Friday, December 27, 2019

Police investigating Christmas Eve hit-and-run

Posted By on Fri, Dec 27, 2019 at 12:35 PM


Savannah Police’s Traffic Investigation Unit (TIU) is investigating a crash that seriously injured a motorcyclist on Christmas Eve.

"At around 9:15 p.m., Dionne McAffee, 46, driving a BMW F800S, was traveling north on Waters Avenue approaching E. 59th Street. At the same time, an unknown driver in a 1998 Lexus ES300 with GA license plate CLK6148, was traveling north on Waters Avenue. The driver attempted to turn right and struck McAfee on her motorcycle, before fleeing the scene," police report.

The Lexus was later located abandoned in the 1300 block of E. 56th Street. McAffee sustained serious injuries and was transported to an area hospital.

Heavy rains cause discharge from Savannah treatment plant

Posted By on Fri, Dec 27, 2019 at 11:27 AM

This week, the City of Savannah experienced "a sustained period of abnormally heavy rainfall, resulting in constant excess volume flowing into the President Street Wastewater Treatment Plant," a City spokesperson say.

"The process for effectively treating wastewater is a biological one, which is significantly impacted when wastewater becomes heavily diluted by stormwater," the City says.

As a result of the increased volume of flow into the plant, the facility was unable to effectively complete treatment on all wastewater.

"Much of this additional water coming into the plant is tied to the issues experienced with manholes throughout the city earlier this week, with stormwater flowing into and groundwater infiltrating the sanitary sewer system," the City reports.

Ultimately, the City says taht plant operators were left "with no choice" but to release approximately 15.3 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into the Savannah River. City staff notified the Georgia Environmental Protection Division on Dec. 23 and began state-mandated sampling.

The City says it "will continue working on plans to adequately address inflow and infiltration to limit potential future events."

Thursday, December 19, 2019

New archaeology ordinance passes in emotional final Council meeting of DeLoach administration

Posted By on Thu, Dec 19, 2019 at 4:17 PM

Most of the controversial items for the final regular Council meeting of the DeLoach administration had been removed from the agenda, but the long-awaited passage of Savannah's first-ever archaeological protection ordinance became a reality.

"Historic preservation must include archaeological work to truly protect and preserve our shared history," Elizabeth Dubose, director of the Ossabaw Island Foundation said to Council in support of the ordinance.

Georgia Southern History Prof. Christopher Hendricks said "much of the historic record is unwritten. Women, African Americans enslaved and free... their story is contained in the archaeological record... this ordinance is the first step" towards protecting those stories.

The new Archaeological Resource Ordinance will only apply to public projects on footprints greater than 1500 square feet, and will not apply to any work done on private property.

Those limitations, and the fact that a staff archaeologist position won't be funded right away, caused some supporters of the ordinance to ask that the City have a second reading of the ordinance to give time to improve it before passage.

Preservationist Rebecca Fenwick said the ordinance was "watered down" to please developers. As written, she said "this will pertain to less than one percent of all construction projects" in the city.

Mayor-Elect Van Johnson and Mayor DeLoach both disagreed with the request for a second reading.

Alderman-Elect Nick Palumbo also urged supporters to "take the win today," and pledged his support in putting more teeth in the ordinance once he and the new Mayor and Council take office in January.

Lengthy remarks accompanied this final meeting of the DeLoach administration.

In a particularly heartfelt exchange, Mayor-Elect Johnson told the defeated outgoing Mayor DeLoach, "I want to thank you for your extraordinary service... Public service is hard... you expose yourself to being ridiculed and attacked...  after this process was over, you acted like the gentleman that you are. You've been extremely kind to me."

Controversial 20-year Alderman Tony Thomas made a lengthy farewell speech, saying among other things that "I've been loved. I've been hated. I've been praised and scorned."

After thanking many supporters through the years, he made a comparison between his first term in the Clinton era and his departure in the Trump era.

Alluding to both presidents being impeached, he joked that it was "a full circle."

In other business, Council delayed a proposed land/building swap with SCAD, giving the university the historic downtown Savannah Police Headquarters in exchange for land near the new Arena.

