Fort Oglethorpe Council Meeting Comes To Abrupt End

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - by Mike O'Neal

Mayor Lynn Long on Monday night called for a motion to adjourn the regularly scheduled Fort Oglethorpe city council meeting without addressing all items advertised on the meeting agenda.

After approving several annexation and zoning issues, the council listened as Superintendent of elections Orma Luckey announced that a special election regarding the Sunday sale of alcoholic beverages will coincide with the general election in November. 

Council members approved spending money for essential services: $5,000 to install a new air conditioning unit at the fire hall, $5,700 to procure chemicals for the anti-mosquito spraying program and $6,700 for ongoing sewer construction professional services being provided by Arcadis.

The council also decided to renege on spending budgeted funds to promote tourism, began the process of forming a group — one independent of a state Senate sanctioned committee — to review the city’s charter and gave Police Chief Jeff Holcomb the go-ahead to update and revise his department’s policy and procedure manual.

City officials for more than a year have talked about the need to capitalize on an expected influx of tourists associated with the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Chickamauga that was fought in mid-September 1863. 

In years past Mr. Long has said, “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot if we miss that,” when speaking about capitalizing on a once-in-a-generation event and supported efforts to add signage on Interstate 75 that would direct travelers through Fort Oglethorpe on their way the battlefield and re-enactment activities.

“We’re missing the boat if we don’t change something that you would make you want to drive through (Fort Oglethorpe) to get to the battlefield,” the mayor had said publicly in the past.

Councilman Louis Hamm represented the city when Tourism Association was a city appointed committee. When the committee gained non-profit status and became an association — with membership open to anyone — Harold Silcox, now interim city manager, and his wife, Pat, became association members as did Mayor Long and his wife, Linda.

Mr. Long was a Fort Oglethorpe Tourism Association member when that group asked for the city’s support in promotional efforts, something that resulted in the 2013 municipal budget appropriating funds to lease billboard space along I-75.

It was Mayor Long who cast the tie-breaking vote to deny spending $4,500 toward the $7,000 cost (Georgia Winery would pay the balance) for a six-month billboard rental at exit 350 aimed at directing I-75 traffic to exit at Battlefield Parkway to reach 150th commemoration events.

Following his presiding over the council’s addressing new and old business, calling for comments from the council members and a city manager’s report, the mayor recognized Paula Stinnett during the “citizens’ petitions and request” portion of the night’s agenda.

Ms. Stinnett has been actively engaged in efforts to recall the mayor and several council members following the forced ouster of City Manager Ron Goulart and the immediate firings, by Interim Manager Silcox, of Police Chief David Eubanks and Public Works Director Jeff Long.

Both Mr. Eubanks and Mr. (Jeff) Long have appealed their firings and are scheduled to appear at a hearing — before a tribunal composed of the council members and presided over by Mayor Long — tonight, May 14.

Reading from a prepared address, Ms. Stinnett called on the council and mayor to overcome their sense of hubris, do the right thing and either resign or reverse those decisions that have incited the public.

After speaking for her allotted five minutes and resuming her seat,  Ms. Stinnett was applauded by several in the audience. 

At that point Mayor Long sounded his gavel to restore order and without advancing to the agenda item “executive session: litigation, real estate and personnel” called for a motion to adjourn.

During the tumult, no one heard if a motion to adjourn was made, no one heard a second and there was certainly no vote to adjourn — the city attorney, Robert Stultz, was trying to interject that there was still business to attend to — yet the mayor terminated the meeting.

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