Tuesday, January 14, 2020

"City of Chatham Islands" legislation is a non-starter

Posted By on Tue, Jan 14, 2020 at 12:32 PM

Key members of the local delegation to the Georgia legislature, Sen. Ben Watson (R – Savannah) and Rep. Jesse Petrea (R – Savannah), today released the following statement on proposed legislation that would create the City of Chatham Islands:

“During the last legislative session, we allowed for a thorough vetting of the issue of incorporation by the people of the Chatham Islands of Wilmington, Whitemarsh, Talahi and Oatland," they write.

“We announce today that we will not pass any measure allowing for a vote on incorporation of the Chatham Islands. The citizens of these islands have expressed their objection to incorporation. Indeed, over 50 percent of the citizens of Oatland Island alone have expressed objection," they say.

“The proposed cityhood measure fails to reach unanimous approval from all islands involved. Accordingly, there will be no movement on this bill during the 2020 legislative session.”

Another local islands community, Skidaway Island, held a referendum in March 2019 on a proposal to incorporate into a separate township. It failed by a wide margin. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

Arrest made in alleged New Year's Eve sucker punch incident

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2020 at 4:14 PM

A man has been arrested in a New Year’s Eve battery case where the victim later died.

On December 31, 2019, Chatham County Police officers were called to Basil’s restaurant on Wilmington Island for a report of an assault.

"Upon arrival, witnesses and 66-year-old Bruce Helmly told officers he had been punched by a man at the restaurant. Witnesses indicated that the punch was unexpected and unprovoked. Helmly refused EMS at the scene," police report.

The next morning, on January 1, 2020, Helmly was transported to a local hospital after losing consciousness.

"On January 2, 2020, Chatham County Police detectives arrested and charged 19-year-old Charles Teeple, Jr. with battery in connection with the punch that targeted Helmly," police say.

On January 8, Helmly died at a local hospital.

The Chatham County Police Department’s investigation into the incident is continuing, "and if there are any additional charges they will be based on autopsy results indicating Helmly’s cause of death," police say.


Thursday, January 9, 2020

'Savannah's Waterfront' brand and name change introduced

Posted By on Thu, Jan 9, 2020 at 2:43 PM

Savannah Waterfront Association announced today what it calls "a major
rebranding of the Association and the area of downtown north of Bay Street as “Savannah’s Waterfront” to highlight the destination to residents and visitors."

Ansley Williams, President of Savannah’s Waterfront and CEO of Live Oak Restaurant Group with four restaurants on River Street stated “The new brand helps us better market the collective businesses along the waterfront as an attraction not to be missed during your visit to Savannah. With new
developments on both east and west ends and on Hutchinson Island, the timing was right for us to re-evaluate our image.”

The new developments in question include the Plant Riverside development on the west end of River Street — a Marriott property — a major expansion of the Savannah Convention Center on Hutchinson Island, and at least two more hotels planned for the immediate vicinity of the current Homewood Suites on the east end of River Street.

“There’s always a reason to come down to Savannah’s Waterfront” said Julie Ford Musselman, new Executive Director of the Association. A fifth generation Savannahian whose ancestors arrived in the U.S. from Ireland onto River Street, Julie has deep ties to the city. Previously she served as Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus for 12 years and has run her own event planning company, Hostess City Celebrations, for the last 20 years.

“I’m delighted to work with the property owners, restaurateurs and merchants to promote this area as a clean, safe, fun environment with activities enjoyed by all," she says.

Julie is joined by Brigitte VanBaelen-Szychowski, new Operations Manager for Savannah’s Waterfront.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Waving Girl relocation tabled — for now

Posted By on Sat, Jan 4, 2020 at 6:33 PM

The Waving Girl sculpture - PHOTO BY JIM MOREKIS
  • Photo by Jim Morekis
  • The Waving Girl sculpture

A controversial decision to move the iconic Waving Girl statue from one end of River Street to another has been tabled indefinitely.

In an email obtained by Connect Savannah, the Savannah Propeller Club announced to its members that "we have sent a letter to the new Mayor and Council requesting our effort be tabled until we can allow the Club to engage them transparently to help them understand what we are doing and how we got here. This is our best shot to take the high road and get away from any petty discourse and name-calling."

