A1 A1
East Broad Avenue sidewalk construction high on list of Albany needs
  • Updated

ALBANY — The 3-mile eastward stretch from the Broad Avenue bridge over the Flint River is heavily populated, and the lack of sidewalks has been identified as a major safety issue for pedestrians who walk along that route.

A grant proposal for a sidewalk construction project for the city of Albany failed to win approval, so it is back to the drawing board on how to pay for it.

The city applied for a grant for installing sidewalks on one side of East Broad Avenue from the railroad underpass east of south Broadway Street extending to North Mock Road. The route covers nearly 3.3 miles of roadway where there currently are no sidewalks.

The area is densely populated and includes several mobile home parks and apartments as well as businesses.

The grant proposal also included sidewalks on Broad Street, Radium Springs Road and several other streets, and would have provided 80 percent of construction costs, with the city’s matching share at $2.5 million.

The cost of the Broad Avenue portion of the project alone would cost about $3 million, Albany City Manager Sharon Subadan said.

“We do have a very high-level estimate on doing that, and it would take up a very large percentage of our SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax funding),” she said.

Subadan said she plans to bring a proposal to commissioners, but in order to free up funding, a decision will have to be made about reducing spending on something else budgeted in the sales tax.

For Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard, providing sidewalks along the busy roadway is important. The route also includes a portion of Ward II, represented by Commissioner Matt Fuller.

“That is some of the best money in seven sales taxes we have passed,” Howard said. “It would be a great relief for the individuals who would not have transportation or ride bikes out in the middle of the road or on the side of the road. I can speak for the 12,000 individuals of east Albany: That is a Christmas present.”

East Broad Avenue also is used by children walking to schools in the area, Howard said, and about four years ago three school children were struck by a car on Mock Road, one of them fatally.

The original proposal also would have extended sidewalks to the Wal-Mart shopping center area, another busy part of east Albany, he said. Sidewalks in east Albany also would benefit a portion of the city’s population that has been underserved in the past, Mayor Bo Dorogh said.

“There’s a lot of traffic on that street; more than that, it’s an arterial street,” the mayor said. “The issue is, for whatever reason or the other, we don’t have sidewalks on East Broad Avenue. I think it’s important that we address the perception ... that we need to invest equally throughout the city.

“Here we have an obvious deficiency in that we have this arterial street that doesn’t have sidewalks.”

Other areas in east and south Albany also have areas that suffer from the lack of sidewalks, Dorough said.

“Obviously people who live in east Albany, just like people in south Albany, believe there’s not equal investment in the city,” he said.

One option identified by Dorough is to reapply for grant funding, as it sometimes takes several rounds before limited federal and state funds can be secured. However, the sidewalk project is one of the most important on a list of infrastructure needs that is dominated by renovating the city’s aging sewage system.

“The cloud hanging over everything is the separation of sewage and storm water,” he said. “That will address localized flooding in south Albany.”

Howard said he hopes that fellow commissioners will help address the sidewalk issue when a proposal is presented.

“I think the support will be there,” he said. “The area has been overlooked. By putting the sidewalks there, people without transportation won’t have to worry about being hit walking out in the roadway.”

Impact of COVID-19 outlasts symptoms
  • Updated

ALBANY — As touchingly sweet and simple as the message was, it was even more horrifying.

“Me and Travis, we done got the COVID,” Dakota Page said during a Thanksgiving-morning call, his already languid vocal delivery rendered even more drawn out by a voice that registered both fatigue and fear in equal measures.

The Page brothers, namesake members of the Adel-based Page Brothers Band, have since recovered from their bout with the pandemic that currently has the world in its grip, despite ramped-up injections of emergency-approved vaccines. But memories of those two-plus weeks of hell that COVID-19 wrought on their bodies — as well as their psyches — are not going away anytime soon.

Nor will they completely be brushed aside by a growing number of southwest Georgians who have lived through their own experiences with the virus that has killed more than 400,000 Americans since it made its way onto these shores some 11 months ago.

“I’m fortunate; I had what turned out to be a milder case of the virus,” Albany Herald President/Publisher Scot Morrissey said days after the worst of his bout with COVID was in the rearview mirror. “There were several days, though, when I woke up feeling so tired. I like to move, to get around and do things, but it was like all the energy had been drained out of me. At times like that, I would force myself to get up and move, to walk around, to be active.”

Other southwest Georgians have spoken of experiencing varying symptoms that left many of them fighting at times for breath and forced others to spend time in Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, thankfully, it turned out for most, as a precautionary measure.