City Manager Pat Monahan said "the exchange is not consummated, the next Council will take that up."

Council also officially adopted the City's 2020 St. Patrick's Day Festival dates of Friday-Sunday March 13-15. The St. Patrick's Day Parade will be on Tuesday, March 17.

Presumably, all efforts to charge for wristbands to consume alcohol in the Festival area will be confined to the weekend, and not affect the Parade day.

The City's Director of Special Events Susan Broker cautioned, "Don't expect a big street party after the parade."

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Controversial items set for final Council meeting of DeLoach era

Posted By on Wed, Dec 18, 2019 at 10:39 AM

This Thursday, the final City Council meeting of the outgoing DeLoach administration will feature some controversial last-minute items.

Chief among them is a costly "Vision 2033" strategic master plan which has critics fuming that the future of the City is being given over to the same good-ole-boy network that has called most of the shots for years.

Under the proposal a new nonprofit would be created to help formulate the plan, intended to go into effect around the time of the tricentennial of Savannah's founding in 1733.

Heading the new nonprofit would be Steve Green, a local property developer and manager who has long been a key member of both the local Savannah Economic Development Authority and the Chamber of Commerce, and active in various local political campaigns.

In addition to at least a million dollars in City taxpayer funds, the nonprofit would raise money from high-profile entities such as Georgia Power, Georgia Ports Authority, Gulfstream, Colonial Oil, and Comcast — all of whom are also promised advisory input on the City master plan. 

Other members of the local establishment which will have seats on the nonprofit board include the sitting Mayor, the sitting City Manager, the Chair of SEDA, another member appointed by SEDA, the Chair of the Chamber of Commerce, and the Chair of the Metropolitan Planning Commission.

Citizen input is limited to an advisory board, which would include representatives of neighborhood associations appointed by the City, "representatives of governmental, educational and health care institutions including Chatham County, the MPC, Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools, Savannah State, Georgia Southern, SCAD, St. Josephs/Candler, and Memorial Health," and representatives of community organizations such as the United Way, NAACP, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, and civic clubs.

The total cost of formulating Vision 2033 is slated at about $2.5 million. In addition to the $1 million pledged by the City, SEDA is expected to pay $250,000. The rest presumably would be raised from the corporate partners cited above.

Another controversial item on the list is a proposed 32-year extension of the portion of the hotel/motel tax that funds the Savannah Convention Center on Hutchinson Island. (formerly called the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center).

The Convention Center is primarily a state-run and funded project, governed by the quasi-autonomous Savannah-Georgia Convention Center Authority. But a portion of the City's six percent hotel/motel tax goes to it and the Civic Center, to help defray operating expenses.

The current 20-year agreement is set to expire on December 31, 2026. If approved, the extended 32-year term would expire on December 31, 2052.

The Convention Center is currently slated for a massive expansion which will essentially double its capacity and footprint.

Another contentious item has since been pulled from the agenda for now. The historic but unmaintained historic Powder Magazine would have been involved in a selling of City surplus property to a developer for affordable housing.

While the original proposal included a clause to preserve the Powder Magazine as part of a park, the item was pulled from the agenda when at least one City Alderman said they had been unaware of the proposal and that it needed more scrutiny.

The property in question is off Ogeechee Road in the Chatham Parkway area.

In much less divisive business, City Council is expected to approve the official Festival days for the 2020 St. Patrick's Day Festival.

While the St. Patrick's Day Parade itself will happen on Tuesday, March 17, the official City celebration is set for the prior weekend of March 13-15.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Historic Carver Village meeting to discuss conservation district, tax exemptions

Posted By on Tue, Dec 10, 2019 at 12:22 PM

The City of Savannah and the Historic Carver Village Neighborhood Association will meet to discuss the establishment of a conservation district and property tax exemptions.

The meeting will be  Monday, Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Carver Village Center, 905 Collat Ave.

"Representatives from the Metropolitan Planning Commission’s Historic Preservation Department will begin the meeting by discussing the establishment of a conservation district to prevent the demolition of historic structures and recombination of land within the neighborhood," a City spokesperson says.

"The National Park Service recently added the neighborhood to the National Register of Historic Places, and establishing a conservation district complements that designation."

