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City council and Hammett debate installation of guard rails on 20th Street

The Cairo City Council and the owner of a local scrap business hashed out the pros and cons of a city proposal to install guard rails along 20th Street SE/NE in order to maintain clear rights-of-way.
Jimmy Hammett, owner of A&R Metals, met with the council Monday night to discuss the proposed plan.
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton shared with the council an aerial map and he outlined the areas where he suggested installing guard rails.
For years, the city has been at issue with A&R Metals about maintaining the rights-of-way clear of the salvage material and scrap metal. Hammett said that his business is “feast or famine” depending on the market for scrap metal. For the last several years the market has been down, but Hammett said Monday night that the people who buy his materials have indicated the market is set to rebound in 2018.
“I don’t want guard rails,” Hammett said. He told the council that he keeps the material off the rights-of-way, but as quick as he moves it off, people come and dump more in its place.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas acknowledged that Hammett’s business is much needed here and noted that he kept a lot of salvage material from ending up on roadsides, in ditches or at the city landfill.
“The issue I have and the neighbors I represent have is that you’re not staying off the right-of-way,” Douglas said.
City officials suggested that erecting guard rails would prevent people from, primarily on the weekends, dumping material at A&R Metals on the right-of-way of the city street.
Hammett contended that people would just dump the scrap in the roadway, which would be a safety issue. He said he does provide an area on the property he owns north and south of the railroad where people could pull off the road and dump, but he said people do not want to get too far off the road for fear of having a flat tire.
Rather than installing guard rails Hammett asked for more time and said he was going to use a crane outfitted with a magnet to stack the scrap material higher and he would be removing all of the material that has collected along the right-of-way.
“It will not be until the first of the year so you’ve got to give me some time,” Hammett said. The local businessman said he wanted to avoid a legal battle with the city, but noted the company and the city had gone to court before and he would again if necessary. “You can’t hinder my business,” Hammett told the council.
Douglas told Hammett he would be agreeable to postponing any further discussion or making a decision until February or March to give the businessman an opportunity to put his plan to clean up and maintain the right-of-way time to go into effect.
Hammett thanked the council for their offer to work with him and give him more time to deal with the situation.
The proposal to install guard rails was formally tabled.
In other business Monday night, the council:
‰Heard compliments from Councilman Jerry Cox about the progress being made at Azalea Park. Cox said the new pavilion and bathroom facilities were “coming along nicely.”
‰Heard a request from Councilman Ernest Cloud for city crews to fill in holes along Ninth Street N.E. with dirt from Five Star Credit Union up to Three Squares Diner.
‰Heard a request from Cloud for the next phase of a stormwater drainage project on Grant Avenue to be completed. Cloud offered a motion to invest Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax proceeds for the project and to put it out to bid as soon as possible. Addleton said that all of the SPLOST money was already earmarked for other projects, so either projects would have to be postponed or other funding sources would need to be identified. The city manager said his plan was to budget for the project in the 2018-2019 budget. Councilman Douglas suggested Addleton bring back estimated costs and a source of funding recommendation at the Dec. 11 council meeting. “I have no problem doing it, but we’ve got to know how to pay for it and if we don’t have the SPLOST dollars we can’t use them,” Douglas said. “I just want to make sure it gets done. This has been going on four or five years,” Cloud said. Addleton said he will bring back a recommendation in two weeks.

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