City of Americus Continues to Shine Despite Global Pandemic – Americus Times-Recorder

From: Nicole Kirksey, City of America

Since 2020, the pandemic has dominated the headlines and has helped transform corporate and government culture. The City of Americus has not been immune to change and has weathered the storm while making a positive impact that has shaped the way our community does business.

From external successes that are easy to observe, to internal improvements that are transforming the way our employees work every day, over the past two years our governments have provided an opportunity to pivot and find new ways to serve the community more efficiently and to serve more positively.

Americus Police Department

According to Americus Police Chief Mark Scott, crime in Americus is at an all-time low. Part 1 Crime figures for 2021 continued their downward trend, falling a full 21% from 2020 and at their lowest level in over 30 years. Part 1 crimes are the more serious crimes pursued by the FBI. These include manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, auto theft, other theft, vehicle theft and arson. These crimes are generally reported to the police by the public and are caused by criminal rather than police activity.

Looking more closely at the numbers, the overall decrease is primarily due to a 26% decrease in property crime, which involves theft, theft or damage to property. This category accounts for 82% of reported criminal activity in Americus. As for offenses in Part II, which includes less serious offenses such as simple assault, trespassing, drug offenses, disorderly conduct, forgery, DUI of alcohol or drugs, etc., it decreased by 13% from 2019 to 2020.

Part of cultural change is an increase in community ties. Among the many new processes implemented was a new public information campaign targeting the local faith community. This campaign encouraged faith leaders to spread the message to their communities that gun violence is not the way to resolve disputes and that it will not be tolerated in Americus. Despite obstacles due to Covid-19, the Americus Police Department reached out to students in the school system by teaching the GREAT program online. The GREAT Summer Camp was a huge success with twelve students completing the program. In addition to attending four career fairs and two citywide vigils, APD sponsored a community gun violence awareness campaign in four neighborhoods in June.

Eventually, the APD became a state accredited agency through the Georgia Law Enforcement Certification Program and a nationally accredited agency through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).

Americus Main Street

According to Americus Main Street director Qaijuan Willis, downtown Americus has improved significantly over the past two years. One of the biggest highlights would be the purchase of the new Americus Street Trolley, which is accessible to drivers with disabilities. Another change that significantly improved downtown pedestrian safety was the redesign of Lamar Street from three lanes to two lanes.

As for the visual improvements of downtown, $49,457.95 was invested in 2019 and $25,000 in 2021 for total renovations under the Façade Grant Program and $9,173.87 for total renovations under the Bright Ideas Grant Program. Amiais Healthcare, LLC received $22,500 while Graceful Hands Home Care, LLC received $30,000 through the Revolving Loan Fund.

Thanks to the Charles L. Mix Foundation, Americus Main Street received $60,000 for the Rylander Renovation Project, which included a new fountain. Other improvements include a new website, pole banners, and festive decorations.

finance and human resources department

According to Treasury Director Twany Edwards, the Treasury Department made a very important move to downtown Americus to the old Wells Fargo Building on Forsyth Street. This move will ease access for citizens of Americus.

Human Resources Director Ola Terrell-Jordan reported dozens of improvements to internal and external processes. Highlights include the passage of the Rule of 75, which provides employees with an opportunity to take early retirement; Implementation of the Matching Funds for the Police Annuity Benefit Fund and the Fire Fighter Pension Fund; Implemented a gym membership fee program for employees; Warriors fight Covid by securing over $15,000 worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) when supplies were difficult.

There were also six new members of the management team (including two elected officials). These hires included a new mayor, a District 3 councilman, a city manager, a finance director, a human resources director, and a public works director.

Department of Tourism

According to tourism director Nicole Kirksey, the city of Americus has seen an increase in visitor numbers and an increase in hotel stays. 2021 surpassed all previous hotel/motel tax collections by ending the year at $419,761. In 2021, Americus and Sumter County were featured in 65 published articles, generating: 11,533,063,858 total media impressions, an estimated combined value of $106,721,234, while less than $40,000 in marketing dollars were spent.

The 2020 tourism economic impact on Americus included total visitor spending of $38.5 million, with 3.6% being the proportion of jobs directly sustained by visitor spending in the county. Visitors generated $2.7 million in state and local taxes in Sumter County, a tax saving of $238 for each household. Spending can be broken down as follows: retail $7.2 million, food and beverages $11.8 million, lodging $7.8 million, recreation $3.8 million, and transportation 7.9 million dollars.

Building Risk Management & GIS

According to Chief Building Official Roger Willis, the Department of Building Risk Management held the first major City Wide Clean Up Day in September 2021. Over 115 volunteers collected more than 19 tons of garbage and 483 car tires.

Another important goal that was accomplished was the removal of abandoned and junk cars from streets and private properties in Americus. Judge Greene worked with Farrah Rutherford, the Code Enforcer, to develop a process for removing junk cars from private ownership by going to court and obtaining a court order.

Eventually, the team of Roger Willis, Aimee Argo, Deborah Goodin, and Farrah Rutherford completed several major construction projects: the Fallen Officer Memorial, Eastview Cemetery, the remodeling of the new Customer Service Center, and the Municipal Building.

According to Beverly Butcher, GIS director, one of her department’s major achievements was the city-county reorganization. This ensures that each political district was created equally using census data. The reallocation occurs every ten years after the census. This helps every citizen in Americus know who to vote for and where to vote.

city ​​administration

According to Americus City Manager, Diadra Powell, there have been numerous city improvements that not only foster safer neighborhoods and bring vibrant businesses to the city, but also contribute to a better quality of life.

Some of the many achievements that Powell’s leadership has brought to Americus are the implementation and creation of new bike lanes; renovation of the historic Rylander Theater; 280/fields beautification project; TE project at HWY 19; resurfacing of North and South Jackson Streets, Oak Avenue and the John Railroad; Russell Street drainage project; communications upgrades for public safety; the public works department headed by Mike Sistrunk moves into the former customer service center; CCTV project; City wide park upgrades and fire station upgrades.

This is just a high-level overview of some of the many changes and improvements the City of Americus has made since the pandemic began, and led by City Manager Diadra Powell, former Mayor Barry Blount, and current Mayor Lee Kinnamon. Powell works alongside the guidance of the Americus City Council, which is made up of the following council members: Juanita Wilson, Nelson Brown, Daryl Dowdell, Charles Christmas, Kelvin Pless and Nicole Smith.

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