"The two complaints I hear most about downtown is, it looks like crap and it smells," the always-blunt Commissioner Andy Herod said at last week's work session.
"If you haven't been downtown at 4 a.m., it's quite an experience," agreed ACC Solid Waste Director Jim Corley.
Despite three daily downtown trash pickups, complaints persist about smelly trash, especially late at night when bars put out their trash and recycling. The smells are mostly from beer that seeps from trash bags onto sidewalks, Corley told commissioners, and while the bags are supposed to be put out no more than an hour before pickup, "we have no night-time enforcement," he said. Overtime pay to enforce those rules at night would cost about $20,000. But that—and possibly more-frequent pickups—are exactly what merchants are asking for, Athens Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Pamela Thompson told Flagpole.
Having culled feedback from merchants about downtown's problems and the upcoming reconstruction of some underground infrastructure, Corley reported that "everybody just wanted to push every trash cart and delivery truck to Wall Street," which is effectively downtown's only alley. During the infrastructure project, commissioners said, they couldn't see giving Wall Street the same level of pedestrian amenities, like benches or brick pavers, that other downtown streets have.
Downtown merchants actually have a "much higher" recycling rate than people in other districts, Corley told Flagpole. "Much of that is due to the large volume of glass and cardboard," he said. Bottles don't have to be rinsed to be recycled, but "it would be good" to drain leftover liquids from them.
Corley offered commissioners several ideas for improving trash pickup. Using smaller trucks that make pickups continuously during the night was a favorite with some commissioners. Pickup trucks with tipping beds and specialized trash compactors could do the job, he said, costing the county around $150,000 to purchase. That would be "a huge improvement," Commissioner Mike Hamby said. Commissioner Andy Herod wondered if trash pickups might be made on demand, perhaps with a phone call.
Several commissioners were less enthusiastic about Corley's recommendation to set up a fenced corral for rollcarts in a parking space on Clayton Street, an idea downsized from his earlier, unpopular proposal to put trash corrals on downtown corners. Merchants could put their trash directly into carts and roll them to the corral, rather than put bags on the sidewalk, Corley suggested. Several other commissioners were open to the idea, but Corley needed a decision, and Mayor Nancy Denson nixed the pilot project. [John Huie]
Clap Off: Good news, UGA: You don't have the Clap.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper—under fire for lying to Congress about the National Security Agency spying on Americans—canceled his Wednesday, Oct. 16 charter lecture at UGA due to the government shutdown. Whether travel is considered inessential or furloughs have forced him to stay in Washington and read our texts himself, I don't know.
Occupy Athens and the Athens Area Libertarians applauded Clapper's decision to stay away, saying that he doesn't represent UGA's ideals, but they stand at the ready to protest should his speech be rescheduled.
Media Matters: The exodus continues at the Athens Banner-Herald. One of the few remaining journalists who hasn't been laid off or quit already—veteran copy desk chief Bill Stewart— has put in notice, and the only other full-time copy editor/page designer is about to go on leave. Who knows how they'll lay the paper out.
Stewart's departure comes on the heels of sportswriter Roger Clarkson and IT guy Zack Hawkins leaving. In addition, director of online content Joel Kight is transferring to the Morris-owned Florida Times-Union next month.
Land Bank: Athens-Clarke County's Land Bank Authority, created by former Mayor Heidi Davison in 2010 to purchase dilapidated properties and flip them to affordable-housing agencies, started meeting again last month after a period of inaction.
The authority can snap up run-down houses that are being sold at auction to pay back taxes. The properties are then sold to a nonprofit like Habitat for Humanity, with the money going to pay demolition costs or buy more blighted properties. Most recently, the land bank acquired houses in Stonehenge and Davis Estates.
"We've targeted a bunch of properties and cleaned them up," ACC Attorney Bill Berryman said. "It's good for the neighborhoods."
One idea the authority chairman, former ACC commissioner Alice Kinman, kicked around at a Tuesday, Oct. 8 meeting was levying additional property taxes on boarded-up buildings. That would either raise money for a long-awaited affordable housing study or, preferably, give the owner an incentive to repair them, she said.
Now Taking Credit Cards: The Athens Downtown Development Authority recently purchased new software allowing College Avenue parking deck patrons to pay by credit and debit card, so that's one less excuse not to park in the deck. (The West Washington deck has always accepted cards, and so do newer on-street parking meters.) Don't be one of those chumps who drives around the block for 20 minutes waiting for a spot to open up. Just park in the deck already. As a reminder, the first 30 minutes and all day Sunday are free.
LALcatz: I've heard of a cat getting stuck in a tree, but I've never heard of a cat staying stuck after the tree was cut down.
A couple of weeks ago, I made a joke that Commissioner Doug Lowry would oppose the ACC Solid Waste Department saving a kitten from a burning house. Landfill workers actually did save two kittens recently from a leaf-and-limb pile, according to Waste Reduction Administrator Suki Janssen. University of North Georgia students who were touring the landfill's composting facility adopted the kittens, she said.