Historic Louisville building to become art gallery
• Gallery will open Friday during local Art Guild's annual show
By Parish Howard
At first it was the building, the old abandoned fire station rich with local history, less than a block from Louisville's Broad Street that got their attention.
Business partners Helen Aikman and Kathleen Galvin saw the building advertised in the Georgia Trust, visited it and decided they really wanted to find some way to not just preserve it, but to bring the building back to life.
"We were shocked at how beautiful Louisville is, so scenic and unspoiled," Aikman said. "We fell in love with the building and decided to buy it and see what use it could be put to by the town."
The partners wanted to provide something that the people here would use, something they would buy into and utilize.
"On our first visit here we ran into someone trying to raise money for the Arts Guild," Aikman said. "Then we started hearing more and more about it and learning just how active this local arts group is. Later we met Lil [Agel, the guild's director]."
The gallery seemed like a natural thing.
"I can't tell you how exciting this is to me," said Lil Agel, director of both the Chamber of Commerce and The Arts Guild. "To have someone coming in here to focus on this kind of project with this level of commitment…it, it's amazing."
The building, at different times, contained a firehouse, a jail and city offices. When Aikman first saw it, it was in pretty poor condition.
The Gallery's Goals
"We had to do a lot of work," she said. "It needed new plumbing and wiring."
Plants had invaded through the broken windows and the nubs of the bars from the old jail could still be seen in the floor of the back room.
Since then they have put up new drywall, removed the old Southern Bell switchboard which once served the city, and turned the upstairs into two apartments. All of the windows have been replaced with real wood molding in keeping with the building's original design.
"We made some changes downstairs, but we wanted to keep the general garage feel of the gallery space," Aikman said.
Raw brick walls meet stucco in a space Aikman hopes the local residents will be as proud of as she is.
"First of all we wanted save the building, to preserve it," Aikman said. "Our second is to provide exhibition space for a very high quality rural themed southern art. Our focus is narrow. We want this to be our niche'. When people come here, we want them to know what sorts of things they are likely to find."
While their first goal is to serve Louisville and Jefferson County, Aikman says she also plans for The Firehouse Gallery to be a productive, sales oriented gallery.
"They have contacts in the art world in Maine and [Washington] D.C.; these people know what they are doing," Agel said. "No artist wants their work stuck somewhere where no one is going to see it. They want recognition; they want sales."
And the owners plan to deliver.
Aikman says the gallery has already begun promoting itself throughout the CSRA and hopes to attract attention from surrounding art schools.
One of their first projects involved creating a fellowship with Emory University and recruiting their first artist-in-residence, Jon Westdahl to help manage the gallery and get it on its feet. Every year Friends of Historic Downtown Louisville, the group Aikman and Galvin formed to own and operate the gallery, among other things, plans to bring in a new artist to the area to take his place.
"I can't tell you how great it has been having Jon here," Aikman said. "He is so versatile. We hired him to manage a gallery, but he has been serving as more of a project manager. He's really done a great job of making friends in the community. That has been unbelievably helpful."
Westdahl, who will be living above the gallery, said that he is excited about what he feels the gallery can offer the entire community.
"A gallery isn't just for artists," he said. "We want to provide a place for people to see it, buy it and learn about it. We want this to benefit the entire community and offer programs that allow for expression, growth and learning."
Upcoming shows through September include documentary fieldwork photographs from students in the University of Mississippi's Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the paintings of University of Alabama art professor Kathryn Jill Johnson, and the Toy Camera Holga photography of John Bohannon and Mark Hickman.
The Firehouse Gallery will be opening its doors to the public for the first time this Friday.
"We really do want to serve this community," Aikman said. "We thought the best way to do that would be to allow the Arts Guild to use the space for their spring show. We've offered them our space and services for this show and we hope to do this annually."
The gallery itself offers about 1,600 square feet for exhibition, including about 150 feet of wall space.
Westdahl and Friends of Historic Downtown Louisville have also organized a 5K run/walk, scheduled for Saturday, April 30, to benefit The Arts Guild.
The show and the gallery will be open to the public Friday, April 29, from 7-9 p.m., Saturday, April 30, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, May 1, from 1-5 p.m.
