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Snellville celebrates birthday, approves dam repair costs

Former city servants are seen at Snellville’s 90th birthday celebration. (Staff Photo: Carole Townsend)

Former city servants are seen at Snellville’s 90th birthday celebration. (Staff Photo: Carole Townsend)

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Snellville’s original handwritten city charter - 1923 (Staff Photo: Carole Townsend)

SNELLVILLE — The city of Snellville celebrated its 90th birthday Monday, welcoming many former councilmembers, a former city clerk and even a former mayor to the festivities. Mayor Kelly Kautz proclaimed Aug. 20, 2013, to be Snellville’s birthday, giving the proclamation to Tom Ewing of the city’s Historical Preservation Society.

A copy of the original charter naming Snellville an official city, and handwritten in 1923, was on display during Monday’s city council meeting. Wayne Odum, the longest-serving council member to ever serve in Snellville, presented the birthday cake that was served in honor of the event.

Veterans Memorial one step closer to construction

Mayor pro tem Tom Witts invited three Veterans Memorial committee members to speak at Monday’s council meeting, in an effort to update residents on the progress of the much-lauded memorial. Former mayor pro tem Barbara Bender, former councilman Chad Smith and Bob McCann, a West Point graduate and the project’s civil engineer, presented the concept, drawings and facts surrounding the memorial.

To date, 254 bricks and tiles have been sold to people who want to honor a veteran with a permanent spot on the memorial. Those sales total about $25,000. Corporate donations total another $15,000. Those interested in purchasing bricks or tiles have until Oct. 1 of this year to do so, to have those bricks or tiles in place at the dedication ceremony planned for Veterans Day 2013.

Councilman Mike Sabbagh asked Smith and McCann how long they expect the monument to be standing and when they expect required maintenance to begin. Smith answered that the only maintenance in the foreseeable future would be to the pump that will serve the water feature, which will probably require maintenance about twice a year. Witts added that another $40,000-$50,000 will be added to the Foundation’s coffers with the sale of available bricks and tiles. Sabbagh told Smith and McCann that he expects that no shortcuts will be taken in the effort to build the memorial with the $45,000 on hand now.

Witts remarked that the project would not be at the point it is now without Smith, McCann, Bender and many others donating their professional time, services and materials.

“We’re getting a world class memorial for $45,000,” Witts said.

Kautz asked several questions of the committee, including who would pay for the necessary electricity and water contractors will use during construction. Smith stated that, since the contractors and other professionals are donating their time and services to the project, asking them to then bring in their own generators might not be the right thing to do, although he would if that were necessary.

At this point during the questioning, councilman Bobby Howard said that he would gladly donate $500 to the Memorial Fund to cover those incidental costs.

Kautz asked what planners would do if they hit granite during excavation, and both Smith and McCann answered that that would probably not happen, as the site (near the Senior Center) is fill dirt. In a worst-case scenario, the site could be shifted or the design altered.

“I’ve been given a very vague agreement here, and I only got it two hours before the meeting started,” Kautz said.

Following a detailed question-and-answer period, council voted unanimously to approve the construction easements needed for the project.

Lower Johnson Lake Dam repair costs approved

Following a Monday settlement of litigation, council members voted to approve a city expense of $34,800 to repair the pipe at Lower Johnson Lake Dam. The Summit Chase Homeowners Association will pay $7,000 to install a new standpipe. Monday’s vote follows about two years of back-and-forth between Snellville and the Summit Chase HOA.

Kautz, who recused herself from most of the discussions about the repair as a resident of Summit Chase, gave accolades to councilman Mike Sabbagh, praising him for his efforts to bring the problem to resolution. Other council members saw the matter differently.

“Had the Homeowners Association taken the advice they were given (earlier), we’d now be looking at a full lake,” said councilman Dave Emanuel. “The city has done everything possible to move this repair along.”

Witts added that the city admonished the HOA to require the contractor responsible for the damage to make the necessary repairs, but for some reason they would not take that action. Emanuel also said that, through the city’s efforts and not the HOA’s, the cost of the repair went down from an original estimate of $95,000 to around $41,000.

The contractor, McEachern Dredging, will be absorbing much of the cost of repair, which, according to Witts, is what should have happened in the first place. Councilman Bobby Howard added, “The right thing to do is get the people who caused the problem to fix it.”

Sparks fly between mayor, volunteers

During Witts’ comments toward the close of Monday’s council meeting, he stated that he would like to see about $150,000 of the city’s SPLOST funds earmarked for Parks and Recreation be used to cut and gravel trails through Oak Road Park, a proposed passive park. Kautz said that, since the city’s Parks and Recreation Department found about $1.7 million in unused SPLOST funds, she would like to see the whole project completed, not just a fraction of it.

During the mayors’ comments portion of the meeting, Kautz remarked that it is obviously an election year, since candidates are talking about memorials, parks and other projects. That remark did not sit well with some volunteers.

Bender took an opportunity to address that comment, since she is one of the city’s active volunteers and has donated her time and services to planning for the Veterans Memorial.

“By your comments, you tear down the true public servant spirit. When you make your comments, you insult my integrity.”

Addressing Katuz’s statement that she has heard rumors that she is trying to shut down the city’s farmers market — and that she has heard that market volunteers spread rumors to that effect, Farmers Market Chair Gretchen Schulz took the floor.

“To suggest our volunteers go around telling vendors that the mayor is going to shut down the market is a real insult to our integrity,” Schulz said. “You have no idea what it takes to bring this market to this city for 18 weeks every year.”

As Schulz continued her answer to the mayor’s comments, Kautz left her seat and the dais to ask city attorney Tony Powell a question, a move that prompted a passionate response from Kurt Schulz, Gretchen’s husband who also volunteers for the Farmers Market.

“You are just rude. You are not a leader,” he stated.

Comments

DaveEmanuel 8 months ago

Anyone who wonders why there is such divisiveness on the Snellville City Council need only review the video from last night's meeting. Consider that the questions asked by Kelly Kautz and Mike Sabbagh were obvious attempts to discredit the Veterans Memorial and the people who are working so hard to make it a reality. For Kautz and Sabbagh, it would have been a political misstep to vote against the Memorial as such a vote would have been an insult to the people the Memorial is honoring. Consequently, they attempted to cloak what I can describe only as trite and stupid questions, as points of legitimate concern. As an example, after Memorial committee members Chad Smith and Bob McCann explained the Memorial will be built with brick and stone that matches those used on City Hall and the Senior Center, Sabbagh asked how long they expected the monument to be standing. The only two reasons I can think of to ask such a question is ignorance or a deliberate attempt to discredit the volunteers who have designed the monument (or both). The design of the monument has been public for almost a year, so Sabbagh certainly had time to research the durability of brick and stone, and raise any questions he may have had. Instead, he chose a public meeting to ask those questions in an apparent attempt to embarrass members of the Memorial Committee and members of Council who openly support them. Ironically, judging by the giggles from the audience, it appears that the only person Sabbagh embarrassed is himself. However, in so doing, he simply drove another wedge into an already divided Council.

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