This is more or less a live blog of the ACC Commission meeting on Sept. 2.
7:18pm Deborah Stanley is speaking against Paul Cramer's saying that the new expanded Classic Center will host circuses. She's talking about horrors which circus animals endure just for people's entertainment. She wants the county to ban animal circuses entirely. There are other towns and places and even countries who have banned animal circuses. "Please do not sure my tax dollars to fund animal abuse."
7:21pm Wendy Moore is speaking about the having arena space for circuses at the Classic Center. Coles Brothers was run out of town ten years ago. Animal circuses don't align with the value of many in the community, she says. Ringling Brothers paid a huge fine in November 2011. She wants a countywide ban on the display of exotic animals. They're already banned in Chapel Hill. If having circuses is the only way to make it a go....then it's a no go. It shouldn't depend on animal circuses....we can all go see ice hockey.
7:23pm Jennifer McColley is speaking to the Commission for the first time. She's a science educator. Has a decade of animal experience handling animals. It's disappointing to know they may come to Athens. African and Asian elephants are chained in their own waste and have bizarre foot disease. So they inflict injury on elephants behind their ears where people can't see it. She wants to see events with performers who are there voluntarily.
7:26pm Barry Irwin practices law in Athens. Seems a little soon to be expanding the Classic Center again, he says. Animals travel from place to place and are locked up en route, especially elephants. He's reading a brochure about "circus madness" after being locked up and caused to go crazy.
7:30 Paul Cramer says the animal circus isn't part of the financial package for the expansion of the Classic Center. No animal cruelty for them, no way, no sir. But expanding now will diversify what the Center can bring it so the Center can continue having a big economic impact.
And now, talk shifts to behind the rail.
7:31pm Doug Lowry is talking to Allan Reddish about reallocating money from the airport terminal project to the Orkin project (which is Caterpillar). There's $142,000 that can be returned to the airport terminal project. Reddish says there's enough money to rebuild the airport terminal. So now the commission is voting to reallocate the money.
7:40pm We now move to Community Gardens. Kathy Hoard says the issue was vetted thoroughly after the last session. She's heard only positive feedback on the proposal. They did a lot of work on the project, Kathy and the other commissioners. She wants to move it to the Planning Commission. Jerry NeSmith says the ordinance is better than other ordinances they studied. Why are they doing this now? Because in some places community gardens aren't allowed in some areas. He wants a positive effect on the community. Now it passes to the Planning Commission.
7:42pm A proposal about historic district designation. The new rules will get information out fast and thoroughly to neighborhoods considering it. Kathy Hoard says the matter will go to the Historic Preservation Commission for their consideration and will come back to the Commission at the end of the year. These things take time.
7:44pm Now are considering expanded parking and purchase of arena style equipment for the Classic Center. (To see the proposal, click here.) Kathy Hoard is part of, and gives money to, domestic animal groups, nationally and locally. She is now aware of how circus animals are treated. And she is very concerned. Paul Cramer doesn't want to bring any activity to the Center than is injurious to anyone, person or animal. Kathy says she has worked with the Classic Center board for 11 years. They have honored every commitment they've made to the community, and she believes they will do that with this project, too. Their past performance has been stellar and she expects this one to be as well. The business plan has been vetted by a number of financial entities. She is downtown a lot, and she sees people doing things at the Classic Center regularly. The Center is an economic generator. What the Center is proposing will bring an even more diverse clientele to the community to enjoy events at the Classic Center. She wants the Commission to approve the conceptual plan for parking and expansion and to approve $5.4 million in debt.
7:52pm Kelly Girtz says we would be crazy not to look at the huge Grand Hall for other events. He's glad the calculations don't include animal circuses. There may be a shuttle service for downtown, a circulator system downtown. "What I would like to see is that we get more than the sum of our parts." He would like the funds coupled to benefit everyone downtown.
