They’re small, they’re dowdy, they’re about to be demolished.
But two houses near the Roundhouse Railroad Museum are historic structures, valuable as surviving working class 19th century homes in the former Railroad Ward of the city’s historic district. Therefore, Scott Smith, executive director of the Coastal Heritage Society, has appealed the decision to demolish them.
Even the owner agrees that the structures shouldn’t be demolished, City Manager Michael Brown told the Savannah City Council. The owner may be willing to sell the properties to the city based on appraisals or may even be willing to donate the structures for relocation, he said.
The Historic District Board of Review had approved the application for the demolition. However, the appeal means a 90-day postponement until May 21 in the hopes something can be worked out.
“In many cases, structures are in horrible condition, but that’s not the case here,” Brown said. “These structures are sound.”
Mayor Otis Johnson agreed that the matter should be looked into. “It’s been a practice of this council to encourage negotiations whenever possible,” he said.
“I do believe that even with negotiation, whether sooner or later, a decision will be made.”
In other action, Brown told the council that solid waste disposal isn’t exciting, but nevertheless is a critical function of city government. He recommended that the council vote to open a new landfill at the 900-acre Dean Forest Landfill and close the Resource Recovery plant that produces electricity by June.
Brown said that not extending the Resource Recovery contract for another 15 years would save money in the long run. He said the cost of a plant retrofit would be $18.1 million versus $17.2 million to use the landfill.
However, resident Jack Starr, an advocate of solar power, asked the council to consider the matter carefully. He noted that the power produced by Resource Recovery would remain in Savannah and that the plant would provide enough power for as many as 6,000 residences.
Starr also noted that trucks taking refuse to the landfill would require diesel fuel. “We have to offset the carbon debit,” he said.
Alderman Jeff Felser expressed concern about people living in the area. “If the methane level rises, will it be a danger to the neighboring communities on Dean Forest Road?” he asked.
Brown responded that there would be no danger from the landfill. He said that the Resource Recovery contract is ending soon and said the council does need to take action soon.
The council also revisited the city’s liquor ordinance woes. Jacqueline Somesso is seeking a beer and wine license for a full-service restaurant at 11508 Abercorn St. and had hoped to have comedy shows, karaoke, music shows and other promoted events.
However, a hearing was called for Somesso to show cause why the license shouldn’t be denied. There have been previous problems at the site, including two major crowd control incidents that resulted in police being called, parking problems, traffic congestion and unhappy neighbors.
Somesso is the former owner and operator of Club Oz on Indian Street, and similar problems occurred there. When police responded to a burglary at Somesso’s restaurant, they found numerous bottles of liquor, a violation of the city’s liquor code.
The council indicated it would be willing to work with Somesso if she operates a restaurant only, with no live entertainment. She agreed and said she would appear at the Feb. 28 council meeting with a plan of action.
Somesso says she is ready to “go back to work.” She says obtaining the liquor license for the restaurant has been very difficult.
“For some reason, when my name comes up, it raises red flags,” she says. “I have been trashed.”
In other action, Johnson asked council members and residents of the community to keep the families of dead and injured workers at the Imperial Sugar Co. in their prayers.
“My first cousin was one of the casualties,” he says.
“I’m asking the community to be mindful, because we don’t know where tragedy will strike,” Johnson says. “I want to commend CEMA and all the first responders to doing a tremendous job.”
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