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LNG, cooking oil recycling, political news, and Telfair Director Steven High heads to Florida
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LNG Resolution

The issue of Southern LNG’s interest in trucking shipments of liquefied natural gas through the streets of Savannah was a big part of the City Council agenda last week. Council members voted unanimously to pass a formal resolution “urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to perform a full environmental impact analysis for the application filed by SLNG to truck liquid natural gas through Savannah.”

Discussion of the resolution began during the council workshop last Thursday morning, and carried over into the regularly scheduled meeting Thursday afternoon when the resolution was approved. The resolution was necessary because the City has requested an environmental impact study, but has not received one because SLNG is opposed, according to Mayor Johnson.

“They are hunkering down, and so should we,” said the mayor, who also mentioned that the company has refused the idea of helping pay for street repairs along the route.

“They aren’t interested in being good neighbors,” added Alderman Jeff Felser.

The City of Savannah has been urging community partners to help them take a stand. Both Memorial and St. Joseph’s/Candler have written letters opposing SLNG’s proposal, and so have neighborhood groups along the tentative shipping route.

Mayor Pro–Tem Edna Jackson presented a letter from the Pine Garden neighborhood association, which is located a short distance from the President Street extension, also opposing the LNG shipments. “There would be nowhere for residents to evacuate,” if an incident were to occur, stated the letter.

Emergency officials have said that a release of LNG or vapor fire were to occur it would require an evacuation of everyone within a one–mile radius of the accident.

Alderwoman Mary Ellen Sprague said that the Chatham Emergency Management Agency’s director had also expressed concerns about being able to safely carry out evacuations in a worst case scenario.

There will be a study committee at the state level convening to further assess the issue. City Council members are still waiting on the Chatham County commission to formally oppose SLNG’s plans.

Country Fried Ordinance

During last week’s City Council meeting a new ordinance that would require restaurants to recycle cooking oil was given a first reading. If approved the ordinance would require food service establishments to store cooking oil on private property, or apply for a temporary use of right of way permit for containers, if an establishment doesn’t have the space to store used oil on premises.

The new measure stems from a variety of issues the city has been facing over the past several years.

“The proposed Waste Cooking Oil Recycling Ordinance is intended to provide the City with a mechanism to protect the public health and environment as well as to prevent odor and cleanliness related nuisances,” according to a memo to the Mayor and Alderman from the City Manager.

The major impetus for the new ordinance is an ongoing issue with improper cooking oil disposal. The sewer system has experienced routine blockages due to grease build up. There have also been issues with cleanliness in alleys around downtown, including one incident where a truck on its way down to River Street jack–knifed after skidding on an oil patch by the Abercorn ramp.

The ordinance will receive a second reading and vote at an upcoming council meeting.

Political tidbits

Rochelle Small–Toney is officially the City Manager (finally). At last week’s council meeting, she accepted the council’s offer for the position and was approved by a unanimous vote. Small–Toney will stay at the same salary level, about $190,000 plus additional benefits.

Mayor Pro–Tem Edna Jackson formally announced her candidacy for mayor last week at an event in Forsyth Park. Jackson’s addition to the race brings the total number of formally announced candidates to four, including Alderman Jeff Felser, former State Senator Regina Thomas and former Alderman Ellis Cook. There are rumors of several other potential candidates joining the race, but none have alerted the media yet.

On Thursday, March 31 the Downtown Business Association is hosting a meet and greet with the mayoral candidate Regina Thomas, the first in a series of events where community members can come and talk to candidates about their platforms. The event, which is open to the public, will be held at 5 p.m. at 24e on Broughton Street.

Congressman John Barrow made a cameo in Savannah last week, stopping at a tax preparation assistance event at the Neighborhood Improvement Association on Abercorn Street. The stop came as part of a series of visits across the 12th District, according to a press release from his office.

Telfair director headed to Florida

The Telfair Museums announced last week that Executive Director Steven High will take a job as director of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. High is expected to begin the new assignment on June 1.

“What an honor it is for Steven to have been chosen to lead The Ringling Museum,” said Cathy Solomons, the Telfair’s board chairman. “For the past four years, Steven has taken the Telfair to a new level of excellence and prominence, and we will miss his vision and leadership, but wish him well in this exciting new opportunity.”

High came to Savannah in 2007 shortly after the Telfair opened the Moshe Safdie–designed Jepson Center for the Arts. In 2008, he led a five–year strategic plan to highlight the diversity of the Telfair’s three sites (Telfair Academy, Owens–Thomas House, Jepson Center) and increase cooperative efforts between them.

Telfair Museums ended 2010 with the highest attendance in the museum’s history at 180,000 visitors.

“I have enjoyed working at the Telfair and love being part of the Savannah community. But when the opportunity at the Ringling was presented to me — from a professional point of view — I knew it was one I could not overlook” said High.

A search committee has been formed and will be responsible for finding High’s replacement.