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Athens rejects jail artwork

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012 7:50 AM
Last updated 6:55 PM
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ATHENS, Ga. — The Athens-Clarke Commission rejected public art at the Clarke County jail again Tuesday night in spite of one commissioner changing his vote.

The commission voted 5-4 not to spend $50,000 on a public art installation when the jail is rebuilt starting later this year.

Last month, the commission voted down jail art 6-4, but Commissioner Jared Bailey misunderstood a confusing motion and voted against it when he intended to vote for it. Bailey asked to reconsider the vote Tuesday night.

Commissioner George Maxwell, who voted in favor of jail art in January, was ill and did not attend the meeting Tuesday night. His absence took Mayor Nancy Denson off the hook. A tie would have required her to cast the deciding vote.

In addition to Bailey, commissioners Alice Kinman, Harry Sims and Ed Robinson supported the arts spending.

Marilyn Wolf-Ragatz, chairwoman of the advisory Athens-Clarke Cultural Affairs Commission, told commissioners that, if they approved $50,000 for an art installation, it would be located at the jail’s entrance near the county police station and tag office, visible from Lexington Road. But she didn’t convince any commissioners to change their minds.

In other business, Commissioner Doug Lowry criticized a plan to build a facility where Athens-Clarke County will store landscaping, maintenance and voting equipment. He called it “disgraceful.”

Locating the $1.9 million facility at a former hardware store on Lexington Road will cost the county $22,000 in annual property taxes, Lowry said.

“This is, or was, very valuable commercial property for us,” he said.

Athens-Clarke County is moving the storage facility because the current one must be torn down to make way for the jail expansion, Manager Alan Reddish said. He also noted that the vote Tuesday night was to approve a set of blueprints, not to buy the property. That vote was in December 2010, he said.

Lowry was the lone dissenter in a 9-1 vote in favor of approving the plans.

He also cast the lone vote against a set of budget goals and objectives for the coming year but did not explain why.

At Kinman’s request, objectives were added calling for a downtown master plan and a study of workforce housing needs.


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