The Decatur City Council Study Session got a lot more attention Monday night — both from the citizens and probably from the council members. Instead of being on the tail-end of the agenda at the regular council meetings, it was the featured agenda item — and I think it is a good move.
For years, the city council met on a separate Monday night for the study session item or items and somewhere along the line, and I’m not certain of the reason, it was decided to add it to the end of the agenda of a regular council meeting. That happened before I became mayor and I can tell you, from first-hand experience, going through a regular council meeting, with all of the discussion and pressure votes, and then facing a study session (sometimes with two or three study session items) was an exhausting process.
I don’t think we were ever able to give the study session items the attention and discussion they deserved. It was also hard on those in the audience who had endured the regular meeting just to speak out during the time the study session was held. Sometimes, after waiting a few hours (or more) for the regular council meeting, those waiting to hear, or speak out during the study session, were not in the best of moods and their comments reflected it. I remember a few times, an audience member would fall asleep waiting for the study session to begin.
As most of you reading this column know, there is no official vote on any study session item, but it is an opportunity for the city manager and his staff to determine what direction the city council wants them to go on an issue — or if some changes need to be made before it is brought back as an agenda item where it will be voted on at a regular council meeting. Sometimes, a majority of the council doesn’t want the issue brought back for a vote which is an indication to the city manager that he and staff should move on.
As mayor, I always tried to make sure at the conclusion of each study session, that the city manager was aware of how the council felt on the issue. I believe having a meeting once a month to focus on study session items is a good move in getting a wide-awake focus on the subject for the council — and the audience.
• SORRY to see the Long John Silver restaurant on West Eldorado close for good — although its had its share of problems during the past several months, not only with the Macon County Health Department, but with a fatal shooting that occurred there. I was not a regular customer but I have eaten there from time to time over the 25-30 years (maybe longer than that) that it has been there. I did eat there a couple of times when they reopened after the Health Department shut them down the first time. Since the second shut-down by the Health Department, and the shooting, I have not been back — and probably a lot of other customers also felt uneasy.
I have been hearing complaints from a few restaurant owners about a new aggressiveness of the Macon County Health Department. One owner told me that, in recent months, in his opinion, the department has become much more strict. I think all of us want to make sure that, when we eat out, or go through a drive-through at a restaurant, the place has been inspected and given a clean bill of health. I believe there also needs to be some common sense applied in the inspections…but I don’t work for the health department or own a restaurant so I am not an expert on the subject.
• MAYBE I just didn’t notice it before but it seems like I’m seeing more semi-trucks moving south on Main Street. Such trucks are banned from the core area of downtown, especially on Main Street and Franklin Street. There’s an alternate route for them which starts on Eldorado on the north and Wood Street on the south of downtown. The trucks are allowed if they are making a delivery to a downtown restaurant or store, but at no other time. I have a clear view of South Main Street from my office windows and I’ve spotted some semis that were definitely not making deliveries downtown but driving straight through on Main instead of taking the clearly designated truck route. That’s not good.