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Williamson City Council Meeting - April 7, 2022

WILLIAMSON - Most of the chairs are full tonight. The meeting was held in the church rather than in city hall because of the need for space.

Steve Fry spoke as a citizen and not as Mayor. He said that some things have been going on the week and the past couple of weeks, and he wants to let people know where he stands on it. He thanked people for being there. Your city government should work for you, and the builders and businesses should be our primary focus. We don't need to create division and should value your opinion when making our decisions. We need cooperation to keep our small town charms and values. He said that we don’t want to be Griffin, Peachtree City, etc. We are Williamson and have different values. He majored in urban planning and development and studied Peachtree City as it came to be. He then paid attention to whatever worked wherever he went. Williamson has a heritage. We are diverse but still have common desires. Bringing people together through events here is important to bring the community spirit together. But we are seeing another side of the city with people trying to conduct business in darkness and trying to cancel those who are working for the good of the city. The City Clerk has been a frequent recipient of open records requests. Some have attempted to get rid of those who don't agree them. Same tactics used on future residents and businesses to try to keep them from coming here. People are being told no instead of working to make things happen in compliance with our ordinances. We shouldn't use our ordinances as a weapon. Some people have showed opposition to arts opportunities and tried to stop people from using the library and park because they don't live in the city limits. Many worked to build this city that didn't live in the city limits, and they proudly call Williamson home. Some have tried to cause litigation against the city and tried to inflict their will over others. One of our citizens tried to get the City of Griffin to sue Williamson for breaking the 50 year agreement when the city had obtained permission for Griffin and was working with the Pike City Water and Sewer Authority to get good water pressure for future residents. Let’s not weaponize our ordinances-let’s use them for good. We’ve had an open records request concerning the dissemination of privileged city business. Not sure of what that term implies, but the only privilege he knows is serving the citizens of this community and trying to make this a place that he wants to live, work, and raise his kids. I think it’s time for the citizens to let the few who are attempting to force their desires on our community to know that you the citizens will determine what you want for your city on how it will look in the future. He extended the public comment since he had take up so much time.

A citizen stood and said thank you to Mayor Fry and said that well spoken. I’m with you 110% and appreciate you being our mayor. (There was applause after that comment.)

[Note from the Editor: Explanation is needed before this next comment. Pike County Time obtained open records information about this special called meeting after the meeting was held in which there was no quorum so the City Clerk submitted her resignation to the city. Here is the written timetable: City Clerk Karen Brentlinger sent out an email to members of the city council, the city attorney, and the Pike Journal Reporter (because it is the legal organ of the county and must be notified of special called meetings) on Thursday, March 31, 2022 at 3:09 p.m. It read, “Hi-there will be a special called meeting of the Williamson City Council next Monday, March 7 at 9:00a.m. regarding personnel. Please reply to “all” to submit your availability. Thank you- Karen” Clarification was made by City Attorney Rob Morton that the meeting was Monday, April 4 on Thursday afternoon. On Thursday, March 31, Council member Steven Levin replied that if it was on Monday, April 4 at 9 a.m., he could come but not stay long and Council member Steve Davis said that he had a doctor’s appointment and would not be available in person. On Friday, April 1, Council member Tom Brown replied that he had a previous commitment and could not come on Monday but asked about Tuesday around 6 p.m. From what was said at the meeting, it sounded like Council members Angela Martin didn’t receive this letter at all, Steven Levin replied but it only went back to the sender, and Carol Berry replied but it didn’t go to all either. Mayor Steve Fry sent out a letter of explanation on Sunday, April 3, 2022 at 10:53 p.m. that explained the reason for the called meeting and attached the official agenda to the email as well as items for Thursday’s regular meeting which was held last night. Mayor Fry explained that her husband will soon be retiring and that they need to obtain health insurance. The city clerk had received a job offer which would fulfill this need, but that she would stay with the city if she was moved from salary where she estimated that she was working for about $18.22 and hour to working hourly for $20 an hour. Steve clarified that he asked for the special called meeting and that meeting time must have been the best time for City Attorney Rob Morton to attend. He said that he would drive back from vacation to attend this meeting. On Monday, April 4, Stephen Fry, Stephen Levin and Carol Berry attended the meeting, but there was no quorum so no business was conducted. Later on the day of April 4, Karen put in her letter of resignation to the city. On Friday, April 5, Council member Tom Brown requested that the following items be added to the agenda: “Discussion of creating a multi city agreement with Concord and Molena. Discussion on naming a committee to search for a new city clerk. This may be an executive session item, I am not sure. A vote to confirm the current, or for a vote to select a new Mayor Pro Tem candidate, as required by the Charter. A discussion regarding disseminating privileged City Business to individuals that have not requested them, via an open records request. An executive session request to discuss potential legal issues.” Then on April 6, Tom sent an open records request as follows: “Any emails or other communications between the Mayor and you or others requesting a special called meeting for this past Monday. The Agenda that was created for that meeting. Any open records request from anyone as to whom could attend the meeting and who would not be there due to prior commitments. A copy of the minutes taken during and as a result of the meeting that The Mayor, Council person Berry and Council person Levin attended. The recording, of that meeting both by the Mayor's recording device and the Video in City Hall. Please include any conversations that was discussed by the quorum that was assembled even after the meeting was called. The email that the Mayor sent requesting a change of venue and subsequent communications to the Church requesting its use. All open record request from anyone in regards to Thursday meeting, all documents, emails or telephone records etc. If there are no documents, emails or recordings of the requested items above, please state "no documents or recordings exist". Please be very specific in your response.” I am aware that I am missing Angela Martin's email saying that she also had a prior engagement and could not attend. The city is working on getting me that information. And if I have missed anything that can be proven on paper, please email me at editor@pikecountytimes.com and I will be happy to look it over and even add a retraction if I have gotten something wrong. Now that readers have the context on what happened prior to the meeting, here is what was said in the town hall portion of the meeting.]