Representatives from the Chatham County Board of Assessor’s Office will discuss homestead exemptions available to owner-occupied properties within the neighborhood during the second portion of the meeting.

Georgia Southern Economic Monitor: Slight local expansion offset by signs of 2020 slowdown

Posted By on Tue, Dec 10, 2019 at 12:08 PM

Georgia Southern University’s latest Economic Monitor, which analyzes Q3 2019 data and identifies trends affecting the regional economy, reports that the Savannah metro economy "expanded during the third quarter of 2019, reversing a modest dip in the second quarter."

“Growth in electricity sales and port activity boosted regional economic activity, offsetting some softness in retail sales and tourism,” says Michael Toma, Ph.D., Fuller E. Callaway professor of economics. “Slowing growth through mid-2020 is expected, but the cautionary signal sent by the decline in the forecasting index should be monitored for potential intensification in upcoming quarters.”

The Savannah metro economy expanded 0.8% during the quarter. "The index was primarily supported by strengthening port activity and strong sales of electricity to regional commercial, industrial and residential users... While both retail sales and hotel and motel room rentals slipped, as compared to the second quarter, both indicators remain above year-ago levels," the Monitor says.

"While the trade and tariff spat has disrupted Georgia’s trade with China and contributed to recent volatility in port activity, shipping through Georgia Port Authority’s facilities registered strong growth of nearly 9% when compared to the previous quarter. Port activity stands roughly 7% higher than year-ago data," the report says,.

Total employment in Savannah’s three-county metro area was 185,700, a gain of 200 jobs from the previous quarter. Employment is 1% higher than a year ago.

"Employment in business and professional services continues to erode, shedding another 700 jobs and falling below 20,000 workers for the first time since mid-2016. Overall, the sector has lost 2,700 jobs during the past six quarters," warns the Monitor.

"If this trend continues, it is likely to reduce total employment in the region, as increasing shrinkage in this sector becomes more and more difficult to offset with growth in other sectors."

Hourly wages in the private sector "held steady at $22.65 and appears to have reestablished stability after declining through much of 2018. The length of the workweek shortened slightly to 33.1 hours," the report says.

Tourism indicators "were mixed again during the third quarter. After adjusting for seasonality, boardings at the airport increased 1.9%, while the number of visitors on organized tours modestly improved after a weak second quarter. However, alcohol sales taxes declined 5%, hotel and motel tax receipts fell 2%, and automobile rental taxes dipped slightly," the Monitor reports.

Total employment in leisure and hospitality returned to 27,400, the largest among the region’s major economic sectors, the report says.

In the labor market, the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance (UI) surged 30% from 405 from 540 in the third quarter. "In better news, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.2%, roughly the same as its year-ago level," the report says.

The Economic Monitor is available by email and at the Center for Business Analytics and Economic Research’s website. To subscribe, send a subscribe message to

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Savannah City Council votes to move iconic Waving Girl statue to west end of River Street

Posted By on Thu, Dec 5, 2019 at 4:05 PM

In a 7-2 vote today in one of the last acts of the DeLoach administration, Savannah City Council voted to relocate the iconic Waving Girl statue from one end of River Street to the other — despite a previous unanimous vote against the move by the Historic Sites and Monuments Commission.

Its new home is set for the immediate area of the new Plant Riverside, a project of developer Richard Kessler.

The statue currently stands in Morrell Park on the east end of River Street. It was moved 95 feet from its original location overlooking the river for the 1996 Olympics, which held some sailing events in the Savannah area.

The Olympic Flame was lit in the space the Waving Girl was originally located, and the cauldron in which it was lit still stands.

Speaking in favor of the statue's move, Kessler admitted "yes, I have interests in the West end." But he said that's not only reason he wants the Waving Girl moved to his development.

"Most citizens of Savannah never see the Waving Girl" where she is now, he said. "For the citizens of Savannah, she needs to be moved."

He said tourists will find the move more accessible — "there will be far more people" at the new location.

Concerned citizen Rachael Shaner responded that  "When a millionaire stands up here and says he represents the citizens of Savannah, let's remember about 50 percent of the City lives below the poverty line."

