Winder city administrator Donald Toms intends to resign from his position, he said Wednesday, Feb. 5.
Toms’ resignation is effective Feb. 19, he said, adding that he had not turned in an official notice as of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Toms notified Mayor David Maynard and the city council Tuesday, Feb. 4, the day after the council’s work session when it met in a closed session to discuss personnel among other topics.
No official vote of any kind was taken following the closed session, and Toms and Maynard declined Wednesday to disclose what was discussed in the session.
Toms had been with the city since 2010, when he was hired to replace Bob Beck, who died earlier that year. He previously was the finance director for the City of Milledgeville and had also worked as a city administrator in Rincon and Bowdon.
"I feel like I've done a really good job over the last nine years," Toms said. "I have nothing but positive things to say about the City of Winder. I'm going to be its biggest cheerleader going forward. It's not a situation with negativity or bad blood. It's just good timing to move on."
Toms’ resignation comes as the council is set to hold a pair of goal-setting workshops this month, the first of which is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, at the Winder Community Center.
The council has had four new members come on board since 2018, including new council members Holly Sheats and Kobi Kilgore, who came on board last month.
Maynard praised Toms’ leadership of the city over the past nine-plus years.
“I hate it that he’s leaving. I think he’s done a great job,” said Maynard, who has been mayor since 2012 and was on the council prior to that. “He’s led us through the beautification of downtown and numerous utility projects. He’s reorganized the structure of the city government. It’s what I ran on and what he’s done, making us more efficient and effective. He’s the reason we’re functioning at a high level.”
Apalachee High School principal Jennifer Martin said she knew senior student Kelly Eick was a special student when she joined the school’s Chick-fil-A Leadership Academy as a freshman.
More than three years later, Martin was introducing Eick as Apalachee’s 2019-20 STAR student at the annual Barrow County Chamber of Commerce STAR Student and Teacher luncheon.
“I have felt so honored to work alongside her,” Martin said of Eick, who is also the Barrow County School System’s system-wide STAR student for the year. Eick was recognized by the chamber along with Bethlehem Christian Academy senior Rebekah Doolittle and Winder-Barrow High School senior Lauren Freeman for having the highest SAT score and finishing in the top 10 of their graduating classes. The three students also introduced their STAR teachers during the luncheon.
Eick, who has been accepted to Georgia Tech and is awaiting word from Duke University, went with an unconventional choice, choosing AHS band director Dion Muldrow as her STAR teacher.
She recalled a story about how Muldrow had supported her since she was a timid freshman entering band camp.
“Every day, he followed up with me and asked me how I was doing,” Eick said. “To be an effective leader, you need to know who you’re working with from the top down. It’s more than a grade on a piece of paper or an SAT score. He’s taught me how to be a leader.”
Muldrow said he was honored that Eick described him as her hero and praised her love and compassion for her fellow students.
“Kelly’s going to change the world,” Muldrow said. “She’s a selfless leader. And that compassion for others, at a time when that’s what this world needs, that’s what she brings.”
Doolittle also earned praise for her leadership abilities from BCA headmaster Rhonda Whiting and STAR teacher Cricket Butler, who taught Doolittle in Advanced Placement U.S. History her junior year.
Doolittle is the third sibling in her family to earn the STAR student honor at BCA, and Butler said she has made a name for herself, taking on several student leadership and ambassador roles while also lettering in three varsity sports — basketball, volleyball and track and field.
“Her impressive work ethic and determination helps her handle everything with maturity,” Butler said of Doolittle. “Her influence transcends her work in the classroom.”
Doolittle called Butler a “phenomenal teacher” who is “excited and joyful to share everything she knows with her students.”
“She made her class fun and would also sacrifice hours outside the classroom to help others,” Doolittle said of Butler. “She’s a cheerleader, a great teacher and one of the most passionate people I know in everything she does.”
Freeman had similar things to say about her selection, Winder-Barrow math teacher Stephanie Britt.
While many might shy away from math classes, Freeman found a love for calculus class with Britt as a junior. She loved it so much, she said, that she enrolled in AP Calculus her senior year, again studying under Britt.
