Mayor Dixon Legacy Scholarship Presented
In gratitude for a beloved former Vidalia Mayor’s example as “a consummate elected official who invested in the community and made sound decisions every day” for the good of the community, The Mayor Ronnie Dixon Legacy Memorial Scholarship was endowed, on behalf of the late Mayor’s family, by ESG Operations of Macon. ESG partners Clay Sykes and Dan Groselle attended the June Vidalia City Council meeting to present the $500 scholarship to a rising high school senior who “is going to college, and who emulates the qualities of Mayor Dixon: excelling academically, athletically, and above all else, in service to the community.” Sykes and Groselle presented Matthew “Landry” Mead, Vidalia High School Senior, with the first Memorial scholarship.
Jennifer Powell, the mother of Zachariah Wright, who lost his life on May 17 of this year in drug-related activity, spoke to the Council about the prevalence of drug crimes in the community, often at neglected hotels. Powell implored the Council to take more action to remove the “easy target” locations and to prevent gang activity. “Maybe there is something being done and I just don’t know about it, but there’s got to be more that we can do.” Making an exception to Council policy to not give a response to public comments during a meeting, Mayor Doug Roper stated, on behalf of the Council, “The first thing you need to know is how sorry we are for the loss of your son. I can’t imagine what that is like. The loss of a child is devastating and anytime we lose one, it’s a terrible situation.”
Roper continued, “Just like many communities across the country, we do have a problem. Please know that we are doing everything that we possibly can. There are measures that have been taken already that are not public knowledge. It is not always easy to give that information in a timely manner. But help is coming.” Roper assured Powell that District Attorney Tripp Fitzner is exploring options to help solve the problem, and the Police Department is doing all that it can to address the issue. Roper told Powell, “We are grateful that you came and spoke on Zach’s behalf, and we hurt with you. We are going to try and do better as a community.”
Toombs County Library Board members are currently sharing fundraising efforts with area boards for the Ohoopee Regional Library System’s renovation and operating costs of the Vidalia library branch. TCLB member Lisa Chesser addressed the Council, explaining that libraries serve as a unique extension of the local governments and of our local boards of education. They provide many services that the city, the county, and the BOE cannot directly provide to tens of thousands of visitors each year. The Regional Library Director, Cameron Asbell, leads a staff that delivers services that no other agency provides and they do it with limited resources.
Chesser, on behalf of the Library Board, thanked the Council for past support, and requested continuing support of the Library through the renovation process, and for much needed personnel and operating expenses for the future.
Fire Chief Brian Sikes recognized two public safety employees for recent accomplishments. Assistant Fire Chief Ben Allen completed his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Fire and Emergency Services Administration from East Georgia State College; and Robert Phelps, formerly apparatus operator, was promoted to lieutenant. Phelps received his pinning from his spouse, Amanda Phelps. Fellow firefighters stood near Allen and Phelps to represent the brotherhood that exists within the Vidalia Fire Department.
DDA, DVA and Chamber
The Council approved the appointment of seven members to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA): Brian Frederick, Terry Edmonds and Tom Everett will serve four years; Sadia Ajohda, Brandi Anthony, and Gray Meredith, two years; and Jennifer Evans will serve as ex-officio member while in her elected position on the Council.
The purpose of the DDA is to assist and enhance the work of the Downtown Vidalia Association to revitalize, redevelop and promote the downtown area in ways that the City Council is not by law allowed to do. Tonya Parker reported that the Downtown Vidalia Association (DVA) networking event, Coffee Before Hours, held on the first Wednesday of each month, will resume in August. The 5:05 afternoon networking event will be July 15 at Maddie Bea’s. Look for window paintings for the Brighten Up Vidalia contest. City Manager Nick Overstreet reported that events and movies, including children’s and first-run films, are scheduled through the summer at The Pal. The annual Cruise in for a Cause was held at the City Park on June 19, and Saturday, July 3 is the Independence Day event. Greater Vidalia Chamber Director Michelle Johnson thanked committee members, led by Fire Chief Brian Sikes, City partners, and business sponsors for the success of the Showcasing Greater Vidalia’s How the West Was Won auction and social event. Funds from this annual event are used to build programming for Vidalia’s business community.
Police and Fire Committee Three items submitted by the Police and Fire Committee were approved by the Council, including the purchase of 12 used police cars from the Department of Administrative Services (DOAS), federal and/or state surplus, over the next 18 months. This purchase will not exceed $100,000 and will be paid with Safe School fine revenue and SPLOST. The two other approvals were for a new full-time senior communications officer and to apply for the purchase of a refurbished 1995 Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (AARF) truck, purchased from the Airport Fund. This application approval by the DOAS is based on evidence of need for the AARF. Regarding the possible purchase of an AARF truck, Chief Sikes reported that firefighters have been training for a year for airport rescue operations, and four will be certified in AARF firefighting through a partnership with Savannah-Hilton Head Airport.
The local Safe Kids program, sponsored by the Police and Fire Departments, was chosen by Safe Kids Worldwide to produce a video involving all area first responder organizations that will be shown at safety conferences around the world. The Vidalia Safe Kids program, headed by Fire Captain Robert Tillman, has made an impact on community safety practices.