2007-07-12 / Front Page

Washington City Council considers movie filming, old cemetery survey

By KIP BURKE news editor

A full house of spectators again attended Monday evening's regular July meeting of the Washington City Council, unfazed by the change in meeting time to 6 p.m.

The filming of the movie "Deception" in Washington later this month was a topic of discussion and action. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Donna Hardy passed out a list of streets and times that the movie company requested to be closed off to traffic for filming. Residents of the area have already been contacted, she said.

The council approved road closings and detours for two areas: around South Alexander Avenue and Liberty Street, and a stretch of the Tignall Road near the Macchia home, for short periods from July 19 through July 31. The city is coordinating with the state Department of Transportation to detour traffic from Highway 44 North at Poplar Drive to Otter Creek Nurseries near the Tignall Highway bypass.

Both Chief Deputy Mike Sisson and Otter Creek owners Barry and Ann Rogers agreed that a detour was the better solution than stopping traffic with flagmen, Jenkins said.

The council voted to approve the schedule of road and street closings in support of the filming.

An archaeological survey of the old School Street cemetery is also underway, PDA Director David Jenkins reported, and archaeologists involved say that there are some 2,000 to 2,500 graves there, many of which are overgrown and unmarked.

Mayor Willie Burns asked that citizens whose family members are buried there contact City Hall in reference to a committee being formed to work on the cemetery restoration project.

The July 4th celebration in Washelection ington was a huge success with thousands in attendance, Tourism Director Ashley Barnett reported to the council. She said that citizens, civic groups, and businesses had contributed some $10,226, which paid for the fireworks and other expenses, with money left over for next year.

Barnett said that she would be setting up a booth in Atlanta at the Georgia Department of Economic Development Classic South Atlanta Show on July 27, and that she and volunteer Sue Davidson had manned a Washington-Wilkes booth at "Georgia on My Mind Day" at the Augusta Visitor's Center last Friday.

Barnett invited the community to Washington-Wilkes Community Night at the Augusta Green Jackets baseball game on Friday, August 24. "We're going to have hamburgers and hot dogs and a big community night there, and Mayor Burns is throwing out the first pitch."

She also reminded those present that the movie Deception will hold a "meet and greet" with the cast on July 29 and that local extras will be filming on July 20 and 27.

Barnett said that the Washington- Wilkes Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a Little Miss & Miss Wilkes County Pageant to be held at the Pope Convention Center on September 29, and that applications would be available July 23.

As part of the Clarks Hill Partnership, Barnett said, Wilkes County will be taking part in the American Bass Anglers Week in November. It is expected to bring many visitors to the city, and her officeis arranging tours and accommodations for angler's spouses.

Finally, she reminded all present of the Back to School Festival for all ages July 21 from 4-8 p.m. at the Booker playground on Whitehall Street.

Hardy reported that she would be meeting with Georgia Department of Economic Development Deputy Commissioner Heidi Green next week, and that a critical meeting of the broadband rural initiative was set for Friday, July 18. "It's vital that everyone who was invited come to the meeting," she said.

In addition, members of the board and staff of the Fanning Institute at UGA will be meeting in Washington late in August, she said, and a ribbon cutting for The Sandwich Shop on Robert Toombs was set for Saturday, July 21 at 11.

Citizen Norris Ware's monthly observation dealt with garbage pickup. The motorized carts that collectors drive need strobe lights and better marking, he said, and they need a way to cover their loads to keep garbage from blowing out.

Elaine Filipiak, who operates Miss Fanny's Tours, rose to ask if the city could finda way to keep at least one of the city museums open on Mondays.

Councilman Maceo Mahoney presented a petition from citizens in the area asking the city to remove the speed bump from Lincoln Circle. "It's the only speed bump in town, and it's tearing up cars," he said. He asked that police patrol more for speeders in lieu of the speed bump.

Mahoney also asked about the expenses for the Pope Center. "We're up to $2.2 million," he said. "Are there any more expenses coming up to drive this higher?"

City Administrator Mike Eskew said that one final inspection would reveal any need for further expense.

Councilman Nathaniel Cullars again brought up the crosswalk on Whitehall Street, saying the police needed to be posted there to educate pedestrians that they need to cross at the crosswalk rather than whereever it was convenient.

Cullars also asked if there were any state police road checks in the area for the 4th of July celebration that brought thousands to Washington. "My constituents in Whitehall, when we have Mayfest, have a problem with this." He wanted to know why the two events were policed differently, and requested that the city attorney look into the disparity.

At her turn, Councilman Pam Eaton brought forward a proposal from the Washington-Wilkes Historical Foundation to supplement the funds required to keep the Washington Historical Museum open on Sundays. The council approved the arrangement.

Eaton also asked that the street signs be straightened at South Jefferson and Robert Toombs, and that the timing of the traffic light there be looked into.

The council granted permission for the Tiger football team to hold its annual Lift-a-Thon on The Square on July 28.

They also authorized the pursuit of a Georgia Department of Community Affairs revolving loan fund to address the increased costs of the Pope Center renovation.

The council also voted to reappoint Shirley Gunter to the Downtown Development Authority, O.A. Denard to the Housing Authority, and William Amis to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

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