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Morning headlines: ACC Commissioners vote to fund homelessness plan

Commissioner Ovita Thornton questioned the need for a strategic plan to tackle homelessness at a commission meeting on Tuesday.
Commissioner Ovita Thornton questioned the need for a strategic plan to tackle homelessness at a commission meeting on Tuesday.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioners voted to spend $133,000 on a strategic plan to address the county’s growing homelessness problem at their monthly meeting on Tuesday.

The plan, which will be produced in the coming months by a consulting firm based in the Washington, DC area, was characterized by some critics as just another study without action accompanying it. But supporters of the plan say that it’s not just another study but a way to convene and better organize the array of resources Athens has to combat homelessness – both in terms of money and in terms of the organizations working on the problem.

District 1’s Patrick Davenport said, “We’ve got to do something, and this is not necessarily a study. We’ve got one group doing this, one group doing that, let’s just get together. And what they’re going to do is make recommendations.”.

District 9 Commissioner Ovita Thornton was skeptical, however, saying, “So we’ve got to bring somebody here to show us how to work together? I don’t get that. We’ve got to pay somebody to show us how to have some coffee and some juice to talk over issues?”

Commissioners voted to move ahead with work on the plan by a vote of 8 to 1, with Thornton voting against. The plan itself will take several months to complete.

Commissioners also approved $225,000 for Athens Transit to cover a funding gap of a few months before additional federal dollars are expected to arrive. Commissioners turned that single vote into a larger discussion about bus service and the future of fare-free transit. District 7 Commissioner Russell Edwards, a critic of Athens Transit at a meeting last month, took an opportunity to again talk about his frustrations with the system.

“I think fare-free has been a program with a good intent,” Edwards said. “I look at it as an anti-poverty program. I think that’s what I see it accomplishing, but I’m really interested, when we’re talking about transit, how do we enhance the quality of service of transit?”

District 5’s Tim Denson countered that the revenue from reinstating bus fares wouldn’t allow much, if any, expansion of service.

“The amount of money that we would actually recoup from the local fares, the farebox, again less than $500,000 - that’s basically the cost to operate one additional bus per year.” Denson said. “The fare box is not what’s stopping us from expanding service. What’s stopping us from being able to expand service is that we’re not investing enough in this.”

In another issue, Commissioners sparred over a possible rule change that would reduce the number of commissioners who need to be at a meeting to pass legislation.

UGA ranked #21 by Forbes

Forbes Magazine recently ranked the University of Georgia as a top university for value and career success. UGA came in at number 21 on Forbes’ list of top public colleges around the nation.

That determination is based on multiple factors including alumni salary, debt, graduation rate, retention rate and academic success. Among students who graduated in UGA’s Class of 2021, 92% were employed, attending graduate school or engaged in post-grad internships within six months of graduation.

The rankings platform Niche recently ranked UGA 10th on its list of Top Public Universities in the U.S.

Bulldogs jump to #2 in AP poll

The University of Georgia Bulldogs are number two in the AP college football poll, passing Ohio State.

Alabama remained No. 1 in the AP Top 25 . With Ohio State at number 3, Michigan and Clemson round out the top 5.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.
Alexia Ridley joined WUGA as Television and Radio News Anchor and Reporter in 2013. When WUGA TV concluded operations, she became the primary Reporter for WUGA Radio. Alexia came to Athens from Macon where she served as the News Director and show host for WGXA TV. She's a career journalist and Savannah native hailing from the University of Michigan. However, Alexia considers herself an honorary UGA DAWG!
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