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Johnny Crutcher takes over Athens council presidency

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — The passing of the gavel at Monday night's Athens City Council meeting wasn't without a few hitches.

To start fiscal 2008, the council switched presidents, with Harold Wales stepping down and Johnny Crutcher taking over the position for the fiscal year.

Crutcher told the audience that citizens wanting to address the council under his tenure will have to follow the city's ordinance, speak on only one subject and speak for only two minutes.

It will take a two-thirds vote of the council to increase speaking time.

"You're not to get up here and do an entire diary on what's wrong with the city," Crutcher said.

He also said he does not want citizens calling him with complaints that should go first to Mayor Dan Williams and the city's department heads.

"I'm not playing county commissioner," Crutcher said. "A councilman's job is to pass legislation, not run the city. I'll refer you to the mayor and department heads because you can get results a lot quicker."

Councilman Jimmy Gill said his District 3 citizens can "call me anytime."

"Because I'll be calling on you come election time," Gill said.

Plainview Circle resident Mae Davis, who complained about two subjects in less than two minutes Monday, said she did not know citizens are limited to one issue.

She spoke about traffic concerns at the new red light at
Zaxby's and Wal-Mart and sanitation not picking up her garbage.

"What I'm getting is that you don't want us to come here, and you don't want to hear anything," Davis told Crutcher.

Crutcher said citizens can come before the council but will have to follow the guidelines.

"I think you need to stress to the public that they'll only have two minutes to speak," said citizen Quentin Anderson, who routinely addresses the council.

On Monday, Anderson stayed within the two-minute requirement when he passed out a written statement and didn't read it aloud.

His statement was regarding the city's $21 million fiscal 2008 budget, which will have an estimated surplus of $12,629.

Anderson also wrote a critical letter to the editor that ran Sunday in an area newspaper and accused the city of manipulating figures.

After the meeting, Anderson approached Crutcher and Councilman Ronnie Marks and got into a debate with Marks and citizen Gerald Blaxton about that letter and the budget.

Marks said the council budgeted only a $15,000 surplus for fiscal 2007 and ended up with about $1 million.

Blaxton, who attends most council meetings, told Anderson he didn't know what he was talking about regarding the budget.

When Anderson and Blaxton raised their voices at each other, Police Chief Wayne Harper told them to quiet down and take their argument outside.

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