VPD Continues to Add to Its Force
The Vidalia Police Department introduced another new officer to the Vidalia City Council at its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, October 10.
Officer Matthew Roberts is no stranger to the City of Vidalia as he previously worked with Environmental Service Group (ESG) in the City. “He is welltrained with the city, but he did work at ESG at first,” Vidalia Police Chief James Jermon remarked. “We just took his pipes, wrenches, and screws and gave him a gun.” continued from page
Roberts is a recent graduate of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center and has spent the past several weeks in field training where he works alongside an experienced officer to learn the normal routines of police work in the city. He is expected to begin patrolling on his own in the coming weeks.
During the introduction, Jermon also commented on the Department’s current efforts to fill vacancies within the force. “I know it seems like it is slow, but when you have almost 12 [future officers] in the Academy, it is slow,” he explained.
Issues with brown water in the city was a hot topic during the public comments sector of the meeting, as both Sherry Carnes and Matthew Bright spoke to the Council about their concerns with the issue. Also, Frank Champion spoke to the Council about his problems with yard debris, and Darryl McArthur questioned the Council about what is being done regarding gang violence in the City.
Sherry Carnes Carnes told the Council that she has dealt with consistent brown water issues for several months at her home. “I’ve called the water workers and they come out and flush the pipes, but it (brown water) always comes right back,” she explained.
She went on to emphasize that she is very concerned for the health of her neighbors, most of whom are elderly and, because they are unable to leave their homes, forced to use the water more often. “Is there a resolution for the water issue?” she questioned.
Carnes also urged the City to fix the broken lights on the stop signs at the 4-way stop in front of her house. “We have children out there. Even though I personally do not have children, I know it is starting to be dark earlier and we need to get those lights back on for their safety,” she emphasized to the Council members.
Bright, who owns the “Taste of Philly” restaurant on McIntosh Street, first thanked the Council for its response to the concerns he shared last month. The issue of standing water behind the shop has been resolved and the continued from page
grass is now being cut.
But he shared that he was speaking at this month’s meeting for a new issue which cost him several valuable pieces of meat that had been purchased to serve in his restaurant. According to Bright, he was unaware that the city was working on the water on a recent Saturday, causing the meat in his sink to be tainted with rusty water.
“I deal with hundreds of thousands of pieces of meat weekly, and for this issue to occur on a Saturday without notification [is upsetting],” he stated. “Who is going to be responsible for the meat in my sink at that time?”
Bright continued, “Every piece of meat in the sink costs me between $500-$800 per piece. I buy 1,000 pieces of meat at a time. It may not seem a lot to you guys, but it’s a lot of money to me. Someone needs to be responsible for this loss.”
He emphasized the need for the City to improve its notification methods to allow business owners and residents ample time to prepare and avoid potential losses during these periods.
“What do I do with that meat? I had to throw it out. I’m not asking for thousands of dollars, but you guys owe me something,” he concluded.
City Manager Nick Overstreet assured Bright that he would be calling to discuss the matter with him at a later date.
During his address, Champion began by explaining that the situation he is facing is not an isolated incident, but an example of some of the issues between the public and City administration. “I think it’s an excellent demonstration of some of the problems I have been having – and some of the other people have been having – with our City services that we, the taxpayers, fund.” According to Champion, after the storm which brought high winds in late August, his property was littered with both maple and pine tree debris. The maple trees was easily cleaned up, as he cut the trees up and gathered them into a neat pile meeting the City’s regulations. Yet, due to the size and volume of the pine tree, he was unsure of the appropriate approach for cleaning up the debris, so he sought help.
“I called City Hall for regulations, instructions, and recommendations on handling the pine, and was told that the city manager, city marshal, and assistant city marshal were all gone,” he recalled. Champion said he left a message for the city marshal, but after several days, he still had not heard from any officials.
Champion called City Hall and again left a message for the assistant city marshal, who called back after a few days. “He informed me that he had no information to give nor authority to give me instructions or recommendations, but he promised to discuss it with the city manager and city marshal and get back with me,” he explained.
