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Mayor continues limiting public meeting access with council meeting time changes

By Marsha Tallent
LAKELAND, Georgia – The Lakeland City Council meeting met on Wednesday, October 12th at 5:00 P.M., its new regular meeting time. The mayor asked for the change in September and despite the fact that two council members voiced concern that the day and time that the mayor requested accommodated few and would have the effect of limiting citizen involvement in city council meetings, but the mayor persisted with his request. The time of the meeting is the biggest obstacle since the majority of persons tend to get off work at 5:00 P.M. and by the time that they could drive to Lakeland City Hall for a meeting, council meetings would most likely be over or close to it.

As a result of the day and time change, City Councilman J.D. Walden, a former Lakeland Police Department officer, was unable to make the meeting. Walden is a Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department Detective and the demands of his work made it impossible for him to attend the meeting.

In addition, City Councilman Greg Sealey was also absent, so the new day and time change has not helped him improve his council meeting attendance. This year, Sealey has missed about half of the monthly council meetings due to his involvement with school little league coaching.

It is the opinion of the Lanier County News that since the last council allowed for a change in the City of Lakeland Bylaws which reduced by one person the number of people needed for a quorum, unwittingly (it seems) the council has empowered by participation reduction for the council’s decisions to be more fully controlled by Mayor Bill Darsey.

Mayor Bill Darsey was present. Also present were Mayor Pro Tem/Councilman Otis Calhoun, Councilman Valentino Brockington, Councilwoman Grace Mack, and Councilman Johnny Reynolds.

The September meeting minutes were approved. Monthly reports were given by the Lakeland Police Department, Lakeland Fire Department, Animal Control, and Code Enforcement. A total of 55 citations were reported to have been issued in September.

Lakeland/Lanier Chamber of Commerce and Lanier County Industrial Development Authority member Cindy Pullen addressed the council. Pullen informed the Lakeland City Council that there is now a newly-formed New Direction Commission. This new commission has been formed by community leaders who attended a 3-day training provided by the Rural Development Institute at Valdosta State University.

An agreement between the City of Lakeland and the Lakeland-Lanier Chamber of Commerce was adopted, which was drafted by new City Attorney Tommy Coleman. The agreement allows the City to collect a hotel-motel tax at a rate of 5%. 3% of the money collected will be paid to the Lakeland-Lanier Chamber of Commerce.

The creation of a Downtown Development Authority was suggested by City Attorney Tommy Coleman. Coleman is to draft a resolution for the November City Council meeting.

The September 2022 accounts payable were approved.

LPD Chief Slusher has requested that the Lakeland City Council approve the investment in body cameras which would be worn by Lakeland PD officers. $5,394 is the amount that the camera system would cost the City of Lakeland annually. From discussion, it appears that to use the body cameras, the Body Camera Policy would have to be amended. The motion to get the cameras was approved.

The meeting was adjourned. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 14th at 5:00 P.M.

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