ALBANY, Ga. — Following a brief executive session at which members sought legal advice from the assistant city attorney, the Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission voted Monday at a special called meeting to begin eviction proceedings against the owners of a restaurant/bar located at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.
Noting that Trudy and Ricky Cross had allowed their insurance on the Cross Landing Eatery & Bar to lapse at midnight Sunday, the Aviation Commission said it had cause to begin eviction proceedings against the Crosses, who had sought to have their lease terminated because of what they said were ongoing problems at the city-owned facility.
"The only thing we've tried to do from the beginning of this is get the mold removed from the restaurant," Trudy Cross said while the commission met in executive session. "This problem has persisted since we first noticed a roof leak in the building in May of this year, but the city has not remediated the mold problem.
"We want to stay here; we were doing sufficient business to remain open. But not to the extent that we're willing to risk our health. Both of us have been exposed to that mold for months, and we have an independent report that shows that of the five most toxic molds, four are in that restaurant."
Assistant City Attorney Chimere Chisolm said the city had reached what it thought was "a happy medium" by replacing ceiling tiles in the restaurant.
"We talked with your attorney, and he said (when the tile was replaced) the matter was complete and he no longer represented you," Chisolm said.
Albany attorney Chevene King arrived at the airport Monday a short while after the commission adjourned its executive session and later said he does represent the Crosses in the matter.
Aviation Commissioner Frank Middleton initially made a motion to allow the Crosses to terminate their lease with the city, and it was seconded. But before a vote was taken, Commissioner Bob Langstaff, who is an attorney, said the board needed to discuss the matter with the assistant city attorney before taking a vote.
"This may seem like semantics, but there is a difference in accepting termination (from the Crosses) and moving forward with eviction of the tenants because of default on their contract," Langstaff said. "It makes a difference in what future action may be taken."
The Crosses showed copies of papers signed by health department inspector Lincoln Mitchell that on Aug. 14 indicated the restaurant should remain shut down until mold was remediated but nine days later said it was OK to re-open the facility.
A report signed by John D. Shane with Pro-Lab, which the Crosses said was the product of a city-ordered inspection, listed four types of mold reportedly found in the restaurant: chaetomium mold, ascospores, penicillium/aspergillus and acremonium mold.
"We wanted the mold remediated, and now they're trying to terminate us," Ricky Cross said. "They're saying we don't have insurance, but we had insurance up until midnight last night. And we didn't open for business today because we didn't renew our insurance. Who's going to renew insurance on a building they intend to leave?
"I also think it's funny that we've been trying and trying to meet with them about this to get it settled, but they couldn't find time to meet with us until today, when they knew our insurnce would expire."
Trudy Cross said monthly 2012 sales at the restaurant, which the Crosses have operated for the past three years, ranged from $1,073 in June to $1,469 in March before roof leaks and mold problems forced her and her husband to close the establishment for days at a time for inspections and unhealthy conditions.
Chisolm said she expects the city attorney's office to begin eviction proceedings today.
"Georgia law requires that a process be initiated before a tenant can be evicted," she said. "I hope to start those proceedings tomorrow (Tuesday)."