NOVEMBER 12, 2020 – 11:00 a.m.


Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the City Council work session and City Manager’s Briefing was held via Zoom video communications at 11:00 a.m.  Following the roll call, Mayor Johnson asked Mayor Pro-Tem Dr. Shabazz to offer an invocation.


PRESENT:  Mayor Van R. Johnson, II, Presiding

Alderwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter, At-Large, Post 1, Chairman

Alderwoman Alicia Miller Blakely, At-Large, Post 2

Alderwoman Bernetta B. Lanier, District 1

Alderman Detric Leggett, District  2

Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan, District 3

Alderman Nick Palumbo, District 4, Vice-Chairman

Alderwoman Dr. Estella Edwards Shabazz, District 5, Mayor Pro-Tem

Alderman Kurtis Purtee, District 6



Acting City Manager Michael Brown

City Attorney Bates Lovett

Clerk of Council Mark Massey

Workshop Agenda Items
1. Litigation, Personnel and/or Real Estate (11:00 a.m.- 11:30a.m.)

Mayor Pro-Tem Dr. Shabazz moved to recess into executive session for litigation, Alderwoman Lanier and Alderman Leggett seconded.  The motion passed unanimously.  

The executive session began at 11:07 a.m.  

There was no action taken.

The executive session ended at 11:13 a.m.

Alderwoman Wilder-Bryan moved to exit the executive session and rejoin the work session, Alderwoman Lanier seconded.  The motion passed unanimously.

There was a break and the work session reconvened at 11:30 a.m.

2. CARES Act Discussion (11:30a.m.)

Mayor Johnson gave background information on the City's three phases of the CARES Act Funding.  Phase I - $7,000,000, the City used 80% for businesses and citizens who were addressing issues dealing with COVID-19.  Phases II & III - approximately $8,500,000, the City anticipated using a fifty-fifty distribution for community businesses and the City's requirements; however, Phases II & III CARES Act Funding was pulled by Governor Kemp to use for unemployment.

Council was displeased with the way Phase I CARES Act Funding was disbursed by SBAC and resolved to do better with additional funding opportunities.  Staff located additional funds from CDBG and HUD.  

Mayor Johnson asked staff to rate the funds in an effort to assist local businesses that fall within the following four (4) categories:

  • Minority businesses
  • Businesses in CDBG distressed areas
  • Micro businesses (less than five (5) employees)
  • General business

Businesses were rated on a point system, receiving one point for minority, one point for distressed area, and one point for micro business.  Those businesses with three points would receive the bulk of the funds.  There was not enough funds remaining to disburse to the businesses with one or two points.

When funds arrive, Council will create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and disburse funds to businesses who received three points and decide in the MOU how to disburse the remaining funds.

Alderwoman Miller Blakely asked how many businesses received three points.  The City Manager will follow-up with the point break down and send the information to Council Members.

Alderman Palumbo commended the City on addressing the needs of the community, especially the distressed area businesses.  He asked if the remaining funds could be spread equally among the businesses receiving one and two points.  Mayor Johnson stated, Council will need to make that decision.  Council could use a percentage method or some sort of lottery process to disburse the remainder of the funds.

Alderwoman Wilder-Bryan asked if the MOU could already be in place before the funds arrive.  Mayor Johnson answered, it depends on how Council wants to move forward.  The MOU could be discussed by Council at the Budget Retreat next week.

Mayor Johnson asked everyone to welcome the new Acting City Manager Michael Brown.

Acting City Manager Brown recommended, as soon as possible, Council identify the businesses and geographic areas that are in the most distressed areas and disburse funds to those businesses, even if the criteria must change.  Mayor Johnson indicated there are some federal regulations the City must following in disbursing the funds.

