City Council: Committees discuss enforcement of parking rules, tennis and pickleball courts

Two Athens City Council committees met on Monday to discuss topics including financial appropriations and new leisure projects.

Finance and Personnel Committee

The finance and staff committee discussed changes to parking staff, the Appalachian Outdoor Recreation Council, or ORCA, membership fees and other proposed appropriations.

The committee discussed the possibility of adding a fifth parking enforcement officer and additional duties for each officer in response to the retirement of the city’s parking meter repairman.

Andy Stone, director of municipal services security, said the change was due to updated technology in parking meters and the increased need for another parking enforcement officer rather than a repairman.

“The purpose of streets is to allow people to move and to allow businesses to thrive,” Stone said. “Often times businesses thrive on traffic rotation and the only way to achieve car turnover is for parking attendants to enforce parking.”

Additionally, Mayor Steve Patterson said the fifth officer will help monitor new parking spots with 20-minute delays installed in the near future.

Jessie Powers, Executive Director of ORCA, spoke to the Board about committing to three annual payments of $90,000 to continue membership in the organization. She also updated the Council on the Bailey’s Trail System project, as that is where most of the payments would go to continue.

“In 2021, we built an additional five miles of trails, bringing the total mileage of the planned 88-mile mountain bike-optimized trail system to 31,” Powers said.

Powers also noted the positive economic impact the trail system could have, including bringing more tourists to Athens.

“As we develop these world-class assets, we’re going to have a new market of consumers coming into our communities,” Powers said. “We’re going to have opportunities for new companies (creating) to meet this market demand.”

Authorization to allocate funds to replace the roof of the community center and possible funding for a book delivery and reading program, Imagination Library, were also discussed at the meeting.

Safety and Services Committee

The Safety and Services Committee discussed allocating funds for new tennis and pickleball courts that would be built near the Athens Community Center, 701 E. State St.

Stone asked the Board to consider a total court appropriation of $300,000. He also noted that he was asking the Director of Arts, Parks and Recreation in Athens to apply for a NatureWorks a grant that could offset part of the costs.

Concerns about the amount of money spent on the courts were addressed by Council members.

“We got a letter from someone who doesn’t live in Athens…and that person was saying that we could possibly have the pickleball courts…be another draw to have tournaments because there’s no one around. ‘other around that does it,” said Solveig Spjeldnes, D-1st Ward. “I think there’s some potential to improve the community in different ways.”

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