Council President plans to retire

Published 6:37 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Longtime Troy City Council President Johnny Witherington surprised fellow council members on Tuesday by announcing his decision not to seek re-election.

“One of the greatest privileges of my life has been to serve on the Troy City Council,” said Witherington, who has been president of the council for more than 30 years. “I am very grateful for being given the opportunity to do so. It has been a joy and a blessing. … It is difficult to move on from something that has been a major part of my life for nearly 32 years, but I know in my heart, it is time for me to retire from city government.”

Witherington said he will not seek re-election to the council in August.

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“You can’t be replaced,” said Mayor Jason Reeves, as shocked council members sat in silence. “This city is so much better because of you.”

Witherington has represented District 4 for more than 30 years and was elected president of the council on May 1, 1985.

“He is one of the finest men that has ever been my pleasure to know,” Reeves said after the meeting. “Serving with him the last 20 years I count among the greatest treasures of my life … he is a great, great man and a great public servant.”

Witherington’s announcement came a shock to fellow council members. “I had no idea this was coming,” said District 2 Greg Meeks after the meeting.

Perry Green, an audience member in attendance and a member of the Planning Commission, asked to break protocol and speak publicly.

“I count Johnny Witherington as a dear friend,” Green said. “I have known him for over 60 years and he has demanded integrity in everything.”

“The City of Troy is going to lose a statesman.”

In other business on Tuesday, the council:

• Heard from Jason Thomas, who approached the council about the city’s policy for utility payments. He said one of his tenants had recently been unable to pay his utility bill and, in turn, found his utilities disconnected. “I just think we need to find a way to help the person,” Thomas said.

Reeves explained that the city utility department is a “governmental agency and a bonded utility and we have to follow the rules that are in place.” He the city does make an annual donation to OCAP, which provides utility assistance, and he said he would support any efforts in the private sector to develop additional methods for assisting the needy with utility expenses. “I would hope the private sector would step up to help,” Reeves said.

• Approved a tax abatement for Ideal Graphics, a local printing business which plans to expand with a new building.

• Approved a 772 notice to support a $1.9 million loan to Golden Boy Nut Corporation for a 45,000 square foot expansion project. “When Golden Boy came in July 2011, they expected growth and this expansion,” Reeves said. “The growth occurred slower than expected, and the three-year period on the abatement expired.”

The city will provide the financial guaranty for the loan, which was approved through the ID Board. The board will purchase the land and build the new facility, in turn leasing it back to Golden Boy. “We have put two requirements in the lease agreement. The first is a liquidity guaranty by the parent company to make sure the monthly lease payments are made and the second is a minimum requirement for utility usage,” Reeves said. “Both protect the city’s interests.”

• Approved a off-site beer and wine license for PK9 Management LLC, which operates the Ztec on U.S. 231 next to McDonald’s, pending completion of renovations and repairs cited by the building inspector and the fire marshal.

• Approved a business license for Fanatix of Troy. Hiram Faircloth is opening the business at 1122 S. Brundidge St. and because it is an amusement business, with video and arcade games, board games and console games, the license required the approval of the council, Witherington said.

• Approved the purchase of nine new interceptor SUVs for the Troy Police Department. Ken Cox Ford was the low bidder, at $34,009.18 each.