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Posted: November 20, 2009 12:30 a.m.

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Social Circle tackles citizen concerns

Citizen concerns made up the bulk of the Social Circle city council meeting on Tuesday night.

While only one concern had been placed on the agenda in advance, Mayor James Burgess stated that anyone who arrived at the meeting, even if they were not on the agenda, would be permitted to speak at a council meeting if they wished to.

The city also addressed community concerns at a special called work session on Nov. 10, where Burgess, City Manager Doug White, and other council members took questions and discussed concerns from the attending citizens.

The first community concern was by resident Svetlana Lewis, who voiced a concern about the city’s policy for water utility reconnection fees. Though her fee was late on the Friday it was due, she paid it first thing on the next Monday, before her water was ever disconnected. She still, however, was charged the reactivation fee.

Lewis stated that she didn’t understand or think the cost was fair, since nobody ever had to visit her home to turn the system back on. She also stated the city’s methods for water shutoff were unclear.

Social Circle always cuts water off on the 15th of the month if the bill remains unpaid. When the 15th falls on a Sunday, as it did this month, the water will be shut off on Monday.

The council stated they would discuss the issue at a later date and would decide if any changes needed to be made to the current system.

The next community concern came from Gregg and Heather Foster, who wanted to bring a recent alleged action by the Social Circle police force to light.

Heather was pulled over in a traffic stop for allegedly running a stop sign. During the traffic stop, residents came out of the home she was stopped by to state that they saw her stop at the sign. After the officer gave her a citation and returned to his vehicle, Heather stated that she told the residents that the officer was an "a**hole" before driving away.

The officer then pulled her over again, this time having her step out of her vehicle and placing her under arrest. The officer used her phone to call her husband, who recovered the car and the couple’s 9-year-old son, who was in the car at the time. She was on her way to take the boy to school at the time of her arrest.

Heather did concede at the council meeting that calling the officer an a**hole was also a poor decision, but did not believe the action merited an arrest.

She and Gregg both stated their concerns that the Social Circle Police Department was "too strict" and that people were "afraid to drive through (Social Circle)."

Burgess apologized to the couple for their treatment, and other council members also stated that they thought the actions of the officer were certainly above what was necessary. Burgess promised that the incident would be investigated.

"This is not the way we want our Police Department to operate," Burgess said. " I truly, truly regret (what happened)."

This event occurs less than a week after the special work session, where one of the issues addressed was the efficiency of the Social Circle Police Department.

Other important points from the council meeting include:

• One Walton sent Stacy Jones, a representative in the new organization, to speak to the council. One Walton is a program that is seeking to unite the different cities in Walton County under one brand, which takes into account what makes Walton County unique. They asked for support, including financial support, from the council. The council said they would like to be a part of the program, but could not commit money to the program at this time.

• The budget for FY2008-2009 was reviewed for the final time before the year-end audit. This is simply standard procedure, as Georgia law states that the numbers must properly line up when the audit is conducted. No new expenditures or projects are a part of this budget amendment.

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