SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) – The Coastal Empire Fairgrounds has been sitting unused for several years. That was going to change last October after unanimous approval from City Council on three proposals, until Savannah’s interim City Manager Michael Brown called the process into question.
Residents of the Fifth District held a two-week long call to action to hold the City accountable for completing this process. Organizers say they haven’t been given a seat at the table so they invited leadership to theirs.
“We asked you to come to our table today,” said event organizer Patricia Harris. “We set it up for you. You’re not here. Why not?”
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson was invited but did not show up to the event. He sat down with WTOC this Thursday to clear the air.
“We’re going to do what’s right. We’re going to continue to follow our process. And we’re going to go ahead and move this project along,” said Johnson.
He admits this process has not been quick.
“It’s taken a long time admittedly, and the community has given us grief that it has taken so long and so now we are moving quite expeditiously,” said Mayor Johnson.
“Are we tired? You can tell from my voice I’m tired,” said Harris.
Residents of the Fifth District expressed they want this property to drive the economy. Some proposals include recreation facilities, a mini police station and a health clinic.
“We know when COVID-19 happened it disproportionately affected minorities and African-Americans. It would’ve been great if we had the state Office of Minority Health open to do it,” said Georgia House Rep. Derek Mallow (D-GA 163).
“I wanna see all of this out here but the main thing is the football field for our little league football players,” said Post Two Alderwoman Alicia Blakely.
Even though their 14-day call to action is over, Harris says her advocacy doesn’t end Saturday.
“We’re gonna hold you accountable,” she said.
The same goes for Alderwoman Estella Shabazz.
“We are here today and I do believe that in 2021 our time has come,” said Shabazz.
Mayor Johnson says he hopes to be in a position to finalize proposals for the fairgrounds by the end of July.
“There are some major things on our plate that we have to get off of our plate. The first thing is the city manager search. The second thing in my mind is the fairgrounds,” he said.
In the meantime, the Fifth District will keep pushing.
“We are fighters, we are movers and we are shakers. And we are not going to stop,” said Harris.
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