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Stone Mountain man complaining about shortened public comments removed from council meeting

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Stone Mountain man complaining about shortened public comments removed from council meeting

Mike Schaaphok, a Stone Mountain resident and previous candidate for Stone Mountain City Council

Stone Mountain, GA — The Stone Mountain city council’s regular business meeting on Feb. 7 was disrupted by resident Mike Schaaphok.

Schaaphok, a former candidate for city council whose concerns about roads and sidewalks are frequently raised during city council meetings, became angry when the public comment period ended before he was allowed to speak. The council had agreed to shorten the public comment period to allow state Rep. Billy Mitchell, who was present, to speak.

Schaaphok strode towards the podium and began shouting about the Constitution and potholes. Mayor Beverly Jones warned him that if he continued to disrupt the meeting, he would be asked to leave.

“If you’re going to take me out, you’ll have to take me by force because I am not yielding my time! I have a right as a voter, as a citizen, to make my opinions known to my elected officials!” said Schaaphok while pounding on the podium to emphasize each word.

Three Stone Mountain police officers gingerly removed him from the room. Schaaphok was later seen in the lobby of city hall, showing no signs of distress.

Mitchell reminded the city council that because he is the only representative of Stone Mountain in the Georgia House, and because of local control, he can make decisions that affect the city on the state level with relative ease. He also is the ranking Democrat on the Georgia House appropriations committee. He said that grants are available for city projects and encouraged Stone Mountain to apply for them. Stone Mountain recently contracted a grant writer.

Georgia State Representative Billy Mitchell speaks to demonstrators assembled in Stone Mountain Village before they marched to Stone Mountain Park to protest a Confederate Day observance being held by the Sons of Confederate Veterans on Saturday, April 30, 2022. File Photo by Dean Hesse.

Councilmember Clint Monroe asked about House Bill 189, a bill which would raise the weight limit on trucks. “Trucks up to 100,000 pounds can drive through Stone Mountain with impunity. Our infrastructure will be crushed,” said Monroe.

Mitchell said that while Georgia is a very pro-business state, there’s not much appetite to pass the bill.

Resident Ginger Criswell asked how to go about annexing entryways to Stone Mountain.

Mitchell said that cities and counties are creations of the state, and added that annexations are political and require buy-in from those being annexed.

“If you can get that buy-in, come talk to me,” said Mitchell. 

As part of their regular business, the city council approved two special use permits (SUP).

— Carmeisha Waters wants to open a personal care home for seniors who need help with daily tasks at 717 Main Street, a location that is currently zoned commercial. Waters has an existing personal care home at 1200 Silver Hill Road. The Main Street location is intended for lower income residents, and will be set up so that couples need not be separated. Staff will help residents with meals and other daily needs, while any nursing care will be contracted out by the residents.

— Alicia Parker, representing both the current owner and the potential buyer, requested a special use permit for an art studio at 6825 James B. Rivers Memorial Drive. The current zoning is R2 traditional residential, although it is on the site of a former fire station. The artist wants to use the site because it is a serene environment near Stone Mountain Park, and the large bay doors of the former fire station are very suitable for bringing sculpture materials in and out. City Planner Richards Edwards said that the Planning Commission recommended that the SUP be approved and that the city consider later consider rezoning the parcel.

Both SUPs were approved unanimously.

“Congratulations. We look forward to you doing great things in the city,” said  Mayor Jones.

In other business:

— Sgt. Bob Hillis presented an update on plans to improve the city’s capacity to hold Zoom webinars and livestreams of meetings. After receiving a first estimate of $52,000, the city sought an estimate from another company. They determined that it would be more cost-effective to repair the microphones and other equipment that the city has, at a cost of $4,990.40. That expenditure is already budgeted and has been approved by City Manager Darnetta Tyus.

A second phase will add three wireless goose-neck style microphones so that staff and attorneys who attend meetings will have microphones. That phase will cost $7,034.42 about $5,100 of which is hardware. That part of the improvement plan has not been approved by the city manager yet.

— At the invitation of the mayor, City Attorney Jeff Strickland raised the prospect of a review of both the city charter and the city’s procurement policies and procedures.

Strickland said that both reviews would require an open public session with the mayor, city council, and members of the city staff present. 

Councilmember Chakira Johnson asked if the reviews could be on the agenda for the upcoming city council retreat, to be held Feb. 24-25 at the Georgia Municipal Association building. 

Councilmember Monroe said that he feels that trying to add it to the agenda would overload the retreat.

“It would wind up being a three-day retreat instead of two,” Monroe said.

— Councilmember Teresa Crowe spoke in favor of creating a city newsletter. Crowe said that the city has had one in the past, and that it needs a newsletter to inform people about events. Crowe said that thus far, staff has not been able to publish a newsletter. Some residents have volunteered to help the city create one. 

In response to a question from Monroe, Tyus said that her staff could produce a newsletter in the next 30–60 days, but it would need to be for city initiatives and information, not a wider community newsletter. Councilmember Gil Freeman said that he wouldn’t want to obligate the city to combine city business with a wider community newsletter. 

— City Manager Tyus announced that the city has hired Bolarin Kushanu as the new Assistant City Clerk.

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