The assistant city marshal called Champion the next morning and informed him that any restrictions on yard debris pickup had been waived by the City in an effort to help residents clean up the damage caused by the storm. After learning this, Champion and his neighbor cut up the pine tree and gathered it into a pile alongside the pile of maple debris, but neither pile was picked up. Champion said he thought that maybe storm cleanup had been busy and slowed the process of picking up debris, but the piles of debris remained.
He called City Hall again, and was told, again, that the city manager, city marshal, and assistant city marshal were all unavailable. Later, the assistant city marshal returned Champion’s call, but his response left the Champinon frustrated and concerned. “His response still baffles me,” Champion shared. “He said – and I quote – ‘Frank, I don’t know what you want me to say.’” This response led Champion to try a new avenue of getting the debris picked up, as he spoke with someone at ESG who promised to check on the matter and call him the next day. “I am still waiting on that call, [and] still have the pile of debris sitting by the road two months later,” he said.
According to Champion, the debacle has caused him to ponder two questions, which he asked the Council during his public comment. “I’ve become aware we now have very, very specific regulations on what constitutes yard debris. When and how did this Council imagine, debate, and codify those regulations? This Council – not someone somewhere else,” he emphasized. “Who’s in charge? Who’s making decisions? Who is enforcing decisions? Who do we talk to? I’m confused and baffled, and frustrated. I really, really went out of my way to try and make sure I’m doing things right.”
McArthur began his address by explaining that the meeting of the Council was only the second public meeting he had ever attended. “I’m just very concerned for things going on in the City,” he explained.
According to McArthur, he has heard about gang violence in Vidalia through his work with Covenant Bible Ministries where he serves in a Bible study outreach program for children in Raymonia Apartments and other neighborhoods. The concerns about gang violence have left him with a single question: “What is being done about the gang violence and shootings in neighborhoods?”
McArthur shared that he has seen first-hand the damage done through this violence. One of his friends, who lives on Stewart Street, has bullet holes in the side of his house, as do many in that same neighborhood. McArthur shared his concern for another friend, who was trying to act as the peacemaker in a different neighborhood. “He does a lot of intervention to stop problems between gangs,” McArthur remarked. “He is putting his life on the line.”
McArthur said he has heard rumors of efforts being made to solve the problem of gang violence in the community, but has not heard any details. “I have heard that there is a plan going on, but I don’t know who is doing what,” he said. Mayor Doug Roper encouraged McArthur to contact Police Chief Jermon to discuss the matter and to learn more about the City’s efforts against gang violence.
The Council approved allowing OR-Office/Residential zoned areas to receive limb and leaf pickup service each week for an additional fee of $4.10 per month. This new service was recently discussed in a public hearing on October 3, during which the public could give comments on the service and fee. The new service was unanimously approved by the Council.
Special event permits were approved for several upcoming fall and Halloween events, such as: New Vision Missionary Baptist Church’s Fall Festival, which was held from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 14.
The Downtown Spooktacular, to be hosted by the Downtown Vidalia Association from 4 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on October 26.
HCA PSG’s Trunk or Treat, which will be held from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. on October 26.
Vidalia Porchfest, which will be held from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. on November 18. Bids were approved for the renovations and improvements of the Vidalia Community Center and Franklin Street Water and Sewage Project. MMI Construction of Uvalda will complete the work at the Community Center for $124,550, which will be funded through Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), as expected in the FY23 budget. Sikes Brothers, Inc. will complete the work on the water and sewage project for $85,850. Sikes Brothers, Inc., will also complete the resurfacing of several streets, which is funded through the Transportation Investment Act (TIA). This project is Band 1 of the second TIA investment in the area, and will cost the City $51,780.22 of local match funding, which the City plans to pay through SPLOST funding.
A game room license was issued to Maggie Snell for her new business, “The Cagez.”