7:54pm Doug Lowry thanked Kathy for her motion. Doug Lowry is an animal rights person. I may have a hard exterior but i am really soft inside, he says. He says he's opposed to animal circuses. When he finishes, Mayor Denson says, "Thank you, Mr. Cream puff." and Doug says, "At least you remembered my name."
7:57pm Allison Wright says she's done a lot of homework. Part of what concerns her is the wording of arena style equipment--$1 million plus for a specific sport. She wonders about the equipment and says the $1 million maybe should be the responsibility of the sports team itself.
8pm Ice skating will mean there would be skating during the months that are slow for the Classic Center, Nancy Denson says. It will broaden use of the Center to the whole community. If the Center doesn't make their estimated income, the local government would have to pick up the tab.
8:02pm Jerry NeSmith has a problem...still not convinced the level of risk is proportionate....it depends on volunteers. That is iffy. Going to require a lot of sponsors for signs and stuff. He's not convinced, that seems iffy. If we don't have ice hockey, can we survive that in a year? What if they decide there's a better audience in Atlanta? We have to pay the bill if it doesn't work. I can't support it.
8:04pm Doug Lowry asks for Paul Cramer to come to the podium. Doug wants to know if it can survive without hockey. Paul says yes, there are other activities. What ice hockey does for us, he says, it gives us guaranteed income for the first year or two. Sporting events...may take a year or so. Ice hockey gives us money from the get-go. There would be open skating...another community did this and earned $134,000. Have the income coming in while they build the program.
Potential ice shows? Disney on Ice, Sesame Street on ice, Cirque du Soleil on ice and other shows. The ice proposal isn't totally dependent on hockey. And now it's all ha-ha about whether the Classic City Rollergirls might be on the ice. And Paul Cramer sits down.
8:11pm Jared Bailey says he can't support the proposal. He doesn't want the Classic Center in the transportation business. He doesn't share the optimism of the Classic Center to buy this equipment. Buying ice sports equipment he can't support it.
8:12pm Everyone votes yes but Jared Bailey, Allison Wright and Jerry NeSmith. It passes six to three.
8:13pm Mike Hamby talks about the concerns of the ADDA. Bill Berryman says the boot will be put on when fines get to $200. If someone wants a hearing, the owner of the vehicle can go to municipal court and say why they are challenging the tickets or the boot. If the person is found liable, they would have to pay the fines. And they can get on a payment plan if they can't pay in full. What's important to know that during the amnesty period, no one can get away. The ticket's haven't gone away. (Fines double after 30 days, according to local ordinance.) Mike makes a motion to approve the ordinance and the resolution.
8:24pm Doug Lowry is talking about tickets given by the ACC Police officers vs. ones by the ADDA. The police are getting new tickets as well.
8:29pm Sydney Bacchus is now addressing the Commission. She had trouble getting documents and she is worried about pathogens coming from the ACC Landfill because these are airborne.
8:34pm Doug Lowry said Caterpillar will hire 50 welders by the end of the year. They open and close the job openings about once a week. You have to reapply every time Caterpillar opens a job. Athens Tech has a new engineering program that addresses an issue....they needed engineers experienced in automation and robotics. Athens Tech got a grant and will train automation engineers. Airport had a perfect record with the FAA.
8:30pm Kelly wants the Planning Commission to look at development issues.
8:39pm Street lights on Pauldoe were taken down for construction. Can we please replace the street light and the street sign?
8:40pm Allison Wright is on the Keep Athens Beautiful commission. She is plugging the Water Festival. And Dirty Dancing at Little Kings to raise money for beautification. She wants better attendance to those events.
8:41pm Jared Bailey says we have an amazing staff here. Thanks to David Clark and his staff to help people in Jared's district. Jerry has been working with David on streets abandoned by developers. He wants people in Laurel Springs to get their petitions in.
8:43pm Kathy Hoard is thanking the public utility staff. They worked at night and on the weekend to deal with a problem on private land. Kathy Hoard is thanking Pete McCommons and Blake Aued of Flagpole for naming her one of the most powerful influencers for one week in Athens, second only to Patterson Hood. I take seriously the work we do but not myself.