City of Thomaston Mayor Hays Arnold and City Manager Patrick Comiskey received heated comments from a local citizen at last week’s City Council meeting when Terrell Brooks stated he did not feel either gentleman had done anything for the community during their tenure.
“For the people of Thomaston, black and white, you have not done anything,” said Brooks. “You can get mad, but that is the way I feel and I feel it is time for a change.”
Brooks went on to ask for the resignation of both Mayor Arnold and Mr. Comiskey before adding that James Harris was going to run for mayor in the upcoming election. Mr. Harris was also present at the meeting and raised his hand and stated he intended to run. Mayor Arnold announced last year that he would not seek re-election at the end of this term; qualifying for those intending to run for the position will be in August.
Also during the public comment portion of the meeting, Rhondalynn Traylor asked council several questions, with the first being for an update on Thomaston Police Officer Phillip Tobin. Both Arnold and Comiskey stated they did not have any information to share and City Attorney Joel Bentley stated he did not either as he is not the attorney assigned to the case. Traylor then asked when the terms for the mayor and the two council seats up for grabs end this year and Mayor Arnold stated the terms end on December 31. Traylor, who is part of the Thomaston Improvement Association, made the comment that the group will be working to have someone run for the council seats and for the position of mayor. She also asked for an update on candidates the city is considering for the position of Chief of Police for the Thomaston Police Department, however Bentley stated that was a personnel matter and the city would have no comment.
Prior to the public comments, Bentley had reminded the crowd of the rules of that section of the meeting. He stated the Mayor has the authority to keep the peace and has the right to ask the police to remove anyone who continue to disrupt the meeting. Another point he made was that each individual who signs up for public comment gets five minutes to speak, however no one may sign up and choose to give their allotted time to another individual. He also added that as a general rule, questions will be taken under advisement, but the council is not required to respond during the meeting. In reference to the rules, Traylor asked if it would be possible to have set bi-monthly meetings for citizens to meet with their district representatives and the police chief to discuss matters more in-depth than is allowed during the council meetings.
“When we come to the meetings, of course we only have five minutes, but sometimes issues are more pressing than coming in here for five minutes and not getting any answers,” said Traylor. “Is there any way we can have district meetings? That way when we get in here, it doesn’t seem so improper when you are trying to ask a question that you can’t get an answer to because you only have a certain amount of time.”
Bentley stated the City of Thomaston has a “city manager run” form of municipal government, which means City Manager Patrick Comiskey is the Chief Executive Officer for the city. He added that the mayor and council make the policy decisions and then the manager puts them into place, therefore Comiskey would be the person to discuss having meetings with the police chief. Bentley also added that citizens would have to address their district council member about meeting with them. Mayor Pro Tem Doug Head added that any citizen could call any councilmember at any time to say they would like to come speak with them about any city issue.
The final question brought up by Traylor dealt with the options for youth activities in the community.
“I know that we have to live with the $800,000 decision for the park,” she said, referencing the recent unanimous vote for the Lake Thomaston Park project, “but we also have to have something equal for our youth development. We have not done anything, as far as the city or the county when it comes to youth development.”
She suggested something such as a bowling alley or a skating rink that have been in the community before. Bentley stated the Recreation Department is a joint project between the city and county and to keep an eye out for when they meet to discuss the budget. He continued, stating the meeting between the two entities would be a public meeting and that would be the time to come and state that citizens would like to see more money being budgeted for recreation.
Kelsey Rockemore had also signed up to speak during public comment; however he was not present at the meeting.
In other business, the council approved several items for improvements around town; with the first of those being the Glendale sewer line project. The council passed a motion which authorized the city manager to spend up to $38,000 to complete the project. Comiskey told the council he is hoping to have the work done before school starts. Next, the council approved spending up to $52,000 with Meeks Grading and up to $73,000 with Double A Concrete for the prep work being done at Weaver Park and the Park Street Playground for new playground equipment.
Third, the council approved spending up to $85,000 to relocate the water line for Interfor, located on Highway 36. The line is being moved to accommodate the turn lane project at the intersection of Highway 36 and Ben Hill Road that the Industrial Development Authority is working on to address safety issues with the increased truck traffic.
A budget revision was also approved to accept the FEMA and GEMA grants which will be used for the purchasing of three generators: one for the Town Branch sewer plant, one for the water treatment plant on North Center Street and one that will be a mobile unit. City Manager Comiskey stated the council accounted for the 15 percent match they would have to put in for the grants when working on this year’s budget. Mayor Arnold stated the city will be paying roughly $100,000 for a total investment of approximately $562,160 and noted that was a good return on an investment.
Finally, Council member Patsy Perdue brought up the topic of the online article by Roadsnacks.com which designated Thomaston as the third worst community in Georgia. Perdue stated she was so upset by the article that she wanted to write something disputing the information in it, but added that she did not have to thanks to the wonderful column written by The Thomaston Times Editor Larry Stanford. Perdue encouraged anyone who had not read the column to check it out. The column can be found online on The Times’ website and Facebook page, or in the July 17th issue of The Times.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1