Council moves ahead with city business in post-Walker era

WARNER ROBINS — John Havrilla worked his way through his first official City Council meeting as mayor with relative ease.

When he tried to offer up a motion for something that had already been done, he was corrected by the council. He corrected himself early in the meeting after forgetting to seek approval for the minutes from the council’s previous meeting.

“I guess we’ll have to chalk that one up to opening night jitters,” he said.

Havrilla took over the city’s top spot after Mayor Donald Walker died last week from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Police officials say they’re still investigating.

At the pre-council session, Havrilla asked city department heads to carefully explain why money was being spent on a guardrail on Feagin Mill Road, or to tell about the process for a new sign to be added to the AT&T store on Watson Boulevard. He relied on Walker’s longtime secretary, Faye Coulter, to make sure he was doing things correctly, going to her several times during the meeting about city matters.

The meeting was typical in subject matter, but things quickly got tense when the meeting turned to selecting a new mayor pro tem.

“Is this something that has to be done at the first meeting?” Councilman Bob Wilbanks commented.

“You have a vacancy,” City Attorney Jim Elliott said, “and you’re required to fill it.”

At the pre-council session, councilmen made a motion to bestow the honor upon Terry Horton. As was the case with Havrilla, the mayor pro tem steps up if the mayor becomes unable to fulfill his duties to the city. “You ain’t going anywhere, are you?” Horton asked Havrilla.

The vote — unanimously in Horton’s favor — came in council chambers during the meeting.

The council also decided to fix water and sewer lines at 1005 Watson Blvd. The building was purchased from the city by Ken McCall, who owns McCall’s restaurant. sIt is currently being rented from McCall by Chuck Shaheen for his mayoral campaign headquarters. McCall has said city workers had been on the site to address the issue, but disappeared shortly after the Shaheen campaign took residence.

A point of contention was whether the city, having sold the building “as-is,” was responsible for making the needed repairs.

“It’s the first building we’ve sold on Commercial Circle,” city utilities Director Monty Walters said. “I don’t know what the agreement is, and I field calls every day on getting that fixed.”

Horton said the situation was a no-brainer.

“I’ve never bought an existing building that was not hooked up to water and sewer,” Horton said. “And from what I’m understanding ... wasn’t there a building adjoining it that got torn down? And we probably tore up some things when we did that.

“For that reason I feel it’s incumbent on us to ... get that water running.”