WARNER ROBINS — Officials discussed three options for the city’s new law enforcement center, one of which was the resurrected Jimmy Perkins Memorial Field plan.
The majority of the hourlong meeting was spent with the mayor and members of the council being admonished for the way they’ve handled city business — both from residents and each other.
“It’s like a marriage, we’re gonna work this out,” Mayor Chuck Shaheen told the more than 50 in attendance at the special meeting. “Bear with us.”
Officials discussed taking the often talked about Prince Street location off the table as it would better be used for expansion of Georgia Military College, and had discussion both for and against the Perkins Field location.
The Perkins Field site has been one of contention both because it would eliminate a city park, and federal grant money used to build the recreation facilities in the area means a replacement would have to be approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Councilman John Williams brought another idea to the table: building the law enforcement center in the space across from Perkins Field and adjacent to a lot where police vehicles are currently stored. Architecture and construction officials have pored over the project and the space, agreeing they could build adequate facilities to fit the police department’s needs on the proposed 1.5 acres of land.
“We can do that within the ($5 million) budget,” said Mark Christianson of International City Builders.
Councilman Bob Wilbanks, who has long been for building the new LEC atop Perkins Field, reiterated that the council has voted on several occasions to place the structure at Perkins Field. He found it odd that another plan with more positive reaction also includes jumping through the same federal hurdles.
“Seems to be easier getting the waiver on the park than it does on the ball field,” he said.
Shaheen said he hoped to have a decision on the LEC by the first meeting in July.
Before the meeting was ended, a resident stood to speak her displeasure with the mayor and council not being on the same page about many of the decisions that have been made. She mentioned members of the council working their own agendas.
“We weren’t disagreeing with the mayor,” Wilbanks said. “We operate, as we always have, on a majority vote.”
Not so, Williams said.
“You know good and well that was done behind closed doors,” he said of the vote against a previous decision where the council appeared headed toward placing the LEC at the old Foodmax location at 814 Russell Parkway. “It was not fair and you know it. You have your own agenda.”
“I’ve got one agenda,” Wilbanks said. “That is to build an adequate facility for the men and women putting their lives on the line every day.”
“It’s not going on Perkins Field today, tomorrow, now or ever,” Williams said to erupting applause. “How’d you get them to agree to it? A backdoor meeting at Waffle House.”
The back and forth didn’t stop there. Daley told the audience that the Georgia-Robins Aerospace Maintenance Partnership project would continue to be overseen by Shaheen, but as a member of the board, not as chairman of the Warner Robins Redevelopment Agency. Shaheen had been the RDA’s leader until Monday, when changes to the bylaws allowed for Daley to be voted into the seat.
“The G-RAMP project is in the hands of the mayor,” Daley said. “As far as the redevelopment agency and the things that need to be done with our city, I’m very much involved with that with (RDA Executive Director) Gary Lee ... so we can get some things done.”
Part of the confusion about who would oversee G-RAMP resulted from an appearance by Shaheen on the Mix in the Morning with Kenny B. and Charles E. radio show following Monday’s meeting, Wilbanks said. Councilman Daron Lee said it offended him to hear the mayor on the radio saying he and Gary Lee, Daron’s brother, were trying to take things over in the city.
Shaheen asked Daron Lee if he wanted him to go into detail from a letter Daron Lee had sent him. The letter was also signed by Gary Lee, Shaheen said.
To squelch the chaos, the meeting was abruptly adjourned, but not before parting words from Shaheen accusing Wilbanks of stirring up controversy.
Wilbanks said, “Don’t lie on the radio, mayor.”
To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.