Citizens voice concerns about Aaronville


A group of Aaronville residents were on hand at Monday's Foley City Council meeting to raise concerns about the Aaronville neighborhood. Those concerns were by and large about the youth of the neighborhood.

Thelma Woodyard of Oak Street and Shirley Guss of 4th Avenue, representing Citizens of Aaronville, asked council members about a number of issues relating to the neighborhood's youth, namely, why the Boys & Girls Club is open only from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; why the Azell Ginwright Center isn't more accessible, and why is there a $25 per activity fee involved in the facility's use; and why the Aaronville swimming pool isn't open for the summer.

"Every child in that community is not a bad child," said Woodyard, who also had concerns about what she alleged were an excessive number of stops by Foley police asking individuals what they are doing in the neighborhood.

"Everybody is not on drugs," Woodyard told council members. She said she has the names of 15 people who have been stopped by police in Aaronville for no reason.

"We solicit your patience," said Mayor John Koniar to the women, a reference to cleaning up Aaronville's longstanding drug problem, one police are attempting to get under control.

Police Chief David Wilson, who has been on the job since this spring and was present at Monday's council meeting, told the women he has been shocked at how the drug community from all over the city comes to Aaronville for drugs.

"We've put the drug dealers on the run," Wilson told the women, adding that police have had to take a hardline approach in the neighborhood at times to do that.

Koniar told the women that the Boys & Girls Club matter was discussed during the council work session, and that the Club has had personnel problems. He promised to try and find out more about the short hours and how the city's share of funding for the facility is being spent.

As for the Aaronville pool, Koniar said only about six people a day were using the pool and that wasn't cost effective for the city.

Koniar, noting the city is applying for a grant to be used in the neighborhood, said a public meeting will be held on July 17 at which time Aaronville residents will hopefully offer suggestions as to what kinds of activities they would like to see in Aaronville.

He also said police have done a good job of getting "bad people" out of Aaronville.

"Our main concern is these children in Aaronville," said Guss, who noted she would volunteer time to help improve the neighborhood for youth.

"I pray over the streets," said Helena Thompson of 8th Avenue. "We have a good community … and we're trying to save our children."

Thompson was also concerned about police apprehensions in Aaronville inadvertently harming innocent children who might get in the way.

Following the council meeting, Guss and Woodyard said year-round activities at the Boys & Girls Club and Ginwright Center would be a priority for them.

"My biggest concern is to basically allow these kids a chance," said Woodyard. "God is a God of second chances.

"Some of these children are basically lost because they're in single parent homes - low income homes. It takes a community to raise a child."

In other council action, the mayor announced that John Gates, the city engineer, will be leaving at the end of July to take a job in New Orleans. The mayor thanked Gates for his work on behalf of the city. Gates called his new job an "offer I couldn't turn down."

With the police chief's recommendation the council approved a Restaurant Retail Liquor license for Los Tacos located at 740 W. Laurel Ave., and a Lounge Retail Liquor - Class II (Package) for the Bon Secour Package Store located at 18019 Suite B, County Road 10.

The Foley Police Department report for June reflected 260 arrests, 297 incident/offense reports, 385 traffic citations, 97 traffic accidents, and 86 new cases assigned to investigators.

The Community Development Department report for June showed 207 total permits issued at a total construction valuation of $4.3 million. The figures included 21 single family residential permits for the month at a total construction valuation of $2.5 million, and one new commercial permit, Coastal Health Clinic at 919 W. Laurel Ave. ($600,000). City inspectors made 867 inspections during June.

Council members approved changing the position of "Director of Senior Center & Municipal Complex" from a classified to unclassified position which removes it from the City's Pay Classification Plan and puts it in the same status as that of other department heads.

A modified plan regarding the conversion schedule for changing the Performance Review system from calendar year to anniversary date was approved.