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Albany City Commission decides to table pit bulldog ordinance

In a close vote, the board decides to not take action on breed-specific restrictions

ALBANY — Call it the bizarro city commission meeting.

In what will have to go down as one of the most unusual Albany City Commission meetings on record, that board on Tuesday: decided the best way to tackle a controversial pit bull ordinance was to put it off indefinitely; allowed a long-time commissioner to cast the deciding vote that placed his nephew on an important policy-setting board; OK’d the purchase of a piece of city-owned property by a local state representative, and fought a call to allow tattoo parlors in the city’s downtown district because those establishments attract people who “raise hell.”

Dog lovers were granted the opportunity to continue their quest to squelch an ordinance that would regulate pit bull ownership in the city when the commission reversed the 5-2 vote from its Jan. 28 meeting to approve the ordinance that requires registration of pit bulls, owners to carry $100,000 in liability insurance and that the animals to be confined to specific enclosures.

“I want to know the reason why we’re trying to table this vote,” Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell said during a pre-briefing before the meeting. “We can let this drag on forever. I may call to table it at the next meeting. I don’t see why we’re beating this dead dog to death.”

But Mayor Dorothy Hubbard and Ward II Commissioner Bobby Coleman, who’d voted to approve the ordinance on Jan. 28, voted with Ward III and IV’s B.J. Fletcher and Roger Marietta, respectively, at the pre-briefing, effectively putting off a vote on the matter.

When the official vote was taken at the commission meeting, Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard joined with those seeking to table the measure.

The commission, after an extended debate, voted at the end of the meeting to approve high bids on city property that was sold by auction on Wednesday of last week. The high bidders were Clarence Pippin, $91,000 on 30 acres of land off Lockett Station Road; Sam Shugart, $90,000 on 14 acres of land off Westover Road; Michael Harris, $180,000 on the old police precinct building at 2201 and 2223 Dawson Road, and state Rep. Winfred Dukes, $205,000 on the old L’Jua’s restaurant at 704 Radium Springs Road.

Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff made an “11th-hour” attempt to “carve out” the Lockett Station Road property for further discussion because all four local public high schools hold cross country training on the land and the annual Westover Invitational Cross Country Meet has been held there for the last several years.

“I got some last-minute, 5 o’clock numbers from the CVB, and they said with the runners that compete in the (Westover) meet coming with their parents and supporters to stay here overnight, the meet has a $112,000 economic impact per year,” Langstaff said. “And since that property is owned by the city but is located in the unincorporated part of the county, if we accept the bid we will be putting it back on the tax rolls for the county, not the city.

“The question is, would it be worth it for us to delay this vote to determine if it might be more beneficial for us to hold onto the land rather than getting this one-time $91,000 payment?”

The commission rejected the alternate motion to leave the Lockett Station property out of the bid acceptance and voted 5-2 to accept the $566,000 in bids.

Howard, who had twice recused himself from voting to add a fifth member to the Water, Gas & Light Commission board because his nephew, Rashad Flournoy, was one of the candidates, unrecused himself Tuesday and cast the deciding vote to add Flournoy to the board. He said afterward, “After talking with the city attorney and determining there is no impropriety and that I am allowed to make this vote, I want to make it clear that (Flournoy) is my nephew.”

Postell objected — and, oddly, no other commissioner even spoke up — when Planning Director Paul Forgey offered a series of text amendments to the Downtown Riverfront Overlay District, one of which was striking a portion of the amendment that kept tattoo parlors out of the district.

“Let’s make sure we put a muzzle on those tattoos,” the Ward VI commissioner said. “You know those places are where the young kids go to raise hell.”

Langstaff suggested the commission vote to approve the other text amendments but address the tattoo issue later. But, in keeping with the spirit of the night, the overlay amendment was approved 7-0 with no comment, although Postell did say, “does this have anything to do with the tattoos?” when a vote was called that would allow an amendment to the city’s tax allocation district.

City Manager James Taylor was voted a $15,000 annual raise and given 10 additional days of vacation by the board, effective retroactively to the first day of February, and the commission voted to approve a $54,000 settlement with The Albany Herald and parent company Southern Community Newspapers Inc. for damages the newspaper said it suffered when rain waters flooded its basement during construction of the Pine Avenue Streetscape project.

Davis said that amount is the amount offered by project contractor Zane Grace Construction’s insurance carrier.

Hubbard, in reminding citizens that this weekend is the city’s annual marathon/Mardi Gras celebration, made a pitch for businesses and citizens to add beautification to their weekly to-do lists. “Everyone needs to clean up; we have visitors coming,” Hubbard said.