McDonough City Council revisit permitting issue

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

The recent events at Alexander Park surrounding the weather-related field damage the weekend of a scheduled Caribbean festival are now history, but the issue came up again at the July 6 regular meeting of the McDonough City Council.

A revised park ordinance was presented to the council that would regulate how events are scheduled at the city’s parks as well as what activities are allowed. Among the issues discussed with regard to the ordinance was a stipulation that everyone sponsoring an event, including elected officials, be required to go through the permit process.

Councilwoman Sandra Vincent spoke up and made an indirect reference to the recent festival, saying that if this permitting requirement were added it must be the same for everyone.

“I don’t want to create a scenario where some people can have events and other people can’t,” she said. “This is falling on the heels of concerns related to a recent event that I was involved in. I want to make sure all of our citizens are treated equally and fairly.”

The Caribbean festival set for June 17 was affected by torrential rains which fell the day before, making it necessary to move large pieces of equipment hastily off one of the baseball fields at Alexander Park. This action, along with the rain, damaged the field significantly and led several volunteers with the McDonough Youth Asso-ciation to complain at the June 19 council meeting that the event should never have been allowed on the field.

A few speakers at the council meeting connected with the festival suggested that the comments showed a lack of inclusion and diversity, although none of the MYA speakers talked negatively about the festival itself; rather, they criticized the city for allowing use of the field when other facilities were available.

The Times received a copy of a document issued June 28 by city clerk Janis Price in response to an open records request. Price stated that the city has no documents showing any permit being granted or proof of insurance supplied relating to the festival.

Some citizens have suggested that Alexander Park was used in lieu of other more suitable locations in the city because Vincent, whose council seat is up for election later this year, insisted that the event take place in her district.

City officials stated over the weekend that the repair work on the field has been completed at the city’s expense.

Vincent made several comments about what constitutes an official city function, citing the mayor’s annual ice cream social as an example. There was also a discussion of Main Street’s role in the process, and Vincent said that office is charged with downtown activities and should not be authorized to grant permits for events all over the city.

Councilman Craig Elrod stated that the ordinance as presented is clear about the process, with the city administrator being the final authority. Elrod added that the council can waive fees for certain events like Main Street activities at the beginning of each year, and any other event organizer wishing to waive his or her fee can appeal to the council, which can vote on every such request individually.

No action was taken on the ordinance.

Later in the meeting the minutes of the June 19 meeting came up for a vote. Pruitt brought up a statement by Vincent in those minutes about the council having voted on the festival, and he said no such vote ever took place. Vincent disputed this, pointing out that at the council retreat earlier in the year a consensus was reached on that event as well as several others. Pruitt maintained that there was no vote.

After some more discussion it was agreed that voting on the minutes is simply about voting on what was said at a particular meeting, not whether a statement made at said meeting was accurate. With that in mind, the council voted 6-0 to approve the minutes (Mayor Billy Copeland did not vote as he did not attend the June 19 meeting).