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Council approves lend-lease of equipment to Haitian city
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THERE HAS been a connection between Savannah, Ga., and St. Marc, Haiti, for more than 225 years.

During the Revolutionary War, Haiti shipped out men from St. Marc to Savannah to fight in the Battle of Savannah in 1779. Like Savannah, St. Marc has a major port, and the city is considered to be one of the most stable parts of Haiti.

St. Marc has a legitimately elected governing body that provides residents with regular government services, when it can. Baunars Charles, the mayor of St. Marc, Haiti, recently sent a letter to Savannah City Manager Michael Brown, requesting assistance for what he said is “our current time of desperate need of basic equipment for the development and the stabilization of infrastructure to our city.”

“Our city currently has no working piece of machinery to remove trash and assist in potential crises, such as flooding,” Charles wrote. “Dump trucks, trucks, backhoes and front-end loaders, flatbed trucks and computers are desperately needed! We would also respectfully request that you would ship any equipment from Savannah to St. Marc at your earliest convenience.”

A three-year partnership between Savannah and Haiti was cemented with the dedication of the Haitian American monument, which is located in Franklin Square. Political and economic stability have improved in Haiti over the past three years, particularly in St. Marc.

The elected officials of both cities have pledged to continue a cooperative partnership in which technical assistance, equipment, economic development and other opportunities will be shared. City officials traveled from Savannah to St. Marc on an official visit.

“You think of the relationship between sister cities as cultural and social,” Brown said “It became woefully apparent that St. Marc is almost completely incapacitated by natural disasters, by the violence that occurred there, so that a city the size of Savannah has no rolling stock.”

Alderman Clifton Jones said the need was obvious. “They didn’t have anything there,” he said. “It hurt our hearts when they started telling us how they were living.”

St. Marc is located on Haiti’s western coast about 50 miles northwest of Port-Au-Prince. The city government has been trying to provide such basic services as trash collection, road work and infrastructure maintenance, but has been restricted by the lack of equipment.

The council approved a lend-lease of public works equipment to St. Marc. in the form of five surplus vehicles -- two flatbed trucks, one dump truck, a pickup truck and a back-end loader. “These are what we consider pretty basic pieces of equipment,” Brown said.

“These are not for a gift or outright donation,” he said. “They have certain obligations to use them properly and maintain them properly, and report back to us.”

It would be impossible for St. Marc officials to obtain the vehicles on their own, Brown said. The vehicles in question have already been replaced in Savannah by new vehicles and would be sold as surplus online if they weren’t sent to Haiti.

To get the equipment to Haiti, it will be shipped to Port Everglades, Fla., then loaded on a ship and taken directly to St. Marc, a process that will take about two to three weeks. The cost of shipping will be $26,000.

The Georgia Historical Society was granted approval for the placement of a historical marker on the south side of the 3000 block of West Bay Street near the intersection with Albion Street.

This site was the boyhood home of Robert Sengstacke Abbott, who was eulogized in 1940 as one of the most influential African Americans in the nation. Abbott was born on St. Simons Island in 1868 to former slaves, but grew up in Woodville, then a small community three miles west of Savannah.

Abbott founded the Chicago Defender, the largest circulating African American newspaper in the country, in 1906. The newspaper was used to focus attention on Jim Crow laws, lynchings and discrimination, and championed the migration of Southern blacks to Northern cities during the Great Migration of 1915-1919.

Retired history professor Martha Keber and her husband, Robert, did the research necessary to obtain the marker. “This historical marker is a fitting monument to exemplary life,” Keber said..

Tyrone Boyer is president of Woodville’s community association. “He was not only a great American, he was a great Georgian, a great Savannahian,” Boyer said.

“We have some members who actually met him. They are well into their 80s. I take great pride in knowing that Mr. Abbott didn’t establish his newspaper for monetary gain, he did it to express outrage over things that were happening that weren’t right to help human beings become more humane.”

Residents of Woodville are honored that the marker will be erected. “Our community has been around since 1870,” Boyer said.

Keber said a ceremony would be held, although the date for it hasn’t been set. Setting the plaque in bronze will take about two months, she said.

The council approved an ordinance that will allow homeowners to install indoor gray water reuse systems in their homes.

The city has been seeking ways to reduce residential, commercial and industrial waste consumption. At the top of the list is adopting standards for using “indoor gray water” to reduce water usage.

Gray water comes from sinks, tubs and washers. It can be treated and re-used in toilets. These types of systems eventually pay for themselves by recapturing installation costs through lower water and sewer bills.

Demand for these services is likely to increase, and many communities have already approve the systems, Brown said. “I do think this is the direction we are moving,” he said.

Toilet flushing is responsible for about 30 percent of water usage. Homeowners will not be required to install a system, but approval of the ordinance means they can if they want to, Brown said.

The recovered water is dyed green or blue to distinguish it from drinking water, Brown said. “You can’t drink it unless you drink it from the toilet,” he said.

The council approved a liquor, beer and wine license for Amy Lynn Stafford of Universe Management LLC, doing business as The Wormhole, a bar which will be located at 2307 Bull St. Concerns were raised by the bar’s neighbors.

Virginia Mobley noted the bar will be surrounded on three sides by houses. There also is a church next door, she said.

Douglas Smith is the pastor of that church, the Savannah Soul Saving Station. “My concern is that we’ve been very effective in that area,” he says. “A bar at that location will defeat our purpose.”

Smith said his church works closely with the Old Savannah Mission and local homeless authorities. He said he particularly works with people who are going through rehabilitation.

There already is a package store in the area, Smith said. “Despite that, we’ve been effective,” he said. “Our youth program has been effective. To have that club coming in now is not going to be good for the young people.”

At times, young people are brought to the church from detention centers, Smith said. The church also sponsors an outreach program, as well as weekly services. “Any type of entertainment is going to interfere with our services,” he said.

According to city ordinances, the front door of the bar must be at least 190 feet from the front door of the church. Jones said he understands Smith’s concerns, but said the applicant does meet all requirements..

Smith questioned the building’s capacity. “It used to be an old furniture store,” he said. “We had a major problem with people congregating there and leaving liquor bottles. No way these two entities can get along in the same environment.”

Jones noted that the owner will be required to do cleanup at the establishment. “The key here is the fact that they meet the requirements,” he said. “I really don’t see anything else we can do but pass the ordinance.”

Mayor Otis Johnson agreed. “This group has sworn to uphold the law,” he said. “As an aside, this really should be a good time for your congregation to work with the people you say will be affected by this. In my opinion, this gives you a great mission challenge and an opportunity to work with those need the help.”