WR council deletes city code pertaining to fortune telling

WARNER ROBINS — The City Council on Monday deleted part of the city code that prohibited fortunetelling, among other things, based on actions in Centerville that led to a federal lawsuit filed against the city by a local business owner.

The thrown-out code, Sec. 10-196 of the Warner Robins city code, states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to practice or advertise the occupation of a fortune-teller, palmist, clairvoyant, phrenologist, reader of spiritualism, astrologer or any occupation by whatever name called, professing ability to foretell future events by any means.”

City Attorney Jim Elliott said repealing Sec. 10-196 from the city code was necessary to avoid an event such as the one with which Centerville officials dealt.

“We learned from the situation in Centerville,” Elliott said. “Our ordinance was similar to theirs. We were convinced this was the appropriate thing to do.”

Centerville officials agreed last week to repeal a similar city code. Courtney Bibb, owner of the Energy Among Us spirituality shop at 100 N. Houston Lake Road, Suite S, has been charging customers for tarot card reading and fortunetelling, which city code had prohibited. She filed suit against the city in April, claiming her First Amendment rights, among other things, had been violated.

Officials said last week she is allowed to perform those services, so long as she adheres to rules to which other businesses are also subjected.

Other details of the settlement will be made public at tonight’s Centerville council meeting.

The Warner Robins council also discussed special purpose local option sales tax projects, but the conversation mostly centered on projects yet to be completed.

Councilman Daron Lee shared his displeasure with the fact that road improvements to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard have stalled since money was allocated for the project in a 2001 SPLOST.

Director of Public Works Joe Musselwhite said a bid for the work to be done on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard came in several hundred thousand dollars over budget, which the mayor and council at the time were not willing to pay for its completion.

And as the cost of building materials got higher over the years, Musselwhite said, the likelihood of the project being finished continued to dwindle.

But, Musselwhite said, the improvements will be done.

“But why was it put on the back burner for so long?” Lee asked Musselwhite.

“The past administration had other priorities,” Musselwhite said.

There are other projects that have been put on the back burner, Councilman Paul Shealy said, which need to be considered as well. Discussion led to consideration of a priority list for construction projects.

The council also passed an ordinance renaming the job title of Comptroller Bill Harte. He’s now the city’s chief financial officer.

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