Lula split on urban camping ordinance | BanksNewsTODAY

After two public hearings, the Lula City Council voted 2-2-1 on the Urban Camping and Prohibiting the Improper Use of Public Places ordinance. So, since it wasn’t approved, the proposed ordinance will be back on the table another vote at the May meeting.

Council members Gene Bramlett and Garnett Smith voted in favor of the ordinance, while Matt Hamby voted no. Council members Denise Shockley and Lamb Griffin abstained from voting on this issue.

Under the proposed ordinance, which includes homelessness, violators would be warned one time, then they would be fined up to $1,000 and could spend up to six months in jail.

Over the last several weeks, citizen have weighed in on the issue. Pastor Eric Stewart, an opponent of the ordinance, said homelessness is not the problem. In fact, he told the council he only knew of one homeless person in the city.

“We do not have a homeless issue, we have an alcohol and drug issue within the city,” said Stewart.

He pointed out that the approval of this ordinance would be an expense to Lula residents who live in Hall County. While the city of Lula does not collect taxes, the county would incur the cost of housing the violators.

“They are not going to pay a fine,” he said. “When they get out of jail they will come right back and do the same thing over and over again,” Stewart continued.

He suggested the council look at an ordinance to combat the alcohol and drug issue in Lula.

During last week’s meeting, Stewart read a letter from his wife, Mandy, who referred to the Good Samaritan in Scripture. While the priests went to the other side of the road, the Samaritan helped the hurting man. In the letter, she also reminded the council that Scripture calls for people to “love thy neighbors as thyself.”

“Let’s all work together to show our neighbors there is hope,” the letter concluded.

Lula resident, Felton Wood, spoke in favor of the ordinance applauding the council for being proactive because of the growth coming to the city. He said there were some homeless people already living in abandoned buildings. As far as urban camping goes, Wood said, “Let’s straighten this out before it becomes a problem. If you pass you will have the backbone to push this problem out of the city.”

Jason Thompson, former law enforcement officer, addressed the council through a letter. He noted people walk through his mom’s yard overnight. In fact, there was an incident where one grabbed the door handle and it was caught on security footage.

“There is more theft and grown men selling meth that most people would believe,” Thompson said. “If we don’t wake up and realize Lula has a problem with thefts, gangs, and drugs we will, one day, wake up to the unbearable.”

Mayor Joe Thomas reported that he and City Manager Dennis Bergin met with Ninth District Opportunity and they plan to set up meetings and work with churches to find out what the community can do to combat these issues.

In other business the council:

•approved the annual liability insurance coverage. The council approved the coverage for a cost of $37, 576 and also approved an additional $1,874 for cyber coverage.

•discussed adding members to planning commission and decided to table that until next month.

•approved a request from the Historical Society to host its annual car show on Saturday, June 11, at Rafe Banks Park.

•approved a bid of $8,100 to clean up trails and brush at the city park.

•heard from Bergin who reported that financials in the general fund and water and sewer fund remain constant. The general fund cash flow is $179,000, not including the $552,000 in American Rescue Plan grants, and the utility fund has a positive cash clow of $152,000 40 weeks into the 2021-22 fiscal year.

•heard from Begin who reported that the Council Chamber renovations are underway although there are a few supply and demand issues.

•heard a report from Bergin who said caboose renovations to honor former city employee Carl Manger Memorial Caboose. The flooring has been installed; electrical improvements are underway, and the upholstery will be completed as soon as the supplies are available.

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