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Athens City Council meets Sept. 18, 2023, at the Athens Municipal Court on Washington Street.

City Council discusses parking rates, increasing fire control regulations

Athens City Council met Monday to discuss 21 ordinances, including increasing parking rates, fire control regulations and the new Athens Fire Headquarters.

Councilman Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward, proposed to increase parking rates by 25 cents every hour. 

However, councilmember Alan Swank, D-4th Ward, said it may not be necessary to increase meter and garage rates because a kiosk system is going to be installed in the parking garage soon. He said the kiosk would generate more money for the city because it would collect parking fees 24 hours a day, six days a week. 

The installation of the kiosk would not require a ticketing person to stay in the parking garage; rather, that person can help patrol the parking in the City of Athens to focus on business zone violations and accessible parking space zone violations, Swank said. 

Council discussed an ordinance that focuses on the overcrowding issue in bars, which would amend stricter fire control regulations. 

“My concern is that we have had multiple cases with overcrowding that have violated fire codes, the idea of a two strikes policy with a basically increasing to more severe penalties after each offense,” councilmember Micah McCarey, D-At Large, said.

New amendments would fine violators $150 on their first offense as a minor misdemeanor; a second offense within two years would be deemed as a misdemeanor charge of the fourth degree, 30 days of jail time and a fine of $250; a third offense within two years would be deemed as a misdemeanor of the third degree, 60 days of jail time and a fine $500; a fourth violation within two years is considered a misdemeanor charge of the second degree and call for a maximum of 90 days of jail time and a fine of $750. 

Daniel DeLuca, the owner of Red Brick Tavern, located at 14 N. Court St., raised concerns about the newly proposed penalties bar owners would face for exceeding maximum capacity in their bars. 

Andrew Grillo, attorney at Toy Law, LLC, and representing DeLuca, spoke on DeLuca’s behalf and asked council to table the increasing penalty ordinance at the meeting. He said DeLuca and many other bar owners would like to have the ability to speak with council to establish guidelines that are more appropriate to combat the overcrowding problem. 

Grillo assured council that DeLuca would comply with the penalties, but the proposed increase of the penalties may be excessive.

City Council President Christine Knisley warned concerned bar owners how the fire chief is alarmed at how often overcrowded bars ignore fire safety codes. She wants bar owners to work toward an effective strategy to cooperate with the city. 

Next Monday the ordinance will be discussed in a committee meeting. 

Council approved over $13 million for the construction of the new fire headquarters on Stimson Avenue. The budget was doubled since their first proposal of $6 million. McCarey cited inflation and cost of labor as reasons for the dramatic increase in the undertaking. 

McCarey said the construction of the new fire headquarters is built near a floodplain; there have been Environmental Protection Agency consultation efforts to ensure the site is appropriate. He said the land had to be raised, which was expensive, but it was necessary to avoid any water concerns to the site.


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