Friday, December 29, 2017

City sues another unlicensed STVR operator

Posted By on Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 11:00 AM

The City of Savannah has filed suit against Arnold and Arlene Belzer, for operating an unlicensed Short-Term Vacation Rental (STVR).

The suit follows a similar effort announced on Dec. 15 against Mark Dewitt, saying his company Ardsley Park Savannah, LLC operates more than two dozen illegal STVRs.

The suit against the Belzers was filed in Superior Court on December 21st. "The suit contends the Belzers operate a vacation rental unit in their home at 34 Washington Avenue, a single family residential district, a use which is prohibited by the City’s Zoning Ordinance," a City spokesperson says.

"The City has received and responded to numerous complaints from residents of the neighborhood about this illegal vacation rental, but the defendants have resisted repeated citations against this use," the City claims. "The City will now seek temporary and permanent injunctions halting this illegal commercial use in a residential neighborhood, along with fines and attorney’s fees against the owners."

The City contends residents "are harmed and will continue to be harmed by the defendants’ violations of the Zoning Ordinance. The City also contends that the defendants have acted in bad faith by refusing to comply with the Zoning Ordinance and Short-term Vacation Rental Ordinance," the spokesperson says.

Regarding the properties operated by Dewitt and Ardsley Park Savannah, the City contends that they "are believed to own the largest number of illegal vacation rental units managed by one operator in the City. Between them, they advertise at least 26 unlicensed units on Airbnb. At least 22 of these units, which are operated at addresses described in the complaint, are located throughout the central part of the City in zoning districts which do not allow vacation rental units. The residences are scattered between E. 33rd St. and E. 65th St."

The City says it will continue to file complaints in Superior Court to seek injunctions against individuals who ignore warnings and citations for violations of the Zoning and STVR Ordinances.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Three-vehicle collision on Abercorn leaves one with serious injuries

Posted By on Thu, Dec 28, 2017 at 3:32 PM

SCMPD's Traffic Investigation Unit is investigating a three-vehicle crash that left one man with serious injuries.

"Just before noon today, a 2005 Hyundai Accent driven by Daniel Callaway, 35, was traveling east on Abercorn Street near Tibet Avenue when it struck the rear of a 2007 Volvo XC90, which was driven by 36-year-old Alicia Pruitt," police report.

"It resulted in the Volvo crashing into the rear of a 2010 Toyota Tundra driven by 50-year-old Timothy Rich. Callaway was treated for serious injuries," police say.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Chief Lumpkin to leave SCMPD, takes job in DeKalb County

Posted By on Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 3:56 PM

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A month before the dissolution of the combined Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Dept. he has led for the last three years, Chief Joseph "Jack" Lumpkin announced that he will be leaving the post to take a job as Director of Public Safety in DeKalb County, Ga.

His first day on the new job will be Jan. 28 — four days before SCMPD dissolves into two separate agencies.

"I am of the opinion forward thinking internal and external customers will attest that I left this agency much better than I found it," Lumpkin wrote in his resignation letter to the city.

"Given the police enhancements in the 2018 City of Savannah budget and continuity of leadership possessed by the two assistant chiefs, I am of the opinion the future is bright for the new Savannah Police Department," Lumpkin wrote.

"Within five years, the two current assistant chiefs will have completed the cultural change and disrupted the groups and gangs, which will result in every neighborhood being safer."

In a statement, Mayor Eddie DeLoach said, "Chief Lumpkin leaves Savannah in a much better place than when he arrived, including a double digit drop in part 1 crimes, a 9% drop in violent crime, and a 32% drop in homicides from 2017-2016."

"Chief Lumpkin leaves in place a department with two qualified Assistant Chiefs, and over 600 high quality officers. I have spoken with the City Manager and we will be conducting a nation-wide search to find the best candidate to be our next Chief," said the Mayor.

Lumpkin came to Savannah after having already retired as police chief of Athens/Clarke County, from whom he received full retirement pay while working here.

His resignation letter is dated today. The City sent out a copy of the resignation letter an hour after DeKalb County announced the news.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

City Council votes to adopt controversial new 2018 budget, including new Fire Service Fee

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 5:05 PM

As expected, Savannah City Council today adopted a controversial new budget for 2018, which includes a hotly contested new Fire Service Fee estimated to cost each household nearly $300, and apply to all nonprofits and public school buildings.