The less fortunate, though — friends and family of some 235 Dougherty County citizens and 11,670 Georgia residents at last count — now must speak of their loved ones in the past tense, loved ones who succumbed to the virus. And still others are only now doing battle with the pandemic whose mutations are reportedly even more easily passed on.

“When COVID started, I took washing my hands seriously; I did it constantly ... took no chances,” Tyler Elizondo of Tifton said Saturday, two days after testing positive for the virus. “Five or six months in, I started getting lazy, not taking it so seriously. I started washing my hands less and less. I wore my mask out in public most of the time.

“The only place I didn’t wear my mask was at work, and because I rarely go out in public, that’s where I think I got it. I believe someone unknowingly gave it to me. I’m on my second day right now.”

The latest figures issued by Phoebe Friday showed that 1,768 persons who have checked into the hospital with the virus have been released. Similar numbers are being reported at health care facilities across the region, although a post-holiday surge has pushed COVID numbers in the southwest Georgia to levels that have approached or surpassed levels recorded in spring and summer months, when the virus first started to leave its mark on the region.

“While we hope we are reaching the peak of this dangerous winter surge, it is too early to tell,” Phoebe Putney Health System President/CEO Scott Steiner said.

“We know the virus is still very active in southwest Georgia, and it is making many people critically ill. Our intensive care units continue to operate at or near capacity, and we continue to add staffing resources to ensure every patient receives the level of care they need.”

Travis Page said weeks after he and his brother were determined “out of danger” that his experience with the virus was a bit more serious than brother Dakota’s.

“My heart rate fluctuated and would go way up,” he said. “I had a fever for several days that stayed around 102 degrees. I had to go to the ER for fluids because I did not feel like I could eat anything. It took me 10 days to feel even a little bit better, and it was 13 days before I started to feel a little like my old self.”

Dakota Page said his experience with COVID-19 was even more frightening than it might have been because of his brother’s illness.

“I’ll be honest with you; I thought Travis might die,” he said, the fear of that time etched on his face. “I didn’t have it as bad as Travis, and that’s a good thing. I ended up staying up most nights to take care of him, making sure he took medication to try and keep the fever down. It was as mentally exhausting for me as it was physically.”

Morrissey and members of his family met in Florida for a Christmas gathering, and he said he believes the lax manner in which employees and patrons at a restaurant kept their faces covered was responsible for himself and four other members of his family testing positive for the virus.

“I had a rapid test the day I left to go down to Florida, and everyone else had one, too,” the newspaper executive said. “Everyone was good when we got there. My son started feeling bad (after the meal at the restaurant), and a couple of days later, on the way back to Albany, I started feeling a tickle. I didn’t go into a panic because I never really ran a fever, but I was very tired and I lost the sense of taste and smell.”

Morrissey said contracting the virus brought a sense of irony.

“I’d been very safe the whole time of the virus; I took every precaution we were told to take,” he said. “People said there was no truth to COVID-19; it was very much a truth for me. I’ve known all along that it was bad, that it’s highly communicative. Here I was, sitting alone at my place pretty much all the time, and I’ve personally used two gallons of hand sanitizer. But I got it.”

And while he says he feels fortunate to have survived the ordeal with few lingering effects, Morrissey admits he does not consider the pandemic “over” for himself.

“I am not super overconfident now, even after going through this once,” he said. “You better believe that I will continue to follow all the protocols.”

Elizondo, meanwhile, said that while he has so far weathered his own personal COVID storm with only minor effect, it still is taking a toll.

“I feel good,” he said, noting that he’s so far had a persistent cough and has lost his sense of taste and smell. “The worst part is not being able to hug my (3-year-old) son. I’ve worked almost every day since the pandemic started (including weekends), and time with him has been one of the things that has made it easier for me. Now I can only hear him play with his mom in the next room and visualize his sweet face. How I see it, I’m lucky to have that ... 400,000 people don’t have that anymore.”

Albany police using mask ordinance as educational opportunity
  • Updated

ALBANY — A face mask ordinance that was controversial in its passing has proven not to be so much so in enforcement as law enforcement officers have been transformed into the “mask police.”

Through the more than four months of the ordinance, narrowly passed in early September by the Albany City Commission, there have been a few citations issued for violations, according to Albany Police Department Chief Michael Persley.

Actually, officers are not on the prowl looking for maskless individuals, and most people seem to be complying voluntarily.

“We’re going out speaking to people when we encounter them on calls for service,” Persley said. “In other words, we’re not taking folks to jail for not wearing a mask.”