Regular gallery hours will be Wednesday through Fridays 12- 6 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sundays 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
Citizens accuse officers of harassment
• Wadley Chief says claim is unfounded, officers targeting no one
By Ben Roberts
Discussion of the city police department was a large part of the Wadley city council meeting earlier this month and that discussion included accusations of harassment by citizens and "dirty work" by one council member.
Terrence Demon Thomas, 22, of Wadley, was present at the April 11 meeting to file a written complaint with the council against the department. Thomas claimed he had received 19 citations for numerous violations including lack of proper license plate lights and loud music. According to Thomas, he had numerous witnesses who could corroborate that the music was not loud.
Thomas did not specify the length of time in which he received the 19 tickets, nor how many had actually been issued by Wadley police (WAPD) or the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO). He did, however, tell council members he felt he was being harassed.
An accusation which councilman Izzel Mack seemed to agree with, saying at one point, "It sounds like racial profiling to me."
There were others in attendance who appeared to be present to support Thomas' claims, including his father, Albert Thomas; but Mayor Herman Baker essentially ended the discussion saying that he would review the written complaint and turn the issue over to Wadley Police Chief Paul Jordan. This action prompted a response from councilman Albert Samples, who felt those present should have been given an opportunity to speak.
"When citizens come before the council - if citizens have a complaint, they have a right to come before the council," Samples said. "It's called a council meeting, not a mayor's meeting."
When Baker again told those present he would "take care" of the issue, Mack accused the mayor of being part of the problem.
"All you want to do is sit here and cover for that dirty work they're doing," he said.
Wadley Police Chief Paul Jordan was absent from the meeting, but the rumors of what was said about his department in his absence neither surprises him nor fazes him. Without elaborating, Jordan acknowledged there are issues between his department and some members of the council. However, some of those issues pre-date his even joining the department, he said.
As for Thomas' claims of harassment, Jordan said plainly, "Not by my department."
According to Jordan, WAPD officers did cite Thomas for three violations on March 30, 2005, around 7 p.m. Those charges were for the lack of required license plate display lights, driving on a suspended license and no insurance. Jordan said Thomas would have the chance to dispute those charges in court.
"This is the second time we've dealt with Terrence (Thomas), that I know of, since last summer," he said, adding that he had no knowledge as to if or when Thomas had received any citations from the JCSO.
As for Mack's accusation of a crooked department, Jordan said, "I wouldn't know why he would say such a thing."
Councilman Mack could not be reached for a comment regarding this story, and neither Terrence Thomas nor Albert Thomas answered a request for an interview.
In a later phone interview, Samples stopped short of accusing the WAPD of any wrongdoing, but did say he hoped they were not being over-zealous with citizens.
"I don't mind a man doing his job," said Samples, a former police officer himself, "but I don't want him over-doing his job. He can't be out there railroading people. We don't expect the city to be run off fines. We want our officers to use common sense."
Firefighters suspended for not wearing gear
• Hearing officer suggests waiving one suspension, and reducing other one due to a lack of written policy
By Parish Howard
A fatal wreck and the actions of at least two responding Wrens firefighters have led city officials to seek to more clearly define policies and procedures among its emergency response teams.
In the weeks following the Feb. 18 two-vehicle accident at the intersection of Highway 17 and Highway 80 full time firefighter Ken Zaydell and assistant chief Keith Boulineau received memos from the city notifying them that they would each be suspended without pay for several days due to what the city felt were violations of its personnel policy and accepted practice. Specifically, the city claimed neither firefighter had worn the appropriate protective gear at the scene of the accident. As assistant fire chief, Boulineau was also cited for not instructing those under his command to wear appropriate gear and insubordination. The council voted to suspend Zaydell for two regulars shifts (or 48 hours) and Boulineau for 15 days without pay.
Both firefighters said they had never been reprimanded for any violation before, felt their punishment was excessive and sought appeals for the city's decisions. They were heard by Hearing Officer Brannen Bargeron earlier this month.
Both firefighters argued that in the many years they have been involved with the city, Zaydell nine and Boulineau 12, neither has seen a policy regarding what should be worn at a scene and that the city in fact, has no "written standard operating procedure."