"The cupboard is bare, it's what we had to do, and we had to move forward," Mayor Eddie DeLoach said in explaining the process of arriving at the budget, which includes hikes in other fees and cuts to some services.

Alderpersons Tony Thomas, Van Johnson, and Estella Shabazz voted against.

Thomas said that practical enforcement of the Fire Fee remains unaddressed, and wondered aloud what will happen if a nonprofit just doesn't pay it.

He asked, "If we have another budget shortfall next year, will we have another fee pop up?"

While saying she reluctantly has to accept the funding cuts to her organization in the new budget, Kesha Gibson-Carter of the Rape Crisis Center told Council,  "We are an essential service" like the police and fire departments. "You can't exist without us."

In other news, a construction project manager, the firm of Jones, Lang, and LaSalle, was hired for the new Westside Arena project.

Some other interesting news came out of the workshop prior to today's formal Council meeting.

In discussing funding of the new Arena, Alderman Thomas said to City Manager Rob Hernandez, "Can I ask a question? Do we really have enough money to start all this?"

To which Hernandez replied: "To start, yes."

The City Manager then said the City will have to float bonds next year to complete funding the new Arena, only some of which can be funded through the last round of SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax).

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Boards, Commissions, and Authorities slots are open for applications

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 9:31 AM

The Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Savannah are accepting applications over the next 30 days for appointment(s) and reappointment(s) to these Boards, Commissions and Authorities: Civil Service, Downtown Savannah Authority, Ethics, Historic District Authority of Review, Housing Authority of Savannah, Savannah Hospitality Authority, and Savannah Zoning Board of Appeals.

Applications can be found on the City’s website at www.savannahga.gov/boards and will be accepted beginning Thursday, December 21, 2017. No applications will be accepted after noon on Monday, January 22, 2018.

CIVIL SERVICE BOARD

· Three members appointed to overlapping six year terms by City Council. Basic function is to hear appeals from disciplinary action against an employee when it is alleged the action is taken for political or religious reasons.

· The labor Seat should be filled by someone who is not a management-level employee: this person does not have to be member of a labor union.

· Members must be a Chatham County resident for at least five years.

· No term limits.

· One term available for appointment

DOWNTOWN SAVANNAH AUTHORITY

· Five members, including the Mayor or member of City Council serving his/her term of office and four City residents appointed to four year terms by City Council, as well as a member of the Chatham County Delegation to the GA Legislature.

· Encourages construction of new parking facilities and provides financial incentives for private projects which have economic benefits to the downtown area.

· One term available for appointment


ETHICS BOARD

· The board will hear and conduct review of complaints filed against elected officials of the City; if such complaints involve impropriety of elected officials and violation of the provisions of the Ethics Ordinance, and if such violations affected the elected official’s ability to carry out his/her official duties. Members shall be known for their personal integrity.

· The Mayor shall appoint one member; the Aldermen shall appoint one member; together the Mayor and Aldermen shall appoint one member who shall be an attorney in good standing with the State bar.

· Members must reside in the City and not be an elected official or City employee. Board members shall be prohibited from engaging in City election, political activities, and from making campaign contributions to candidates in City elections during their terms as board members.

· Members shall serve a four year term.

· Three terms available for appointment


HISTORIC DISTRICT BOARD OF REVIEW

· Eleven members appointed to three year terms by Savannah City Council including one small business owner with an architectural background.

· Makes decisions on new construction and any changes to historic structures in the City’s Historic District.

· One (1) term available for appointment


HOUSING AUTHORITY OF SAVANNAH

· Established pursuant to general law O.C.G.A. 8-3-1 et seq. which creates a Housing Authority for each City and County.

· The general law provides for a governing body of five Commissioners serving a five year term with one appointment each year. Vacancies are filled for the unexpired terms.

· Commissioners serve until a successor is named. The terms begin, on January 5th of each year. Any appointment after January 5th would be for the remainder of the term expiring on January 5th.

· The General Assembly of 1994 repealed all special legislation providing for additional Commissioners and Residents, thus the only Commissioners are the five Regular Commissioners appointed pursuant to general law.