Alderwoman Gibson-Carter reiterated her dissatisfaction with how SBAC disbursed Phase I CARES Act Funds.  She understands there were no funds disbursed by SBAC but loans were retired for those businesses.  She asked if the process could be revisited and those funds reallocated by City staff or another entity other than SBAC.  Since SBAC did not disburse the funds but instead retired outstanding loans to businesses, she asked if the administrative fee paid to SBAC was appropriate.  At this time, she feels many businesses are in distress and waiting for assistance.  The MOU should be a priority for Council and those businesses that are distressed or in geographic distressed areas should receive funds.  Alderwoman Gibson-Carter addressed the issue of one United Way organization receiving $1 million in Phase I, that was one-third of the funds and not fair to other organizations and faith communities that have outreach programs for homelessness due to the pandemic.  She asked for another review of allocations given to SBAC and allocations given to non profit organizations to spread the wealth throughout all City communities.

Mayor Johnson clarified there is a difference between the CARES Act Funding and the CDBG Funds.  CARES Act Funding came from the Federal Government, through the State, to the local municipalities.  Savannah City Council agreed to use eighty percent of CARES Act Funding to help businesses and citizens.  Of the $2.2 million, $1.6 million was used to retire debit of businesses and approximately $300,000 was allocated to local businesses.  The MOU approved by Council allowed retirement of debt.  Those funds have been allocated.  Mayor Johnson has sent correspondence to SBAC in reference to the return of the $60,000 administrative fee or a portion thereof.  The CARES Act Funding is no longer available and the City is now looking at other funding opportunities such as the CDBG/HUD funds using the four categories previously stated.

Alderwoman Miller Blakely asked if the CDBG funds process will be the same as the CARES Act Funding.  She received calls from citizens applying for CARES Act Funding that experienced problems with the paperwork process.  Mayor Johnson's understanding was the CARES Act Funding stipulated businesses must have incurred losses from March through August due to COVID-19.  CDBG Funds are restrictive as it relates to preventing job loss.

Acting City Manager Brown sees a lot of economic inequities throughout the City.  He wants to come up with mechanism to deal with these issues.  His goal is to set criteria before a crisis occurs, processes must be in place before funds are received.  He suggested going ahead and allocating the current funds to those businesses expecting the funds.  Any excess or future money the City will be better prepared for the level of distress and geographic focus.  Mayor Johnson suggested Mr. Brown meet with staff sometime next week to review all the CDBG/HUD regulations versus the CARES Act Funding criteria for eligible businesses before he meets with Council Members to discuss disbursement of funds. 

Alderwoman Lanier went on record stating the CDBG funds are intended for low wealth areas.  She supports the equity approach for disbursement of funds given the City has a wealth gap.  Council has previously committed to bringing equalization in the City's economy.  In discussing the distribution of the CDBG funds, she feels holding a lottery would not be in line with the intent of the CDBG funds in servicing the low wealth areas.

Alderwoman Gibson-Carter acknowledged her comments were coming from a place where the City could regain the trust of the community.

Mayor Johnson agreed with Alderwoman Gibson-Carter and stated the entire Council is on notice to regain the trust of the community.  He asked Mr. Brown to review all funding information next week in preparation of disbursing the CDBG funds.  City Manager Brown stated he would look at the criteria for the CDBG funds prior to disbursement.                  

3. 311 System Upgrades
Exhibit 1: Presentation - 311 System Upgrades (updated 11-12-20).pdf

Presented after Animal Control Services. 

Acting City Manager Brown gave a history of the establishment of the 311 System.  He gave a brief outline of the 311 System upgrades and asked Council Members to use the System for resident services, complaints, and requests.  He introduced Assistant to the City Manager Daphanie Williams who introduced the 311 staff and representatives from Rock Solid.  Ms. Williams gave the Power Point presentation.

Following the presentation:

Due to time constraints, Mr. Brown asked to continue the 311 System "Demo of Mobile Application" at the Budget Retreat next week, November 19-20, 2020.  This will allow staff time to work with Council Members on 311 System upgrades, demonstrate how to access and use the apps, track requests, and use the Council Dashboard.  Mayor Johnson suggested staff present a walk through video for residents to view the System upgrades. 