Council member Tom Brown said that the addition of the privileged comment came from him. He was out of town and received an email from the city stating that there was a special called meeting in reference to an employee. That was all he received. He said that there was no actual agenda given to him prior to the meeting and that an actual agenda is required because an agenda must be public. One of our citizens knew more about what was going on than any of the two or three council members who actually responded to the email that was sent about the agenda. He said that he and council members Martin and Davis replied. He said that the other two council members did not reply on the email to everyone. [Note from the Editor: There are some email issues that need to be addressed from the discussion in the meeting.] So we did not know whether there was going to be a meeting on Monday morning or not, and he said that the actual agenda with all of the information was made on Saturday. He said that he has invested his time in this city and saved this city $4 million dollars with AT&T and that never gets printed. He then went on to say that there is a clique in this city, but we’re not part of it. We didn’t get the information and didn’t have the benefit on knowing that there was an insurance issue until we asked. Until we got the agenda. He said that it sounds good to say that the newcomers are stirring up the city, but that he and probably other council members have a file folder full that shows division but it isn’t the Ashley Glen members have ever done or voted on for the benefit of their neighborhood. He said that he spent 5 hours working on a map of water meters because the city is losing 750,000 gallons of water a month. So he takes his time and he invests it. He said that the word “privilege” was only meant to say if you’re going to throw us under the bus, at least give us the same information as everyone else gets. He says that he can prove that he didn’t get it. If they will involve us into their city hall clique, these things wouldn't come up. He then said that if that bothers anyone, he is for reelection in 3 years and he’d be happy for someone to take his seat because it takes a lot more time and causes more headache than people see. He wants to be able to serve and is not looking to gain anything and if he sees something that is untrue, he’s gonna call people on it. He said that there is a reporter in this city who is writing opinion more than truth and if I wanted to sit down and talk about it, he’d be more than happy to sit down and talk. [Note from the Editor: Contrary to the way that Council member Brown made it sound in the meeting, he and I have talked by phone AT LENGTH in the past. We spoke about the Williamson Library prior to the publication of that series of articles which you can read here: http://www.pikecountytimes.com/secondary/BREAKINGNEWSwilliamsonlibrary1.20.22.html If he decides to call me again, we can talk just like we did before. With the exception of just a few people, I talk to everyone who calls and/or emails me.] He said that I wrote that the agenda information was in the email that Karen sent out but that it was not because it was not sent out until Saturday, April 2. He asked how do you get an agenda for Monday morning on Saturday? Council member Angela Martin said that she didn’t get the agenda at all. He said that a meeting in which three city council members said that they couldn’t make it, and it was held anyway. Click here to read about Open Meetings requirements in the State of Georgia.]