Zaydell pointed out that he was not on duty that night and responded as a volunteer in a "support capacity at the rescue unit getting tools and needed equipment ready for the firemen to use." He went on to point out that both the assistant chief and Chief Larry Cheely, were on the scene and neither ever instructed him to put on any additional gear.
"The city says it is acceptable practice to wear gloves and eye protection during a wreck," Zaydell said. "Well, to me, acceptable practice does not dictate policy and acceptable practice is hard to prove. You can't go by what others would do."
The city pointed to what all parties agreed was a "standard paragraph" in all Georgia Emergency Management Agency training manuals regarding appropriate attire for the training exercises and argued that it dictated the recommended practice to reduce the chance of injury and liability.
Zaydell went on to say that his only involvement in any sort of extrication involved a quick snatch and grab when he helped move a fellow firefighter from the wreckage who dislocated his shoulder.
"At no time was I involved in the disentanglement of patients or their care," he said. "….As for the other instance, I made a split second decision, simply stepped up grabbed the injured firefighter and moved him out of the way. It's easy to say what you should have done after the fact, but when one of your men is hurt, you have an obligation to rapid intervention. It's your duty to act."
City Attorney Chris Dube responded saying that while "everyone is glad you did what you did" the city is still concerned about his safety at a time like that.
Boulineau told the hearing officer that he had made at least two cuts on the vehicle; however, he claimed he had been wearing gloves and a helmet with face shield when he began the work.
"I bent over to make a cut and it fell off and I left it there," Boulineau said. At one point he also grabbed a fire extinguisher and helped put out a flash fire at the rear of the vehicle.
"As the assistant chief I realize that I am held to a higher standard and I hold nothing higher than the health and safety of the firefighters under me," Boulineau said. "If at any time I thought any of the firefighters on that scene were in any danger, I would not have hesitated to act to rectify the situation."
Chief Larry Cheely, who testified that he was on the scene for a portion of the events that night, said that while he was there he did not see any practices that were "out of the ordinary."
In Boulineau's case, the city also cited him with insubordination for allowing another firefighter who was under doctor's orders to avoid full duty, to respond to the accident. Boulineau said that in the past, on at least six occasions, the city has allowed firefighters who were injured and not at full duty status to participate in calls. He went on to say that he was acting as the Matthews fire chief when he told that firefighter that she could respond as a member of the Matthews Fire Department.
Boulineau told the hearing officer that he takes full responsibility for everything that happened that night.
"I feel like I did my job well and all of our firemen walked away relatively uninjured," he said. "I stand by what I did in both instances."
The city claimed that in the weeks before the accident it had issued a memo advising all firefighters wear appropriate gear to structure fires; however, both firemen said that the appropriate gear required at a wreck depends on the capacity in which they are serving.
"The city wants to make sure its people are safe," Dube said in his closing. "It wants to protect the lives of our firefighters. We need to stop these actions before we have a serious accident on the scene."
Last week Bargeron sent the city his recommendations, suggesting that since the city has no written personal safety procedure and since neither the chief nor assistant chief advised him to don any additional gear, "firefighter Zaydell has engaged in no conduct which should subject him to discipline."
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In Boulineau's case, in regards to the charge of insubordination, Bargeron found that the punishment of three days suspension "is neither unfair nor discriminatory." However, he felt the other claims were "not supported by the record" and that he felt it "would be unfair to maintain the entire suspension of two weeks and two days without pay." Instead he suggested the suspension should be reduced to one week and two days.
The city's council will review Bargeron's recommendations over the next few days and is expected to rule on them in their next monthly meeting currently scheduled for May 10.
"Really, this issue is all about safety," City Administrator Donna Scott Johnson said Monday, after receiving Bargeron's suggestions. "Safety was our concern, and not just for the people involved in the accident, but for the people working the accident."
Monday, Johnson said the city is currently in the process of creating a policies and procedures manual for the fire department. She went on to say the section which deals with appropriate attire will be pulled out, completed and implemented before the rest of the manual.
"It should all be in writing shortly," Johnson said. "All of our full time and volunteer firemen will have the opportunity to see it and give input. It's important since they are the ones who will be using it that they get to review it, give comments and make suggestions. We want this to work."
The city is also working to revise it's police department's policies and procedures manual, Johnson said.