4. Animal Control Services
Exhibit 1: Presentation - Chatham County Animal Services.pdf

Moved up on the agenda after CARES Act Discussion.

Mayor Johnson gave a brief outline of the need for animal services within the City of Savannah and the request for Council to approve an Animal Services Ordinance.  He introduced Assistant County Manager Linda Cramer and Dr. Charles Harper, Director, Chatham County Animal Services and thanked both for their attendance at the work session.

Ms. Cramer explained the name change of three years ago to Animal Services.  Animal Control was transferred from the police department to Chatham County Manager's office.  With the transfer, Chatham County added additional animal services, i.e. adoption, animal population control measures, etc.  She asked Council to adopt the Animal Services Ordinance so Chatham County can continue to provide animal enforcement services in the City of Savannah.  She introduced Dr. Charles Harper to go over the proposed Animal Services Ordinance and give the Power Point presentation.

Alderwoman Gibson-Carter requested a copy of the Animal Services Ordinance.  Mayor Johnson stated Council was previously provided a copy of the Ordinance.  Clerk of Council then emailed Council a copy of the Animal Services Ordinance.

Following the Power Point presentation:

Alderman Purtee feels that ten dogs per acre would be too much for his district.  He asked Dr. Harper for the minimum requirements for outside housing for dogs.  Dr. Harper answered, the Ordinance states four sides and a door.

Alderman Palumbo expressed his pleasure in seeing Chatham County Animal Services using the TVNR Pilot Program, he feels this is a good Program.  He gave credit to Animal Welfare and Advocacy organizations who work diligently to control the pet population.  He asked Dr. Harper if there was any effort to reach out to those organizations.  Dr. Harper answered they are working directly with the Humane Society and with other organizations as needed.  Alderman Palumbo feels there are smaller issues as it relates to wild birds in the Ordinance.  He feels the Ordinance does not reflect the needs of the City and more work is required on the Ordinance.

Alderwoman Wilder-Bryan requested information on repetitive call requests and how they were resolved.  She feels the Ordinance needs work, especially as it relates to the amount of dogs per acre and the requirements of four walls and a door for housing dogs outside.

Alderwoman Miller Blakely suggested the Animal Services Ordinance be amended to be more conducive to City living as opposed to County living.

Alderwoman Lanier questioned the process for creating the Animal Services Ordinance and if citizens input was considered.  Mayor Johnson stated this is only the first reading and Council will have an opportunity to have citizens input during the City ordinance process.

Acting City Manager Brown requested additional time for an  opportunity to meet with County officials to see if Council's issues can be reconciled in the Animal Services Ordinance.  He informed Council, Chatham County is not constitutional obligated to provide animal services to the City and he recommends the City not get into providing their own animal services.  Mr. Brown added, there is evidence that free roaming cats reduce the number of birds (wild).

Alderwoman Gibson-Carter stated this is an opportunity for the City to give consideration and she asked Mayor Johnson if there were any Boards or Authorities for animal services.  This would be an opportunity for the City and County to work together to create such a Board.  In addition, she met with members of the FLOA Group who expressed some concerns with animals and she would like to see the Animal Services Ordinance address some of those issues.  At this time, Alderwoman Gibson-Carter feels the Animal Services Ordinance needs more due diligence and fine-tuning before Council can move forward to approve.

Mayor Johnson thanked Ms. Cramer and Dr. Harper for coming out to meet with Council.  He recommended City Manager Brown meet with Ms. Cramer and Dr. Harper in the coming weeks and come back to Council with an updated Animal Services Ordinance.  Council will then proceed with the Ordinance process which solicits input from the community.               

Mayor Johnson adjourned the Work Session at 1:13 p.m.


The audio recordings of the work sessions can be found by copying and inserting the below links in your url:



Mark Massey, Clerk of Council

Date Minutes Approved: November 24, 2020

Initials:  mm

Agenda Plus