At this point, Mayor Fry gave more information to those sitting in the room. He said that Karen talked with him about this as is in the letter information above. He asked her to talk to County Attorney Rob Morton because his schedule would probably be the hardest to work around and get something set up. Rob said that he was available on Monday at 9 a.m. and the email went out the council. Steven Levin and Carol Berry took off from work to be there, the county attorney was there, and Steve drove down from north Georgia, but there wasn’t a quorum so they couldn’t call the meeting to order, and they left. Steve then said that there was an open records request for surveillance camera footage, recordings, phone calls, notes, etc. from this meeting that didn’t happen and thought this was an adversarial way to approach things—an open records request by a council member instead of asking. Councilman Brown worked on the water meter map, but if he had asked, the water people could have given him that map because it was already in existence. We don't appreciate being questioned on what they're doing all the time and said that main reason for Karen leaving is stress and people being after her job. Sorry we couldn't keep you, he said to Karen, but I completely understand.

Danny Martin said that he has fought the city since he moved in because he has low water pressure and that there is still some fluctuation. He also said that we (Ashley Glen) weren’t going to allow a subdivision inside of the subdivision unless they joined the HOA or built their own entrance. We've never asked for anything from this city. We aren't asking for anything special. We want the roads fixed and good water pressure just like everyone else. He doesn’t apologize for fighting for what is right though he has apologized for some of the things he has said lately when he didn’t see eye to eye with the Mayor. He thanked the city for the turnaround for emergency vehicles and buses. He spoke on behalf of Ashley Glen residents and at the end of the day, it's all about growth and we still want to be one big community. He said that he likes new businesses to come in so there are new places to shop and eat so they don’t have to go to Griffin. At the end of the day, we all want to be part of the community.

A woman then stood and said, Maybe we're not on the same page as what is community. We're a small town that is growing rapidly. We know what we don't want it to look like, but what is Williamson? What are we trying to hold onto? If we can understand that, maybe we can come together. We do live together, but we need to understand what it is that we are working at.

City Clerk Karen Brentlinger said that there is a comprehensive plan that tells what people from the community got together to say where we want to go. We're in the middle of the Comprehensive Plan that runs 10 years. It is a good starting point and something that anyone could be involved in. This is where we've been and this is where we want to go. People's voices need to be heard.

Mayor Steve Fry said that the plan is continually being updated, and planning decisions need to comply with this plan.

Carol Berry read the vision statement from the Comprehensive Plan. “Williamson is a small town with a big heart. Here, we try to stay true to our city motto, “Cherish our past, plan our future.” Indeed, the past and future meld in Williamson, with reminders of our long ago rural roots alongside newer offerings. We will preserve the small town community spirit while accepting and guiding the changes that time and growth will bring. We will pursue opportunities for growth with thoughtful planning and citizen input. We will maintain our roots as a rural Georgia railroad town while reaching toward the future with a modern, convenient and thriving homestyle community.” Click here to read it.

Randy Martin said that he has 4 rental houses and has heard that it's a RR town and want to maintain it, but ever since he has lived here he has heard that people want to get rid of the caboose. But people enjoy being in there every Friday. He heard that people were complaining about the expense of moving the library building in here. It’s obvious that a lot of people like to bellyache before they know the facts. He said that people need to start talking to their neighbors and start talking community affairs.

Deana lives outside of the city limits and wasn’t sure that she would even be welcome here at the meeting. (Mayor Fry and Council member Carol Berry reassured her that she was.) She moved here for what is here for no traffic light and the library and sweet hometown things. She doesn't want to see the growth like what Danny Martin spoke about earlier. She wants to keep our small town a small town.

A woman stood and told Karen that we will miss you. I wish whatever caused you to leave hadn't happened. I wish we could talk you into staying. (There was applause after she spoke.)



Steve Fry, Mayor
Stephen Levin, City Council Post 1
Angela Martin, City Council Post 2
Tom Brown, City Council Post 3
Carol Berry, City Council Post 4
Steve Davis, City Council Post 5

All council members are present along with Mayor Steve Fry, City Attorney Rob Morton, and City Clerk Karen Brentlinger. Council member Steve Davis is present by phone after surgery.


