At Monday’s city commission meeting, commissioners handled the regular agenda items fairly quickly and easily. However, the meeting was not without controversy; after about a month-long absence, Roscoe Allen returned to the commission room and addressed the commission, along with members of the media and City Manager Charlie Davis, in another impassioned series of remarks that saw Commander Bart McCulloch of the Douglas Police Department stand as Allen appeared as though he was going to approach commissioners.
A video and brief summary of Allen’s comments will follow. But first, here are the items the city covered at the regular meeting.
Commissioners approved two items of business on the consent agenda: the Madison Avenue re-conductor project and the airport’s capital improvement plan. Regarding the re-conductor project, utilities director Mike Hudson stated that the city is nearly finished updating its copper wire. There are several different aspects of this project that total $272,164.95. Two vendors are involved the project – McLean Engineering and Pike Electric. The city budgeted $360,000 for the project and the total price comes in $87,835.05 under budget.
The airport capital plan has to be updated and submitted to the Department of Transportation by Nov. 30. The city needs such a plan in order to be eligible for FAA and DOT funds for future projects. In addition, the airport needs approval of the pre-application for the FY 2020 improvement projects which will cost an estimated $850,000. Of that, the city will be responsible for $237,500, which will come from SPLOST funds.
Commissioners also took action on two other issues on the agenda. At the Oct. 8 meeting, commissioners voted in language on the new T-hangars at the airport that prohibit individuals from keeping more than one airplane in a hangar. Brian Coulliette currently owns three planes that he keeps in two hangars. Coulliette has asked the airport commission to waive that language and allow him to keep his three planes in two hangars, particularly since he was one of the first individuals to lease a hangar at the airport and has done so since 1998.
Commissioner Olivia Pearson made a motion to allow Coulliette to lease two hangars and keep two planes in one hangar and one plane in the other. He would pay $150 per month for each hangar plus an additional $75. This would apply only to Coulliette. The motion received asecond and passed 4-1. Commissioners Pearson, Mike Gowen, Edwin Taylor, and Bob Moore voted in favor while Commissioner Kentaiwon Durham voted against. Commissioner Cindy McNeill was not present at the regular meeting.
At a special called meeting on Oct. 1, the commission discussed various capital projects with Harper Construction and Charles E. Lewis Construction, collectively known as the Harper and Lewis Contracts (Harper and Lewis are serving as the construction managers for the projects). Monday night, the commission formally approved the projects discussed at that meeting.
All of this went smoothly. The fireworks took place during the pre-meeting work session when Roscoe Allen had asked to be on the agenda so he could address the commission. Allen spoke to the commission for approximately 15 minutes; just over 10 minutes of his comments can be seen in the video below.
Allen spoke to the commission about several issues, which can be broken down into two broad topics. For the first few minutes, he discussed power bills. Then he segued into a discussion that addressed an agenda item in the work session prior to the commission’s Nov. 13 regularmeeting.
In the Oct. 22 work session, Allen had also addressed the commission and engaged in a heated exchange with Commissioner Gowen. During that meeting, Allen made mention of “a 9mm,” presumably referencing a handgun. According to information discussed at the Nov. 13 work session, several city staff members and commissioners addressed concerns over safety and security at City Hall. The 10+ minutes of video included below show Allen talking about that incident and his intent to sue one local media outlet and the city of Douglas for including that discussion in the Nov. 13 meeting (despite the fact that neither the media outlet nor the information in the meeting packet included Allen’s name).
After the video ends, Allen continued for a few more minutes. “The last thing I got is Mr. Gowen over there. That’s right,” he said. Allen asked Commissioner Pearson to state what Gowen said about Allen following the Oct. 22 meeting. “What did he say? Get up and tell what he said about me. You heard it. Tell the truth,” said Allen. Commissioner Pearson sounded a little hesitant as she answered the question. She said that, as Gowen was leaving the building after the meeting, he was upset and he and assistant fire chief Casey Wright were talking. Wright asked Gowen if he was OK and Gowen said he wasn’t. “He said ‘I’ll beat his ass’ and, uh, ‘I don’t like to bother old folks or something to that effect. Don’t quote me but this is basically the message, that I don’t bother old folks but I’ll beat his ass. That’s what he said and that’s when I came inside and asked . . .” said Commissioner Pearson (after she said “asked,” Allen interrupted her).
“What you gonna beat my ass for?” asked Allen to Gowen. Commissioner Gowen answered, “If you came after me.” Allen then denied that he came after Gowen (Gowen didn’t say that Allen came after him; he said if Allen came after him), stating that he just asked Gowen how long he had been an attorney. Allen continued talking about a copy of a deposition he handed out at the Oct. 22 meeting – which he still had with him at Monday’s meeting – for another minute or so before he left the meeting. As he concluded his remarks, Mayor Tony Paulk asked Allen “are we good now?” “Yeah, I’m good, too. I’m through. Thank you, Mayor,” he said.