Once again, RiverWalk restroom is pulled from council's agenda

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comJune 10, 2014 

The city's Planning Department will ask Columbus Council Tuesday for permission to enter into a contract with the Georgia Department of Transportation to build a $244,000 public restroom on the RiverWalk beneath the Frank Martin Memorial Bridge, according to council's agenda. The project will be funded primarily with state DOT funds. Eighty percent, or about $195,000 will come from DOT High Priority Project funds while the remaining 20 percent, almost $49,000, will come from the city's paving fund, according to city documents. 03/11/14

MIKE HASKEY — mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com Buy Photo

Once again, City Manager Isaiah Hugley had to pull from Columbus Council’s agenda a proposal to partner with the state to put a public restroom under the eastern end of the Frank Martin Memorial Bridge. And once again, absent councilors were the reason.

The state Department of Transportation has agreed to pay about $195,000 of the project, or 80 percent of the $244,000 price tag. The local match would be about $49,000.

When the item was first brought to Council in early March, some councilors balked at the price tag and asked that a vote be delayed until they could get more information.

The proposal came up for a vote two weeks later, but with only seven councilors present, it died under an inconclusive 5-2 vote, with five favoring the project. Councilors Judy Thomas and Pops Barnes voted against it.

The proposal came up again about a month later, in late April, but died again under an inconclusive vote, this time 5-4 in favor. That time, Councilors Skip Henderson, Mike Baker, Mimi Woodson, Evelyn Turner-Pugh and Glenn Davis voted for the proposal. Thomas, Barnes and Councilors Bruce Huff, Gary Allen and Pops Barnes voted against it.

Councilor Red McDaniel had been present earlier in that meeting, but left before the restroom vote came up. Had McDaniel been present and voted, the measure would have passed, regardless of how he voted. If he favored it, it would have passed 6-4. If he opposed it, it would have been a 5-5 tie, which would have been broken by Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who has said she supports the project.

The proposal has been back on the agenda at least twice since then, but Hugley has pulled it in the face of another inevitable inconclusive vote.

On Tuesday, Councilors Pops Barnes and Bruce Huff were absent and Red McDaniel left the meeting before the city manager's agenda began.

A new twist to the usual RiverWalk restroom routine this week was that Uptown Columbus has offered to pay $10,000 of the city’s tab, dropping the local taxpayers’ share to about $39,000.

“We feel like it’s a vital element of the bridge, the RiverWalk extension and the new plaza, everything that’s going on there” said Uptown CEO Richard Bishop. “It’s very important that we have a restroom there.”

Also delayed again on Tuesday was a first reading on the proposed Manchester Expressway Overlay District, which would place restrictions on development along that corridor. It was also postponed at a meeting two weeks ago.

Also on Tuesday, Councilors also held a first reading on the city’s Fiscal 2015 budget and approved an amendment to the city indigent health care contract with Columbus Regional that could save the city half a million dollars a year.

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