The Propeller Club had been the lead sponsor in the effort to move the Waving Girl from its longtime perch on the east end of River Street to the new Plant Riverside development on the west end.

According to documents, the display space for the Waving Girl at the new site was part of the building design.

In one of its last acts, the former DeLoach administration and Council approved the move last month in a 7-2 vote. But the email from the Propeller Club represents a change of direction, clearly prompted by the fact that none of the seven approving votes will be on the new Council.

"We were notified that the City of Savannah’s newly installed City Council and Mayor were going to call a special session for Monday, January 6, 2020, regarding our project to relocate the Waving Girl monument," says the email.

"The intent was to take action on a petition to stop the movement of the monument until the public could have more understanding and input. If you have been following the fall out after the previous Council’s approval and the social media campaign of misinformation and misunderstandings, this has gotten a little carried away and exaggerated," according to the email.

After the move was approved by Council, a petition to have the new Council reconsider the vote made the rounds, garnering thousands of signatures.

New Savannah Mayor Van Johnson was one of only two dissenting votes against the move at the time (Johnson was still a district alderman for that vote; Fifth District Alderwoman Estella Shabazz was the other no vote).

Johnson said the public hadn't had adequate time to be informed of the decision — which the Propeller Club said was based on a desire to increase the visibility of the Waving Girl.

At the same meeting, two alderwomen-elect — Alicia Blakely and Linda Wilder-Bryan — voiced their disapproval of moving the statue. 

Friday, January 3, 2020

Billy Hair announces run for Chatham County Commission chair

Posted By on Fri, Jan 3, 2020 at 11:45 AM

Billy Hair
  • Billy Hair
Former Chatham County Commission Chairman Billy Hair is running for the office again, making the announcement today in Wright Square.

During Hair’s two terms as Chairman from 1996 to 2004, "Chatham County prospered with unprecedented growth with a commission that was united and harmonious," the campaign said in a statement.

"Hair pledges to bring this same kind of experienced leadership to all of Chatham County for the next four years as Chairman."

A U.S. Army veteran, Hair holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in business from the University of South Carolina, as well as a doctorate degree in education from the University of Georgia.

Numerous other candidates are also expected to vie for the seat, including former Tybee Mayor Jason Buelterman. 

Driver in pedestrian-involved crash arrested

Posted By on Fri, Jan 3, 2020 at 11:33 AM

Savannah Police’s Traffic Investigation Unit arrested a 59-year-old driver after a crash that injured three pedestrians on Jan. 2.

"According to a preliminary investigation, George Davis was driving a Jaguar XK8 on Drayton Street around 2:20 p.m. when he turned left on Taylor Street. The vehicle left the roadway and struck a residence at the intersection. There was no major structural damage to the residence," police report.

"The driver then drove on Taylor Street and attempted to turn north on Bull Street, striking two pedestrians, Phill and Kelly Gangi, ages 47 and 42, of New York, who were in the crosswalk. The vehicle then struck a parked SUV. The impact resulted in Krystal Monyon, 24, of Savannah, who was standing behind the SUV, to be struck by the SUV. All three pedestrians were transported to a hospital for treatment," police report.

Davis was arrested on charges of driving under the influence and other traffic-related charges.

The crash remains under investigation.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Arrest made in City's final homicide of 2019

Posted By on Thu, Jan 2, 2020 at 10:18 AM

Savannah Police’s Violent Crimes detectives identified and arrested a suspect in the fatal shooting death of a 28-year-old Savannah man on Dec. 31.

"Around 3:20 p.m. Dec. 31, officers responded to Wilder Drive at Avery Street and discovered Tommy Frazier suffering from gunshot wounds. He was transported to a hospital where he later died as a result of his injuries," police report.

Detectives worked and  identified Harry Pinckney, 40, of Savannah, as a suspect in the case. Pinckney was arrested late Dec. 31 on charges of murder.

The investigation is ongoing.

By Connect's informal count, the death brings the number of homicides in the Savannah area in 2019 to 24. The number was 27 in both prior years. 

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."

Connect Today 01.19.2020

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