The Athens-Clarke County Commission passed a $114 million operating budget last week. It’s pretty snoozeworthy, in spite of being more money than you or I would ever see in 100 lifetimes. But there a couple of things you ought to know about it.
The first is Sunday buses. Mayor Nancy Denson included, and commissioners approved, $293,000 to expand Athens Transit service to Sundays from 8 a.m.–10 p.m. starting next month, so that car-less Athens residents can more easily get to church and work. But it comes with a catch: The mayor and commission will re-evaluate the service next year and could kill it if not enough people ride, just as they scaled back night buses from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. a few years ago because hardly anyone used them. So if you support Sunday buses, ride the bus on Sundays.
The success of the service will depend in large part on how ACC promotes it. People can’t use it if they don’t know about it. A significant portion of Athens Transit’s ridership is not necessarily connected to the Internet, so a few Facebook posts and PSAs on the government-access cable channel won’t do. The service is most likely to succeed if it’s marketed correctly—through prominent advertising on buses themselves, church bulletins, radio announcements and word of mouth. (And hey, it can’t hurt to take out a few ads in Flagpole!) Students will need to be made aware, too, that they have alternatives to the UGA weekender routes on Sundays.
Then there is the $145,000 the commission added to the budget for bicycle infrastructure improvements after finding out that tax revenue will be higher than originally anticipated, along with $35,000 for crosswalks. Of course, Athens’ large population of urban planners and traffic engineers, both professional and amateur, are already asking what to do with that money.
Commissioners can choose from a menu of items outlined by Transportation and Public Works Director David Clark at a recent work session, such as pedestrian crosswalks or planted medians near the Health Sciences Campus to slow highway traffic as it blows into town. Commissioners want to have a work session to prioritize such measures along various corridors, creating “a comprehensive plan so we’re not just putting a Band-Aid on anything,” Commissioner Kelly Girtz said.
In other words, we don’t know yet. A good place to start might be the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Prince Avenue safety audit, as well as the still-shelved Prince Avenue and Oconee Street corridor studies. Lumpkin and Baxter streets—the two most dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians, along with Prince and Dougherty—could use some love, too. So could some of our rural areas. Bike-car collisions have been reported on Jefferson Road recently, and a wheelchair-bound Gretchen Elsner told commissioners she was hit on her bike near Sandy Creek Park.
“There’s just no reason for people not to be able to move around in our county without being run down,” she said.
Preservation Awards: A new program that encourages downtown property owners to improve their buildings won the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation’s President’s Award last week. The Athens Downtown Development Authority created a grant program earlier this year that gives property owners up to $10,000 or 50 percent of the project’s cost to help them fix up facades. The first grant went to Rusty Heery and Thomas Moss Heery to repair fire damage to 220 E. Clayton St. Other award winners include:
• Kevin Bates and Patrice Poulin, Gordon-Hanks House, 1045 Prince Ave.
• UGA Office of University Architects, Willson Center for Humanities & Arts, 1260 S. Lumpkin St.
• UGA Facilities Management Division, Willson Center for Humanities & Arts, 1260 S. Lumpkin St.
• Chris Peterson, Peterson Properties, 565 Prince Ave.
• Chris Peterson, Peterson Properties, 190 Barber St.
• Jared York, “Pink Chimneys”, 328 Dearing St.
• Matt & Ashley Steele, “Pink Chimneys,” 328 Dearing St.
• Jared York, J. W. York Homes, 395 Barber St.
• Alex and Josh Brown, Broad 9A, 160 Tracy St., #10
• David Bryan, 70 Arch Street, 182 First St. and 184 First St.
• Jared York, J. W. York Homes, 1280 W. Broad St.
• Timothy B. Gibson Family, Newton-Gibson House, 892 Prince Ave.
• Phi Mu Housing Corporation, Hamilton-Phinizy-Segrest House, 250 S. Milledge Ave.
• Rinne Allen and Lee Smith, John Linley Garden, 530 Pulaski St.
New Construction/Historic Area
• Sandy and David Dwyer, 483 W. Cloverhurst Ave.
• UGA Office of University Architects, UGA Chapel Window Restoration Project
• Carl Martin, DOC Unlimited, Howell Cobb House, 425 Hill St.
• Stacey and Hal Kelly, Howell Cobb House, 425 Hill St.
• UGA Office of University Architects, UGA Health Sciences Campus
• UGA College of Public Health, UGA Health Sciences Campus
• Georgia Regents University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership, UGA Health Sciences Campus.
Publications and Programs
• The Tangible Past in Athens, Georgia
Editor and Contributing Author: Charlotte Thomas Marshall.
Other Contributors: Amy Andrews, Steven Brown, Janet Clark, Patricia Irvin Cooper, Gary Doster, Lee Epting, Theresa Flynn,Marie Hodgson Koenig, Milton Leathers, Hubert McAlexander, Pete McCommons, Henry Ramsey, Kenneth Storey, Sam Thomas, Mary Bondurant Warren and Smith Wilson.
• Kristin Karch, Instagram Account Dwelling in Athens.