewed Herring CPA Group's bid to provide the city with auditing services.

- The city reviewed 68 alcoholic beverage license applications that are recommended for approval and five applications which require changes, but are still recommended for approval.

- The city reviewed a resolution certifying the election results from Nov. 2 regarding the liquor referendum.

- The city reviewed several rezoning requests.

To contact reporter Dusty Vassey, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

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