“She’s the best math teacher I’ve ever had,” Freeman said of Britt. “She makes math fun but she also gets things done. She knows how to teach the material but not make us hate it.”
Britt said her goal is for her students to walk into any math class at any institution of higher learning and be confident.
“She made my job so much easier,” Britt said of Freeman. “She loved the material and loved being there. She inspired me to be a better teacher and helped me see that there are still students out there that I can make a difference with.”
The City of Winder plans to keep the fine for stopping on the railroad tracks at $250 as the city’s police department works to more aggressively enforce against violations.
In light of a few crashes in recent months that were caused by people illegally stopping on the tracks and snarled downtown traffic, the Winder City Council discussed increasing the Municipal Court fine during its Monday, Feb. 3 work session. But the item was left off the council’s Tuesday, Feb. 4 voting session agenda, as the general consensus was to see if the department’s closer monitoring of the issue would have a positive impact.
“I take responsibility. Our officers haven’t always given the attention to this particular violation that maybe we should,” police chief Jim Fullington told the council during the Monday work session.
Fullington said the department made a total of 42 stops last year for vehicles illegally stopping on the tracks but that roughly two-thirds of those resulted in written warnings. Since December, he said police have been more aggressive with their enforcement and have made 37 stops over the last three months, issuing 25 citations.
“We’re giving it more attention and we’re already seeing the results,” Fullington said.
The most recent accident occurred Jan. 28 when a vehicle pulling a 35-foot trailer stopped on the CSX Railroad crossing on North Broad Street by McDonald’s and was struck by a slow-moving train, causing an intersection closure of more than an hour.
Last fall, another vehicle carrying a trailer was struck at the Broad Street crossing, impacting every crossing from Athens Street by Popeye’s to Horton Street by Hill’s Ace Hardware. That resulted in heavy train damage and a five-hour intersection closure.
Fullington said many of the incidents of vehicles being illegally stopped on the tracks are due to driver misgauging the timing on traffic lights that are in close proximity to the crossings.
If so desired by the council, the city would be able to raise the fine to up to $1,000, but Fullington recommended leaving it at $250.
“For somebody that makes a mistake in judgment and gets stuck, ($1,000) is pretty harsh,” he said. “I’d like to see us leave it where it is and give us time to do a better job enforcing it and see what happens. If you do decide to raise it in the future, I wouldn’t go above $500. That’s my personal opinion.”
Fullington’s recommendation was met with general consensus from the council, even though councilman Chris Akins said he would personally like to see the fine increased.
“As long as (the department is) going to enforce it, and it’s going to be a concentrated effort, it’s worth a try,” councilman Travis Singley said.
In action at Tuesday’s voting session, the council:
•approved an amendment to the city’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget that allows the city to allocate funds collected in excess of $200,000 for the library assessment to be put toward property maintenance and improvements at the Winder Public Library. City and library officials have said parking lot renovations and landscape maintenance are needed at the building. Mayor David Maynard said at a council work session last month that the city had brought in more than $224,000 through the assessment. As part of an agreement with Barrow County, the city can only use assessment revenue to fund library property improvements.
•approved a new pedestrian crossing by the library near the intersection of West Candler and Bellview streets. The work will include reflective paint and standard signs for an estimated cost of $800. The council was also presented with an option to install flashing safety lights for more than $9,000 but opted not to pursue that.
•approved $44,800 for repairs to and the widening of the Betts Street. A 10-percent contingency is included in the project, bringing the total not-to-exceed cost to $49,280.
•approved the purchase of new open-records request software in the amount of $10,816. The agreement also includes an annual cost of $6,100. City clerk Maddison Dean said the new software would help streamline the process for responding to and fulfilling requests. Citizens will be able to track and monitor the progress of their request online.
•approved the publishing of requests for proposals for assistance with the 2021 Community Home Investment Program (CHIP) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs.
•approved five appointments to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. The appointments for Ray Mattison, Ricky Peppers and Patricia Stallings are reappointments. Erin Alvarez and Holt Persinger are new appointments.
•approved a peddler’s license application by Neil McElroy to go door-to-door contacting prospective clients for Edward Jones Financial. No products will be sold.
