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Vice-mayor accuses mayor of violating open records

Terry Crawford

Nick Millwood

Ringgold vice-mayor Terry Crawford expressed his opinion last week that he believes Mayor Nick Millwood recently violated Georgia's Open Records Act by calling him about an issue before discussing it in a public meeting.

The accusation came during the City Council meeting Monday night, July 24. After all the agenda items had been addressed, Millwood asked if the council had any comments for the public, at which time Crawford accused Millwood of being unethical.

"In relation to our Sunshine Laws and Open Records...the mayor called me the other day and he was asking me questions about what I thought about this and if I could support that, and he was not going to call the others," Crawford said. "I do not think that polling this council one at a time individually over something that's not even been discussed is appropriate. That's not the way we need to handle things here."

Crawford claimed that the practice violate the way officials are supposed to conduct business.

"You were polling everybody to see what their opinion was," Crawford said.

"Sure," Millwood replied.

"I don't feel that polling is right, or ethical, and I'm not even sure that it's legal," Crawford went on. "I'd like to get a decision on if it is or not.

"Dan, please do that," Millwood said.

The issue in question was that of a liquor store potentially coming into the city. Millwood says he wasn't asking for a legitimate vote, but rather asking about the matter to see if it's something the city should look at further.

"I don't want anyone to feel like I was hiding anything or collecting council votes prior to the meeting as alleged," Millwood said. "I had called members of the council to get input on what they thought about a potential liquor store in the city like I asked openly on Facebook. I wanted to know if the council wanted to include it on our next agenda as a discussion item since we don't actually vote as a council to put the referendum on a ballot (a petition is required). I explained to Terry when I called him that this would be a public referendum as opposed to a council decision and I wasn't asking for a vote, but the accusations came anyway."

A couple of days after the incident, Millwood, who generally keeps the public informed about city issues on social media, made a statement that the city's attorney found no violation with him asking Crawford's opinion about the matter.

"Our attorney has concluded there was no violation of the sunshine laws," Millwood wrote in a Facebook post. "There was no quorum (voting majority present), and no discussion of official city business since the council does not vote on the issue I called them about. It would have been nice to clear that up before the meeting. Perhaps that effort will be made in the future. Time to get back to work. Thank you all for your encouragement and kind words."

Fort Oglethorpe hires architect for City Hall redesign

The city of Fort Oglethorpe has hired an architect to redesign its City Hall in an effort to make the building more efficient and easier for residents to navigate.

During the Monday, July 24, council meeting, the city leaders unanimously approved a contract for design services with Ringgold-based Ross Andrews Architect Inc. in the amount of $8,740.

Andrews, a well-respected architect in the community, also designed Ringgold's City Hall, as well as several other government buildings, churches, and offices in the area.

Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins says the initial design Andrews will be tasked with includes a revamp of more than half of the existing City Hall structure.

"The design is for approximately 35,000 square feet of the current 60,000-square-foot facility," Payne-Simpkins said.

The building houses several different departments and is used for city administrative offices, municipal court, city government meetings, and police headquarters.

As it stands now, the layout of the building isn't ideal for all the purposes the facility serves.

"It's not an efficient space for public services," Payne-Simpkins said. "We're looking for a new conceptual design. Once the design is completed, it will then be up to the city council to prioritize and budget different renovation options. We're looking at a bigger conceptual plan. We want an idea of how to make the space at City Hall more accessible and welcoming to residents and builders. Right now we have one floor with several wings, and it's hard for people to find the offices they need."

On Wednesday, July 26, the city had its first sit-down with Andrews and discussed the city's needs and wants for the future of the building. Payne-Simpkins says the meeting included outlining ideas and expectations for the project.

"Our interest is to look at how we can design the building so residents can go to one place to pay water/sewer or citations, or get a building permit," Payne-Simpkins said. "We want a one-stop area to make things more efficient for our customers."

Payne-Simpkins added that the project could be eligible for SPLOST funding, and that it could be done in phases if needed. Although it's too early for any kind of timetable, Payne-Simpkins did say that the city could get its first look at potential plans in the coming weeks.

"We're just in the initial conceptual design of the project right now," she said. "I believe by the end of August, Mr. Andrews could have some ideas ready that could be shared with the council at a work session."

"Our interest is to look at how we can design the building so residents can go to one place to pay water/sewer or citations, or get a building permit. We want a onestop area to make things more efficient for our customers." — Jennifer Payne-Simpkins

Help save Catoosa County animals by donating shoes

Every day in Catoosa County multiple dogs and cats are abandoned. Sometimes they're dumped in ditches, sometimes they're left behind when someone moves. Many of them end up at the county shelter.

Catoosa Citizens for Animal Care is an all-volunteer organization fighting to save these animals, get them proper vet care and find permanent homes for them. It takes a lot of people, hours and money to pull it off.

"All our funds come from donations, grants, some adoption fees, and a lot of fundraisers we hold," says CCAC president Kelly Evans. "It's a year-round effort to keep up with the costs of saving animals' lives."

An easy way everyone can help now

Right now, the group is running a fundraiser almost everyone can help with. They're collecting "gently used" shoes. They need around 3,000 pairs by August 10 to meet their goal and qualify for funding through a program called WoofTrax Shoes for Shelters & Rescues.

"If even a small fraction of the citizens of Catoosa County could donate one pair of shoes each, we would meet our goal," says CCAC volunteer Sara DeBerry, who is helping to spread word about the fundraiser.

Drop-off locations for shoes

CCAC is asking citizens to help the abandoned animals of the county by digging through their closets for gently used (or new) shoes and asking family, friends and neighbors to donate shoes they no longer need. "It would be wonderful if Scout and church groups could collect some shoes, too," says DeBerry. Shoes can be dropped off at any of these four locations:

- Fort Oglethorpe: Pet Sense at 2039 Battlefield Parkway

- Ringgold: K-9 Tub Time at 7675 Nashville St.

- Ringgold Telephone Company at 200 Evitt Parkway

- VCA Catoosa Animal Hospital at 3150 Boynton Dr.

Last year, CCAC found homes for 431 animals, transferred 540 animals to other rescues, paid to have 475 animals spayed or neutered and paid for special vet care for 130 animals.

"We have a great bunch of volunteers who work every day to save animals," says DeBerry, "but we can't do this without the help of the public. The job never ends. We appreciate every person who can find a way to help us help homeless dogs and cats."

At the moment, CCAC needs as many shoes as they can get to meet their goal. All shoes need to be in by August 10 in order for the group to qualify for funds.

Catoosa Citizens for Animal Care can be found on Facebook at Phone: 706-937-2287.