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City tables curfew vote, OKs redistricting plan

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany City Commission approved Tuesday night the second reading of a redistricting plan that now goes to the U.S. Attorney General's office for preclearance, as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

If approved by the federal agency, the plan would be effective beginning with 2013 elections for seats on the commission.

The action taken by the board was part of a busy night in which its members approved a joint resolution with the Dougherty County Commission stressing the severity of the adverse impact sequestration would have on Southwest Georgia; OK'd resolutions allowing staff to proceed with development of a stormwater utility plan, authorizing the usage of Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax VI funds for alley paving and the purchase of two pumper trucks for the Albany Fire Department, and establishing a 120-day moratorium on occupancy tax certificate applications of any personal care home in the city.

City Attorney Nathan Davis told the board, "We've requested the moratorium so that we can look at the (business license) application process in more detail."

The commission also approved a resolution exempting the Oct. 12-14 Georgia Throwdown at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds from noise ordinance requirements, approved changes to the employee group health plan that would require spouses of current employees who work for companies that have insurance plans to pay a $100 (per pay period) surcharge (as opposed to $30) and disallow such spouses of future hires from being a part of the plan, and gave final acceptance to an FAA grant for the third phase of a terminal improvement project at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.

The board voted unanimously to deny a rezoning application sought by Gold Properties & Investments so that Roderick Gray might open a grocery store in a residential neighborhood at 507 Cedar Ave. Elderly residents had complained about men "hanging around the store and talking vulgar" under previous ownership.

"These folks are going by what happened in the past," Gray said. "I'm not a drug dealer, I'm a businessman trying to run a legitimate business."

Commissioners also voted to approve alcohol license applications for Better Brands of South Georgia (transfer), Bowl-a-Rama, 60/40 Bar & Grill, Davis Neighborhood Grocery and one-day licenses for March of Dimes and Albany Advocacy Resource Center fundraisers.

The Commission voted to table an amended curfew ordinance that would go into effect at 6 p.m. during special downtown events, but voted to approve $150,000 from the current fiscal year and an estimated $125,000 next year to conduct a multimodal transit site study.

"By following FTA (Federal Transit Authority) requirements, $4 million in federal funds will be available to the city," Assistant City Manager Wes Smith said.