ALBANY — Bishop Frederick Williams with the community Stop the Violence group chastised Albany City Commissioner Tommie Postell’s recent criticism of the Albany Police Department during an appearance before the commission at its business meeting Tuesday night, sparking counterarguments from Postell and Ward II Commissioner Bobby Coleman.
Williams called the Ward VI commissioner’s comments, which included his remark that members of the police department “don’t give a damn,” “offensive.”
“That wasn’t a good move; it divided us rather than uniting us,” Williams said of Postell’s comments. “Mr. Postell’s comments were offensive to Stop the Violence, and we don’t believe such negative comments should be made by our elected officials.
“It’s comments like these that make us think our best interest is not being represented. And we’re the ones out there (trying to unite the community to combat violent acts).”
Coleman defended Postell’s remarks, saying, “The average tenure of our officers is now three years. You have a rookie police force, and that’s a problem.”
Postell, meanwhile, stood by his remarks.
“What I said was true, and I’m not going to change for anybody,” he said.
Mayor Dorothy Hubbard changed the focus of the back-and-forth by pointing out a more positive aspect of APD’s enforcement record.
“We are facing our issues (with the police department) head-on,” she said. “We know that crime is down in the community, but to continue that trend we are all going to have to get on the same page. I think we’re beginning to look at and work on our issues.”
That exchange kicked off a lengthy meeting, during which commissioners OK’d the renaming of a portion of West Oakridge Drive to Mars Chocolate Boulevard to commemorate the snack maker’s 50th year in the city, approved the installation of a Korean War monument in Veterans Park on Veterans Day, and signed off on a $25,000 Community Development Block Grant award to the Sowega Council on Aging to offset the cost of transporting and providing meals to senior citizens who had previously attended the city’s now closed senior center in east Albany.
Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard and Hubbard expressed concern at the close of the meeting over rumors suggesting the Council on Aging planned to start discontinuing service on Fridays soon. The organization’s grant proposal specified services provided “Mondays through Fridays.”
Council on Aging Development Director Izzie Sadler said Wednesday there are no plans to close the recently opened Senior Events Center on Fridays or to cut back on programs provided by the council.
“That hasn’t been discussed,” Sadler said.
After discussing in a pre-briefing the process by which citizens apply to serve on various volunteer boards and commissions under the city’s jurisdiction, commissioners acknowledged that while deadlines are part of the application process, those deadlines are rarely adhered to.
“There was a procedure (including adherence to deadlines) that was implemented, but because of politics it has not been followed for about the last 15 years,” Howard, the longest-serving commissioner, said.
Ward III Commissioner B.J. Fletcher had questioned the process in reference to former Dougherty County Commissioner Gloria Gaines’ application to claim a seat on the Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission, which was turned in well after the deadline for application had passed and the Aviation Commission had voted to retain members Dr. Bill Mayher and Dr. Charles Gillespie.
Coleman challenged the commission to “fix” the problem.
“If there’s a deadline, we should adhere to that deadline,” he said. “If we’re not going to, we should remove it. This is simple: There’s a problem; we are the solution.”
The board eventually voted to keep Mayher and Gillespie on the Aviation Commission after a confusing scene in which Postell tried to “rescind” his vote for Mayher in an attempt to put Gaines on the board. When it was pointed out by City Attorney Nathan Davis that changing his vote wouldn’t change the outcome of the nominations, the issue was finally put to rest.
The commission also approved the city’s employee group health plan for the year, took action to solidify the merger of the Water, Gas & Light Commission with the city by merging the utility’s deferred compensation plan with the city’s, and OK’d an easement that will allow for the construction of an 80-room Marriott Suites hotel on property at 3101 Old Dawson Road. The commission also approved a Planning Commission-recommended rezoning on that property.
Prior to the meeting, the commission took a planned vote to approve a $92,000 construction project — which came in more than double architect’s estimates — at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport off the agenda.
“We were asked to pull that item,” interim City Manager Tom Berry said at the pre-briefing. “We have some other ideas that will maybe save us some money.”
The commission also honored the memory of Albany native Alice Coachman Davis, who was the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal, with a proclamation recognizing the star athlete and educator’s accomplishments. Coachman Davis died on July 14.
“I consider it an honor to have known Alice Coachman Davis, and I consider it an honor to be able to present this resolution to a woman who represented this community with class and stature,” Hubbard said.