· One term available for appointment


SAVANNAH HOSPITAL AUTHORITY

· Seven members appointed to staggered four year terms by City Council.

· Arranges the contractual agreements between Candler General Hospital and purchases of hospital authority bonds used to finance the building of their complex off DeRenne Ave.

· Six terms are available for appointment


SAVANNAH ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS

· Seven members appointed to overlapping three year terms by City Council.

· No term limits.

· Members must reside in the City limits Members cannot hold public office, except for one appointee who must be a current member of the Metropolitan Planning Commission.

· Board hears and rules on appeals from decisions of the zoning administrator and hears and rules on requests for permits which require the board’s approval.

· One term available for appointment

Upon completion of the appointment process by the Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Savannah, all applicants and appointees will be notified.


Friday, December 15, 2017

And the survey says: Don't change or remove Confederate Memorial

Posted By on Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 5:26 PM

The City of Savannah announced today it received over 5,000 responses in its public survey about the future of Savannah's Confederate Memorial in Forsyth Park, taken from Oct. 30-Nov. 13.

Authentication measures to weed out duplicate responses brought the number of verifiable single responses to 4,901.

2442 were residents, 2304 were non-residents, and 122 were of unknown residency.

Of residents who sent in responses online, via email, and via snail mail, nearly twice as many said "Do Nothing" to update or change the monument.

1564 said to take no action; while 878 said to do something about the Confederate Memorial.

Of residents that wanted to do something, 378 wanted to relocate the monument, 256 wanted to modify it, and 244 wanted to add interpretation.

Non-residents reflected an even more lopsided result, with 1961 wanting to do nothing, and 343 wanting to alter or remove the monument.

The Confederate Memorial public comment period was open from October 30, 2017 at 5 p.m. through November 13, 2017 at 5 p.m. The Confederate Memorial Task Force created earlier this year is scheduled to submit its recommendation in writing to the Mayor in early 2018.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Board of Regents finalizes Armstrong, Georgia Southern consolidation

Posted By on Wed, Dec 13, 2017 at 10:48 AM

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia yesterday granted final approval for the creation of two new institutions through consolidation.

Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University will be consolidated as the new Georgia Southern University, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

The consolidation of these institutions is expected to enable the University System to better serve students, broaden and redesign academic programs offered in the southeast and south Georgia regions and reinvest savings into academics to improve student success.

With the board’s action, Georgia Southern University will begin operating as a new institution with expanded missions and degree offerings. Wrigley announced his recommendation for the consolidations in January.

The board also voted to consolidate Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and Bainbridge State College.

Through consolidation, the USG and these institutions seek to better support their surrounding communities by strategically aligning degree offerings with institutional talents and regional needs.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

PULSE Art + Technology Festival to focus on Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality experiences

Posted By on Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 12:00 PM

The Telfair Museums' PULSE Art + Technology Festival, returns for its twelfth year on Jan. 17-21, with artworks highlighting virtual and augmented reality, lectures and performances and a special film screening that celebrates women in engineering.

"This year’s festival showcases several new virtual reality (VR) based installations that immerse viewers in fascinating simulated spaces," says a Telfair spokesperson.

"Radiance—the featured exhibition by award-winning artists Max Almy and Teri Yarbrow with Josephine Leong—projects mandala-like patterns around the visitor, submerging them in an interactive field of light. Similarly, Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s Aquaphobia places guests in a futuristic landscape that addresses the fear of water and climate change issues of rising ocean levels."

More VR/AR experiences will be offered in the new TechSpace gallery with a new exhibition, Choose Your Reality. Artworks include Wangshu Sun’s VR installation Dream of Wings, which allows users to fly over a landscape while flapping their arms as if they were wings, and New York-based artist Yan Hong’s Stuck with the Beast, which brings comic strips to life via user interaction with a device.

“Each year, Telfair strives to bring the biggest trends in digital art to the Southeast, and this year we’re excited to be featuring some exceptional virtual and augmented reality works by a variety of artists.” said Harry DeLorme, Senior Curator of Education.

“The technological tools and services available today make it easier than ever before to intertwine art, science, and technology, and we hope to continue to be leaders in showcasing these types of works," DeLorme says.

Programming for this year includes an opening night lecture by the artists of the Radiance exhibition and a new projection performance by festival mainstays the Medeology Collective.