APPROVAL OF THE AGENDA (O.C.G A. § 50-14-1 (e) (1))

Approved 5-0.

• APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES (O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1(e) (2))
• Minutes from Meeting held 3 March, 2022
Motion to postpone until the next meeting 5-0. Karen sent February minutes instead of March.

Rob thanked Karen for getting that out early.


• City Clerk Report

Karen Brentlinger said that when first came there was a small dilapidated table. There was a donated table was reconfigured into a city council table. The varnish was cracked at the first meeting, and Doug Bennett helped her with the table. Hw wouldn’t do the work for her, but he showed her how. She worked on the table herself and learned as she went. This is a symbol of her time in Williamson. She tried to work and make it better. There were so many who helped her that she learned from. “I will miss you, and I can still volunteer with the city.”

• Council Member

Carol Berry. It's getting to where we can't meet at City Hall because it's too small. She wants to reopen the idea to work on city hall. We need an architectural drawing of what we can do for City Hall. The building was ok'ed to be on a SPLOST that did not pass. They want to recreate the old Williamson Train Depot. Tom Brown suggested having a workshop. Motion to have a workshop on how to get a new city hall. Approved 5-0. What about an hour before the next meeting? The Mayor won't be here. Looking for a date.

Steven Levin. Wisteria Festival was this past weekend. We had a wonderful talent show with talented people. It was really hard to choose a winner. Carol said that it was a great community event.

Steve Davis - Someone stole speed bumps on 2nd district. Put them in a red pick up truck and left. Have pictures. [Note from the Editor: I don't know who this was, but since there is picture evidence of your stupidity, you need to take those speed bumps and put them back at City Hall or just put them back where you got them from. If you called and apologized, they might not prosecute.]

• City Attorney Report

Rob Morton said thank you to Karen. It's been an interesting ride. She had no experience in government but has done a fantastic job. She has the best interest of the city at heart. There are growing pains. I appreciate you and your efforts. Also on the Board of Registration. I appreciate the changes that you made. Our records looked horrible when she came in. She and the Mayor found and organized records. Hopefully this will be the stepping stone for whoever comes next.

6 resolutions from the last meeting along with research for limiting weight, limit, and height on roads including Second District.

• Mayor’s Report

Karen has been important because we had no capability to take water bills, etc. online. She learned record retention. The city ordinances used to just be in a binder. It was impossible back then because records had not been maintained. Old computer with floppy discs that no one knew how to use it. We've come a long way. We are streamlining and revamping our record keeping abilities. She learned from other clerks and took classes too. She oversaw our elections in the city. Changed elections from 2 to 4 year terms to save the city money from bi-yearly elections. The county met with the cities and partnered with the cities for an elections board. She was our representative and served as the chairman. Summer reading program, Mystery Dinner Theater, over and over just getting things done for the city and working with others. We can't thank you enough for getting us from where we were to where we are now. Been here since 2014. Thank you.

Still working on water issues with the Water Superintendent. There is an issue with water pressure in the library so digging up lines to find the problem. [Note from the Editor: Pike County Times received notice today (April 8, 2022) that the water leak has been found! According to Scott Huckaby from the Pike County Water and Sewer Authority, the city has lost $24,032.03 over the past 10 months from this water leak.]

We approved our contracts in Jan or Feb for entire year. We decided to wait on the grass cutting because it doesn't start until late. Another landscaping applicant and an updated bid from the current vendor. This hasn't gone out to bid but have updated the proposal so it is going to be rebid. Tom Brown wants to hold a pre-bid meeting to walk and show them what you want done. Motion to set up a pre-bid meeting for someone (the Mayor) to show them what needs to be done. Approved 5-0. City Attorney Rob Morton said that a meeting is needed to approve the scope, but the City could rotate vendors if needed until a bid is accepted. Motion to allow the Mayor to do the scope and approved 5-0.

• County Matters

County is in the middle of the budget process. He reminded them that the SPLOST Renewal is May 24. He didn't say one way or the other but said to go vote.