Instead of making the ordinance an enforcement issue, officers have embarked on an educational and service campaign. When they encounter individuals not wearing a mask in the regular course of duty, officers ask them to don a face covering and provide one if needed.

The Albany City Commission approved the mask ordinance in a 4-3 vote after 6 1/2 hours of debate over two days, during which the public was given the opportunity to speak. Proponents and opponents of the ordinance spoke on the topic.

The measure was made possible by an order from Gov. Brian Kemp issued in August, and is only enforceable when the rate of infection in a community is greater than 100 per 100,000 in population, meaning it was not in effect during the time the number is below that threshold.

During the most recent call for infection rates by elected officials and the medical community, the rate for the 14-day period ending Jan. 16 was at more than 780 per 100,000 in population.

Since the Thanksgiving holiday, there has been a spike in cases that filled Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital’s intensive care units and an increase in deaths of residents in southwest Georgia.

The governor’s order allows businesses that choose to do so to opt out by placing signage at their establishments informing the public that masks are not required inside. Police have basically left enforcement at businesses up to the owners.

Persley said that to his knowledge there have been no calls from a business reporting a situation in which a customer refused to wear a mask where one was required. There also has not been a rash of calls from members of the public reporting others for not wearing masks.

“It’s a public education (effort), and we want everybody to be as safe as possible — wear masks, social distance when possible,” Persley said. “We just want people to protect themselves. Whatever people can do to protect themselves, protect others, we strongly encourage it.”

As he has on several occasions, Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler displayed a slide showing the proper wearing of masks during a news conference with community leaders.

As of Thursday, the coroner had recorded 235 deaths of county residents who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and the pace had picked up with 11 of those deaths coming in the previous six days.

The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing face coverings in public, among measures meant to prevent the spread of the virus. Masks should cover the mouth and nose to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets released when people cough, sneeze or simply breathe in close proximity to others.

The Albany medical community, as have medical experts across the country, also has endorsed face coverings as a way to slow the spread — and help reduce the burden on the overwhelmed hospital system — of infection in the community.

Newspaper recognizes Albany Under 40 category winners
  • Updated

ALBANY – The Albany Herald recognizes in this edition the 2020 Albany Under 40 category winners, selected recently from among category finalists previously announced. Albany Under 40 honors and celebrates the Albany Area’s emerging leaders and professionals in a variety of business sectors, each representing a component of the area’s diversified talent pool and economy.

Nominations for Albany Under 40 were sought from the public. Finalists were considered from among the nominees who applied, and were selected, following selections criteria, by a panel of volunteer judges that included Jessica Nicole Dorsey, iHeart Radio; Pamela Green-Jackson, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany; Jeretha Peters, Wells Fargo Advisors; Daniel Stone, Synovus; Brianna Wilson, Southern Point Staffing; Milan Patel, Indusa Investments; Clifton Bush, Albany Area Primary Health Care; Alvita Swain; Strive2Thrive; Jacqueline Nicholson, Albany State University; Rob Collins, NEOS Technologies, and Tau Kadhi, Albany State University.

Category winners were selected from among the category finalists. The 2020 Albany Under 40 Young Professional of the Year, selected by the volunteer panel from among the category winners, will be announced at the Albany Area Chamber’s 111th annual meeting.

Category winners included:

♦ Arts, Entertainment, Culinary Arts, Events, Tourism and Hospitality: Harry McKenny Day, Flint River Extertainment Complex;

♦ Civics, Defense, Government and Public Affairs: Kalandria Peterson-Kearney, Albany Police Department;

♦ Financial and Insurance Services: Robert Bradley Abell, Hutchins Clenney Rumsey Huckaby P.C.;

♦ Innovation and Start-up: Victoria Gatsby-Green Brackins, Victoria Gatsby International;

♦ Journalism, Marketing and Public Relations: Kerri Copello, FOX 31 News;

♦ Legal: William F. Underwood III, Law Offices of William F. Underwood III;

♦ Manufacturing, Service Industries, Energy and Architecture: Sherrer Massey Hester, Indusa Developments;

♦ Medicine and Health Care: Jake Lee Evans, Dental Partners of Southwest Georgia;

♦ Nonprofit Services: O’tessa Nicole Pelham, Albany Elite Sports;

♦ Sports, Wellness and Fitness: Troy Griggs, Albany Area YMCA;

♦ Technology: David Anderson, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany;

♦ Youth & Education: Sarah E. Holloway, Dougherty County School System.

Johana R., Lake Park Elementary School