Shaner said moving the Waving Girl will set the precedent of letting millionaires move beloved public monuments "on a whim" when it benefits them.

Two incoming City Council members, who won't have a vote until January, spoke against the move.

Alderwoman-elect Alicia Blakely, who also serves on the Historic Sites and Monuments Commission, said "I'm asking that you look out for the people who work on the east end and allow that monument to stay there... We always talk about small businesses and how we want to promote small businesses. If you move that monument you're affecting about 25-30 businesses."

Alderwoman-elect Linda Wilder-Bryan recalled visiting the Waving Girl as a child.

"Part of the attraction of the Waving Girl was the story behind it... if we keep saying this is a historic city, we need to preserve the historic nuances... we must be reasonable and logical... make this vote about the people, and not about money," she said.

Mayor-elect Van Johnson said the public at large hasn't had the opportunity to weigh in on Waving Girl move.

"We're being asked to make a decision of, shall we say, monumental importance," he said. "We're hearing an appeal on a decision that's already been made by the Historic Sites and Monuments Commission."

Johnson and Alderwoman Estella Shabazz were the only two votes against the relocation.

The Savannah Propeller Club has been pushing for some kind of relocation of the Waving Girl for years, saying that its original purpose — to greet ships coming in on the Savannah River — had been hampered by the move for the Olympics.

Another reason given for the move is that a small group of trees lessen its visibility from the river itself.

A second relocation is set to be considered: Moving the current Olympic torch cauldron to the location where the Waving Girl is now, after the Waving Girl is relocated.

Richard Kessler was a major financial contributor to several of the outgoing members of Council who subsequently voted in favor of the relocation, including Mayor Eddie DeLoach, Alderwoman Carol Bell, Alderman John Hall, Alderman Bill Durrence, and Alderman Tony Thomas.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Starting Dec. 9, donate canned goods to excuse parking citations

Posted By on Wed, Dec 4, 2019 at 5:02 PM

The City of Savannah Parking Services announced today they are collecting canned food for America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia and will excuse parking citations in exchange for a donation.

Parking Services will excuse a maximum of five citations for overtime on a meter or in a time zone. A donation of five cans will excuse one citation.

An unlimited number of other citations, including street sweeping, fire hydrant or expired tag citations, will be excused. A donation of five cans will dismiss one penalty, but any late fees incurred must still be paid.

Red light citations will not be excused, and customers must have their license plate number with them.

Requested donations include peanut butter; canned meat and protein like tuna, chicken, salmon, ham, or ravioli; beef stew and soups; and canned vegetables like beans, peas, carrots and corn. Ramen noodles and expired items will not be accepted.

The food items will be accepted at the Bryan Street Garage, 100 E. Bryan St., from Dec. 9 through Dec. 13 from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Van Johnson, Kurtis Purtee triumph in Savannah runoff elections

Posted By on Tue, Dec 3, 2019 at 9:29 PM

After saying earlier in the day to "mark my words" that the mayoral race would be within 100 votes, incumbent Mayor Eddie DeLoach was defeated by a much larger margin by Van Johnson, who will take office in January as the next mayor of Savannah.

In the end, the margin of victory for Johnson in today's runoff election was nearly the same as in the general election last month, where Johnson heavily outperformed DeLoach, but failed to break the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

He prevailed in the runoff with 14,884 votes — about 60 percent of the total — as opposed to only 9,291 for DeLoach.

DeLoach's campaign had made a number of missteps the last week of the campaign, including a controversial Facebook post by his son which many observers found to be race-baiting, and several heavily negative mailers.

Johnson's campaign, on the other hand, was helped by a late visit from high-profile Democrat Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost in the race for Georgia governor.

In the other runoff, controversial 20-year Sixth District Alderman Tony Thomas was defeated by challenger Kurtis Purtee, 2,529 votes to 2,218, after a race marked by an escalation of personal attacks by Thomas.

The runoffs complete a near 100 percent overhaul of Savannah City Council, as only a single incumbent, Fifth District Alderwoman Estella Shabazz (who ran unopposed), will remain in the same seat from the last four years. (Johnson had represented the First District for 16 years on Council.)

Connect Today 06.04.2020

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