By Laura Camper
Grantville has a new slate of faces on the Historic Preservation Commission after two of the last three members tendered their resignations to the City Council at their meeting on Monday.
The commission was down to just three members after the resignation of two members in recent months — one who married and resigned and one who resigned to join another city board.
After months of butting heads with the council over a decision regarding a certificate of appropriateness for the old mill, two more members, Barham Lundy and Selma Coty, resigned. The commission members asked that the bank that owns the mill use a crane to do demolition and reconstruction rather than demolish a portion of a wall in order to move heavy equipment into the interior of the building. Coty’s and Lundy’s resignations left Tim Kmetz as the sole member of the commission, and his term was unknown since it wasn’t specified when he was appointed on April 25, 2022.
The council members vetoed the commission’s recommendation and then began a months-long recrimination of the members, including accusing them of overstepping their authority, berating them during meetings and accusing them of ignoring the history in the town. In response, Coty accused the council members of serving their own interests rather than that of the city.
At the September meeting, the council members voted 3-0 with Councilwoman Ruby Hines abstaining to remove the old mill from the historic district. At the same meeting they declined to consider Megan Williams, whom Coty recommended, to the commission to replace a member who resigned.
At their October meeting, the commission members discussed their lack of support from the council members but were unsure how to fix it. Chairwoman Coty came to the City Council meeting that month to notify the council members that they may not have the authority to remove the mill from the historic district.
Then last week at the City Council’s November work session, outgoing Councilman Jim Sells initiated a discussion of how the council members could remove appointees from the commission. At that time, the city’s attorney, Mark Mitchell, told them that during his research of the question, he discovered that Coty and Lundy and possibly Kmetz were serving on expired terms since new members weren’t appointed to take their place and they weren’t reappointed by the council members.
The council members-elect attended the work session, and Dee Berry, who will replace Sells on the council, spoke in defense of Coty, saying that her history in the city and her love of the community made her an asset on the commission. During the week between the work session and the meeting, councilman-elect David Clark, who will replace Hines, went to work finding nominations to fill the commission.
He nominated Richard Marsh Jr., Karon Kunce and Antonio Parks. The nominations were approved 3-1, with Ruby Hines voting no.
“It is concerning to me that when we tried to get Megan Williams on, it died for a lack of a second, and I thought she would be a great asset,” Hines said. “For that reason — and I wish the HPC well — but I just can’t, because of how Megan was treated, vote for these people.”
The new members will serve two-year terms on the commission ending Nov. 21, 2024. In addition, Kmetz was approved for a two-year term beginning at his original appointment in April. That leaves one empty seat on the board.
In other business the council members:
- Approved receiving the year-end settlement and contract payment reimbursement from Electric Cities of Georgia as a check in the amount of $852.01.
- Approved depositing any year-end reimbursements from Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia Power into the flexible operating short term account for use in case of electric system distribution system problems.
- Tabled a decision on repaving Griffin Street after hearing that the county might be able to do the repaving more affordably. The decision will be made in January by the new council after the city approaches the county for an estimate. Hines voted against tabling the project.
- Approved a bid by Crawford Grading and Pipeline to install a new sewer line and to coat four manhole covers on Highway 29 for $66,235. The city will use special purpose local option sales tax proceeds to pay for the project.
- Approved the proposed water and sewer rate increases. The increases will be phased in over three years.
- Heard that the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission had no vacancies, so Marion Cieslik, who — at the request of the council members — resigned from the Historic Preservation Commission to serve on the Planning Commission, could not be appointed.