Warner Robins back at beginning on LEC

WARNER ROBINS — Council members voted Monday to reconsider putting the city’s new law enforcement center on Jimmy Perkins Memorial Field.

In a surprising turn, they also voted down a move to renovate the old FoodMax grocery store at 814 Russell Parkway, which advocates have said would save the city millions compared to building from the ground.

The move to reconsider placing the complex atop Perkins Field was unanimous, while the vote against the FoodMax was 4-2, including a no vote by Councilman Thomas Simms Jr., who has been a proponent in recent weeks for the building’s renovation to save residents money.

During discussion on the LEC, Councilman Mike Daley said building away from City Hall was going against the city’s comprehensive plan, and could have ramifications with regards to funding the city receives from the state Department of Community Affairs.

He also said moving law enforcement away from its current area went against verbiage in a downtown redevelopment plan drafted for consideration in January 2009.

But that plan has never been approved by the council, Councilman John Williams said.

“My copy of the downtown redevelopment plans says draft,” Williams said Monday, “and I don’t remember voting on it.”

Simms suggested during the meeting that he voted against the measure in support of another option put forth by Councilman Paul Shealy to build on city-owned land on Prince Street, behind the current building, in two phases. The first phase, Shealy said, would involve building a two-story structure, but only readying the first floor for use. Until the second phase — renovating the second floor — was complete, parts of the department would work out of the department’s current office on Young Avenue.

The move puts the city back at square one with the project, having no chosen location or set price for the structure.

The council also approved a list of nine downtown development authority members, including a local business owner who claimed she was initially left off the list of appointees because of conflicts with Mayor Chuck Shaheen’s agenda.

The original list of seven members was amended before the unanimous vote to swap out two members from the original list with two others suggested by the council, including Gena Vaughan, owner of the Flamingo Follies boutique. The two members who were on the appointee list approved by Shaheen will still serve on the board, but as ex-officio members with no voting powers.

Vaughan, who was present at Monday’s special called council meeting, has said she felt she was left off the initial list because she disagreed with Shaheen’s stance on the location for the city’s new law enforcement center.

Shealy said he could not vote for the original list because he only knew of five of the appointees and felt Vaughan was too respected a figure in Warner Robins to have been left off the list.

Shaheen said he was fine with the changes, but questioned why nobody said anything about issues until the appointee list came up at the council’s April 19 meeting, especially since the agenda items were given to the council several days prior.

The DDA, disbanded in 2007, is being resurrected for a crucial vote regarding the reconstruction of loans on Rosemont Place.

The DDA has the only authority to do so.

To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.