The second evening will focus on STEAM education with a free, all-ages screening of the new documentary film Dream Big, which highlights female engineers making the world a better place.

Avery Bang, a distinguished engineer featured in the film, will participate in a question and answer panel after the screening. Elementary through college-age students can also enjoy two free morning programs of exciting presentations and dialogue with creatives working in tech fields from VR to coding and video games.

Exhibition Highlights

Aquaphobia (on view through March 4, 2018) — Aquaphobia, a digital installation by Danish artist Jakob Kudsk Steensen, mixes past and future geological periods and the personal with the landscape. Inspired by psychological studies of the treatment of aquaphobia, the work takes the viewer on a virtual journey through an eerie, futuristic version of a waterfront park after climate change raises ocean levels.

Radiance (on view through August 5, 2018) — Radiance is an installation and immersive VR experience created by digital media artists Teri Yarbrow and Max Almy with Josephine Leong. The works—three mixed media and video projection installations—explore elaborate multilayered patterns, geometric designs and ancient iconography reimagined in luminous media pieces. It is the first time the artists will exhibit their work in Savannah.


Pulse Programs (Jepson Center)

January 17, 6pm: PULSE opening lecture by Max Almy, Teri Yarbrow, Josephine Leong and Jacob Kudsk Steensen / 7pm Performance, “Media Ex Machina” by the Medeology Collective. Free to members / $8 non-members.

January 18, 11am: Student Panel and Q&A with PULSE artists Max Almy, Teri Yarbrow, Josephine Leong (grades 4-12, college).

January 18, 2pm: VR/AR Artists Panel with Jakob Kudsk Steensen, Wangshu Sun.

January 18, 6pm: Screening and lecture: Dream Big: Engineering Our World and panel discussion with Avery Bang, sponsored by the Society of Women Engineers and Tharpe Engineering Group. Free admission.

January 19, 11am: Lightning Tech Talks for Students (grades 4–12). Speakers: Yvonne Jouffrault (Tour Buddy), Malcolm Howard (Project MQ), Aleshia Howell (codebase) and Carl V. Lewis (Open Savannah).

January 19, 2 pm: PULSE Curators’ Tour.

January 20, 1–4pm: Chatham County Free Family Day/STEAM Expo/2pm Virtual Reality Performance by The Glad Scientist.

January 21, 2pm: Metropolis-Synthesis: screening and performance with live visual effects by Alexandro Imperato and score by David Spencer and Jason Butcher.

All PULSE events are free to students with valid student IDs and Chatham County residents with proof of residency, except for the opening night lecture and performance (which are free to museum members, $8 admission for non-members). Without a valid student or Chatham County ID, regular museum admission is required for entrance.



Friday, December 8, 2017

New Fire Fee edges closer to reality despite heavy public opposition from all sides

Posted By on Fri, Dec 8, 2017 at 11:34 AM

A controversial proposed new Fire Services Fee moved a step closer to reality yesterday despite public opposition from property owners, realtors, nonprofits, seniors, and low-income residents who spoke against it at City Council.

Community member Ivan Cohen reflected the sense of resignation many have in Savannah about the fee's apparent inevitability when he said, "I know it's coming, this fire fee, or tax, whatever you call it... you can dress it up anyway you want."

Cohen pointed out the slippery-slope nature of the fee, asking Council what's to stop them from implementing a Police Service Fee as well.

A representative of the local realtor community spoke against the fee, saying it unfairly impacts property owners, who already pay property tax for City services.

To which Mayor DeLoach responded, "Would you rather have a tax increase instead?"

Speaking of taxes: When a citizen pointed out that at least a tax is deductible, whereas a fee is not, City Manager Rob Hernandez counseled citizens to fudge on their income tax and claim the fee as a tax deduction anyway.

"The IRS looks the other way on that," Hernandez said.

Alderman Brian Foster, one of the apparent majority of Council planning to support the Fire Fee, said "I think taxes are way too high in this community" but pointed out that "in the past 10 years the City has lowered its millage rate while the County has raised their taxes by 10 percent, and the School Board has raised their taxes by about 20 percent."

Donald Dyches of local firm Dyches Construction claimed to have a letter from Alderman Julian Miller supporting the Fire Fee, in which Miller said if the Fire Fee doesn't pass, City property taxes would have to go up 40 percent in two years.

