WR council tables Downtown Development Authority board issue

WARNER ROBINS — A local business owner made claims outside Monday’s City Council meeting that she was left off the city’s downtown development appointee list because her opinion on the city’s proposed law enforcement center differed from that of Mayor Chuck Shaheen.

Shaheen said Gina Vaughan was left off because her name was submitted late Friday, after the list of appointees to be voted on by the council was finalized.

Appointing the seven-member board was tabled at Monday’s City Council meeting because, Councilman Paul Shealy said, the group didn’t have a chance to discuss the list at its pre-council session.

“I thought the mayor would accept her with a good recommendation from me and other members of the council,” he said. “She’s on (Commercial Circle), and a business owner. I didn’t get a reason why she wasn’t on the list. We hadn’t discussed it. That’s why I postponed it tonight, so we could discuss it.

“If there’s a problem, we haven’t gotten there yet.”

The Downtown Development Authority is being resurrected after being disbanded in August 2007.

Vaughan, owner of Flamingo Follies boutique, at 145 S. Commercial Circle, said she met with the mayor before Monday’s pre-council session, where he assured her she wasn’t on the list.

“I told him it’s going to look like it’s retaliatory if I’m singled out,” Vaughan said. “He told me his feelings were hurt because I’d gone on television door-to-door (about the law enforcement center) without coming to him first. I’m entitled to my opinion just like everybody.”

Shaheen said Vaughan wasn’t left off the list for any personal vendetta.

“I don’t care if she’s on the board,” Shaheen said after the council meeting.

During the pre-council session, Willie Hudson of Riverview Consultants, which works out of Georgia and Florida, offered his guidance to help reach federal standards with regards to minority participation in construction projects.

“Based on the availability of any of those ethnic groups in Houston County, we could set a goal according to whatever availability there is,” Hudson told the group. “To get the goal, you have to do an availability study.”

Hudson said having a program in place in the city would do a great deal to beef up the presence of minority firms when requests for bids for construction projects are advertised. His firm, if hired by the city, would work with minority companies to help them get certified in different areas to make them more likely to get approved.

Federal money is also available through the U.S. Department of Transportation to assist, in some ways, with any attempts made by the city to increase the number of minority firms seen as viable options in the bidding process for construction jobs.

Hudson was brought before city officials by Councilman Daron Lee, who said he was concerned with what the city was doing to adhere to federal guidelines for minority contracting.

“I just want to know what do we have in the contracts in regards to (federal compliance)?” Lee said. “This is the international city. We need to see internationally in regards to contracts done in Warner Robins.”