The entire parking lot at Winder City Hall and the Winder Police Department will be temporarily closed for construction beginning Feb. 9. Without any weather delays, the lot should be reopened by Feb. 21.
The closure is part of ongoing renovations, including a new parking lot and pedestrian plaza.
All city employees, visitors to City Hall/WPD, downtown business owners and customers will need to utilize other downtown parking areas during this time, officials said.
New Statham police chief Ira Underwood will meet with city residents at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, for a "Coffee and Doughnuts with the Chief" session.
Underwood started in January, coming to the town from the Auburn Police Department.
The meeting will be at the Statham Community Center.
The East Georgia Genealogical Society will meet at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, at the Winder Public Library, 189 Bellview St.
Buddy Neal will be presenting "Sharing the Family History - Basic Tips."
The public is invited to attend.
Adult Literacy Barrow has the following upcoming GED orientation dates scheduled at the Wimberly Center for Community Development, 163 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Winder:
•6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11
•6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25
Students need to bring their ID to orientation.
A public information open house on a proposal for a new interchange in Barrow County, part of phase 3 of the West Winder Bypass, will be held from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, at the Barrow County Senior Citizens Center, 80 Lee St., Winder.
The county board of commissioners is hosting the open house to allow the public the opportunity to learn more and ask questions about the proposed project just east of Patrick Mill Road at State Route 316 and provide comments on the proposal.
The open house will be informal, and the public is invited to attend any time during those hours. No formal presentation is planned.
The Town of Bethlehem will celebrate Arbor Day on Saturday, Feb. 15, by planting a tree in the city park. The ceremonial planting will begin at 10:30 a.m. by the Pavilion in the park.
The tree, a Willow Oak, will once again be donated by Carruth Nurseries of Monroe.
Bethlehem was named a 2019 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation in honor of its commitment to effective urban forest management. Bethlehem achieved Tree City USA recognition by meeting the program's four requirements: a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
More information on the program is available at arborday.org/TreeCityUSA.
A banner exhibit highlighting the Macon-based Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, Museum of Arts and Sciences and Tubman Museum is now on display at the Winder Public Library through Feb. 16.
The exhibit is on loan from Visit Macon, and is eight colorful banners "celebrating the rich history of cultural, scientific, artistic and athletic achievement on display at the three museums," according to a news release.
Visit Macon is partnering with the Georgia Public Library Service to showcase Macon’s Museum of Arts and Sciences, Tubman Museum and the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
The museums are free to visit by using the Macon Museum Pass, which is a library loan program consisting of a pass that can be checked out just like any other library item. When taken to any of the three Macon museums, it is good for four free general admissions. All 405 public libraries in Georgia have the pass.
The Winder Public Library is located at 189 Bellview St. and can be reached at 770-867-2762, Facebook and at winder/prlib.org.
The Winder Housing Authority's board of commissioners will have its regular meeting at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19.
The meeting will be held at the Wimberly Center for Community Development, 163 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., Winder.
A volunteer training session will be hosted Saturday, Feb. 22, by the Barrow County Historical Society.
The two-hour session will provide information to those who are interested in being involved with the historical society, the museum, Train Days and other community programs and events.
For more details about involvement, leave your contact information at the Barrow County Museum, located behind the historic courthouse, or by calling 770-307-1183. You will be notified of session scheduling, leaders state.
The Barrow County Food Pantry, in partnership with the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia will have its monthly food distribution day at 8 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 (rain or shine), at Holly Hill Mall, across from Hill's Ace Hardware, 186 West Athens St., Winder.
This month's event is sponsored by First Presbyterian Church. It is open to all Barrow County residents who meet USDA income eligibility requirements.
Proof of county residency is required. Food will be served on a first-come, first-served basis.
The distribution day is held the fourth Thursday of every month January through October and the third Thursday in November and December.
Barrow County Cub Scout Pack 700 is inviting current and 2010 scouts and their families to the opening of the time capsule that was buried in April of 2010 at Winder First United Methodist Church.
The opening will be Saturday, April 18, from 10 a.m. to noon at the church.