Community activist Linda Wilder Bryan spoke for many when she suggested Council balance the budget on the back of tourists rather than low-income residents who would be hard-pressed to pay what's expected to be a per-house fee around $300 per year.

"If you want us to believe you've done everything, why aren't we using impact fees for hotels and motels that come to our City?" Bryan said.

Hernandez responded that state law limits what impact fees can be used for, but added that he will explore the idea of impact fees next year.

That wasn't the only budget brouhaha. Controversial cuts to nonprofit budgets brought fireworks, particularly from the executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, Kesha Gibson-Carter.

Lamenting the enormous backlog of unprocessed rape kits, Gibson-Carter passionately asked Council, "Is it pleasing to you that we've only had 11 or 12 arrests for rape" out of more than 100 reports?

Hernandez explained the budget cuts by saying the Rape Crisis Center hadn't followed proper protocol in submitting a proposal on time nor in attending a City funding workshop.

"If you're asking staff to go back and amend their recommendations simply because an organization can come here and eloquently speak," Hernandez said, then he would suggest "we just throw out" the whole budget process and let groups speak before council.

Gibson-Carter replied that hers wasn't the only organization not to apply or attend so she "can only conclude Rape Crisis Center is being discriminated against."

In addition Gibson-Carter said, "You cut funds to social services but then institute a Fire Fee. Who does that?"

As yesterday's meeting was a first reading of the the budget and the Fire Fee proposal, no vote was taken. Another opportunity to speak will come in two weeks at the regular Dec. 21 Council meeting.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

New C-SPAN bus to visit Savannah on Friday, Dec. 8

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 10:24 AM

 C-SPAN’s all-new 45-foot customized motor coach will make its debut visit to Savannah on Friday, December 8. Partnering with Comcast to engage teachers and students, community members and elected officials through interactive demonstrations of C-SPAN's multi-platform public service resources, the new C-SPAN Bus will welcome visitors at Benedictine Military School and Savannah State University.

"The new, high-tech, interactive C-SPAN Bus includes these upgraded resources:
Access to an exclusive interactive experience available on 11 large-screen tablets featuring C-SPAN programming and myriad of political and educational resources
A smart TV and classroom area for conversations with students and teachers
A high-definition TV production studio for taped and live programming
A 360-degree video station featuring C-SPAN's unfiltered coverage of high-profile events and insightful, behind-the-scenes tours of U.S. landmarks
A D.C.-themed selfie station where visitors can share their Bus experience through social media," a C-SPAN spokesperson says.

Students and teachers are invited aboard the bus to learn about C-SPAN Classroom, a free online educational resource, and C-SPAN's national documentary competition, StudentCam. Awarding $100,000 in prize money, the competition challenges students to produce a 5-7 minute documentary using C-SPAN video to explore a local or national issue of importance. This year's theme is "The Constitution and You," asking students to pick any provision of the U.S. Constitution and illustrate why it's important to them.

"Comcast is thrilled that the new C-SPAN Bus is visiting Savannah, bringing their political and educational resources to the community," said Ronald McGee, Sr. Manager of Government Affairs for Comcast in Savannah. "We're proud to partner with C-SPAN and look forward to teachers and students stepping aboard to experience all that C-SPAN has to offer."

Events include:
9a.m. – 11a.m. Benedictine Military School
6502 Seawright Drive, Savannah, GA 31406

12p.m. – 1:30p.m. Savannah State University
2200 Savannah State University, Savannah, GA 31404
(Social Sciences Building Parking Lot)

To launch the new C-SPAN Bus – and begin the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Bus program – C-SPAN embarked on a "50 Capitals Tour" in September 2017, heading to every U.S. state capital, culminating in November 2018. As the Bus travels, elected officials will be featured during C-SPAN's signature morning program, Washington Journal. C-SPAN Representatives are also gathering video responses from visitors as part of its "Voices from the States" – an opportunity for citizens to share viewpoints on state issues and what they think Washington leaders should do to address local concerns.

In Savannah, C-SPAN programming is provided by Comcast on channels 12 & HD 383; C-SPAN2 on channels 104 & HD 358; and C-SPAN3 on channel 105 and on the web at C-SPAN.org.

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