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Mayor Johnson addresses parking confusion, sanitation changes, social distancing
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In a regular briefing this morning, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said he is pleased that local citizens seem to be doing a better job observing social distancing.

"I want to thank those who are taking social distancing seriously," Johnson said. 
"However, there were some gatherings, some stores, some businesses that still do not seem to get the point."

Specifically, he cited "local seafood establishments and neighborhood discount dollar stores" as sites where a lot of violations are occurring.

Johnson had been so incensed by widespread disregard that at last Tuesday's briefing, he threatened a citywide curfew if things didn't improve quickly.

Johnson thanked Walmart and other big box stores for amending policy on how many people can be in a store at a time. That move came after a viral video of a large brawl in a Walmart on the Southside — which Johnson himself was coincidentally able to witness in person.

Johnson admitted that there have been "mixed messages" on the issue of City parking, with citizens unsure of whether it's the first hour that's free, or whether parking is totally free.

"We messed that up," he said, vowing to fix the confusing communications issue. "Everybody has to know what the game plan is."

City Manager Pat Monahan said there was never an intention to make on-street parking completely free, as many citizens were either told or understood.

"The problem with free on-street parking is folks don't park in the parking garages," Monahan said. "But any citations issued Monday and today will be forgiven."

Monahan confirmed that ONLY the first hour of parking is free downtown.

All other parking violations will be ticketed as usual, he said.

Johnson reiterated that City sanitation services are at reduced staff to allow for safe social distancing of truck crews. There will only be two crew members on each truck for the time being.

"We want to practice what we preach," he said.

This also means that services are reduced, however. Only regular trash will be picked up — NO items will be taken to recycling, NO yard waste and NO bulk items will be picked up.

Mayor Johnson said that you can use your yellow recycling bin to put regular trash in — which will not be recycled — but asked that citizens fill up the regular bins first.

You can take your recycling, yard waste or bulk items to the Dean Forest Road Landfill or Bacon Park Transfer Station.

Johnson confirmed that the only legal shelter-in-place protocol current in effect is the Governor's recent and controversial executive order.

Johnson reiterated that he extended the City's own order to May 1 specifically to protect the City if the governor's order expires on April 13, as is currently scheduled.

On an unrelated but timely note, Johnson encouraged Savannahians to take advantage of whatever extra time they might have on their hands to fill out the U.S. Census.

"It takes less than five minutes, took me only four," he said. "At this critical time every Savannahian needs to count."

Johnson said less than 40 percent of City residents have been counted so far.