• Library Report

We have been a little busy over there. 32 for Toddler Time. Brought in $94. 70 plus came through from Crosspointe for artwork show. Over 100 came through last Wednesday. Gordon College will have a big science exhibit after Toddler Time next Wednesday. She needs a fire truck for a future event. Deputy Anthony from the Sheriff's Office will be coming by at some point too. Summer Reading is coming up. She is going to have Toddler Time at the caboose. Sold many t-shirts and gave away books at the Wisteria Festival. Virtually out of books including those from Pike County Literacy. The Pike County Extension Office would like to do a program too. Milla said that the guy working on the water has torn up the parking lot.

Carol would like to see a Friends of the Library Committee to help make suggestions to the City Council and gather volunteers. Steven Levin gave a 2nd. This would be an Advisory Board to the Council for the Library - Clarification from Rob. Approved 5-0. Contact Carol Berry to be a part of this.

Motion to allow use of the caboose for Toddler Time. Approved 5-0.


• Update on Distilled Alcohol Sales in Williamson

Angela said that Crystal is working on a petition. She will check back by the next meeting.

• Bid Policy Development

Can do both on the same day. We are allowed to email and that does not constitute a meeting so we can prepare for a workshop. You cannot conduct business but can email a list of ideas, Rob said. Need to hit reply all.

• Wisteria Festival Review

$2,051.41 profit. The profit is not the thing, but there were SO many people who helped! Discussion to pay for services rendered. Walked through the individual numbers. The Wisteria Wagon was sold to us, but if the church needs to use it, they can use it. They need it for an event. Motion to make a Wisteria Festival Committee. This will include volunteers from the city and county to handle its needs. Approved 5-0.


• Discussion of creating a multi city agreement with Concord and Molena

Tom Brown said that exploration may be a better word. We have been paying for additional police services and in the process of changing how the city works with the clerk and in need of a maintenance guy. Tom Brown thinks that we should at least look into this because it could save everyone some money. Rob Morton said that this could be an intergovernmental agreement. Steven Levin said that he thought that Concord and Molena is not interested. Tom said that the Molena Police Department was interested. But if they are not interested, they are not interested. Steven said he was interested because there have been burglaries, and we need police presence. Discussion on that. Georgia Power was installing utilities, and a tamping trench machine was stolen. And the speed bumps. Carol nominated Tom to talk to the cities of Molena and Concord and see if this is something they are interested. Approved 5-0. Needs a letter.

• Discussion on naming a committee to search for a new city clerk

Tom said that he has seen the agenda and the letter of resignation so he assumes that we have to vote to accept that resignation. Made a motion to accept her resignation as tendered. Approved 5-0. Said that the council should advertise it and then appoint a committee to talk to applicants. Can we get our former clerk to do the duties that are listed? Can we hire Karen as a consultant? She is not sure about during the day because she is working 40 hours but perhaps during the weekends if she is needed. Minimum standards need to be there for the job description.

• A vote to confirm the current, or for a vote to select a new Mayor Pro Tem candidate

Tom Brown made motion to appoint Carol Berry as Mayor Pro-Tem. Approved 5-0.

• Discussion regarding disseminating privileged City Business to individuals that have not requested them via an open records request.

Discussion of improper/incorrect word. He said that it is frustrating for someone to come to you and tell you something that you haven't heard and you're a council member. Carol said that the emailing is a good idea. There might have been a different circumstance if that had been the case. It's not that we're hiding a thing from the public, I'd just like to have it myself first before it goes public. We definitely want all of the City Council to be in the loop. We need to all try to stay in the loop. That was a bad choice of words.

Carol thinks that we need another bid for a cleaning crew to come in once a week and clean city hall, the library, and the caboose. Mop the floors, dust the spider webs, and clean the bathrooms. Prepare a bid proposal and put it out for bid. Steven second. Approved 5-0.

Discussion that meters are needed in a couple of places. Motion to talk to Scott about putting meters where they are needed. Approved 5-0.

8:47 pm into Executive Session.

EXECUTIVE SESSION: O.C.G.A. § 50-14-3(6), Personnel; and § 50-14-2(1), Pending or Potential Litigation

• PUBLIC COMMENT: None Requested.


[Note from the Editor: I did not stay for the end of Executive Session, but no decision was made so they came out of Executive Session and adjourned.]