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Entertainment district measure fails in McDonough
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McDONOUGH — An entertainment district won’t be coming to the city of McDonough, at least for now.

In a 4-3 vote Monday, the City Council opted to vote against the measure. Mayor Billy Copeland and Councilmembers Rufus Stewart, Kamali Varner and Sandra Vincent voted against while Councilmembers Craig Elrod, Benjamin Pruett and Roger Pruitt were in favor.

The idea of the district was introduced by Elrod during the council’s Nov. 5 meeting. The entertainment district would have allowed for alcoholic beverages to be carried in an open container in designated public places within the city Monday-Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. in a specially marked cup. The McDonough Square would have been omitted from the district because it’s considered a park.

The original district would have encompassed all of the Main Street District, however, Elrod said to start, he was willing to decrease the area to the original Main Street District of four blocks.

Pruitt who said he had “wrestled” with the idea initially, was ready to move forward with the idea after discussions with Elrod.

Councilmember Pruett questioned public safety. Following input from McDonough Police Chief Ken Noble, Pruett appeared satisfied.

Vincent said while she supported the downtown merchants and the idea of an entertainment district, she wanted more community conversation around the idea, suggesting a community meeting with business owners and residents who might be impacted.

Rather than voting on the measure during the Nov. 16 meeting, Vincent proposed a 14-day or 30-day public comment period accompanied by a “proper map” with street names. Additionally, she requested that notices be sent to businesses and affected neighborhoods with a copy of the proposed ordinance.

Elrod took issue with the suggestion.

“I can’t think of one ordinance we have done that for,” he said, adding he didn’t want to be held to a different standard than others.

Elrod pointed out that this is not the first time he has brought an entertainment district ordinance to the council on behalf of citizens and business owners.

“I did this two years ago, and now we really need this tool,” he said. “Citizens and business owners have reached out, and I made a commitment to the citizens I represent.”

Vincent said she wanted to work toward a resolution, calling it an opportunity to work together.

“What is the harm in creating a proper map and giving it two weeks,” she said. “Then we can all go away knowing we’ve been a part of something great.”

In a social media post on Tuesday, Elrod said he would take the issue to the council and mayor again, encouraging everyone to voice their support or opposition to the measure by reaching out to council members and the mayor.

“The more input for our citizens, the better in my book,” he said in the post.

Henry Players struggling financially as live theater returns
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McDONOUGH — The Henry Players are fighting to keep their doors opens.

The acting troupe is not unlike many in the county and country when their doors closed in the spring with no idea when they would be back. The pandemic ended their 29th season abruptly, leaving their space at Hood Street Arts Center frozen in time.

The cast was well into rehearsals for their second to last show of the season “Mamma Mia!” Sets had been built and costumes were rented.

“I walked back into our space after three months, and it was surreal,” said Adriana Beckner, president of The Henry Players. “Seeing everything untouched for so long, it was a weird moment.”

Though the stage stayed dark and seats empty, The Henry Players still had overhead. Bills like rent, electricity and the rights to shows still had to be paid.

Beckner said the group has been able to cover those bills, but funds are getting tight.

She said the group has faith they can get through the hardship but would like to be comfortable enough to know Season 30 can continue.

In September, they reopened, welcoming the community, but it came at a price. Beckner said the show did really well, but following coronavirus guidelines, they’ve cut their seating to 50-60 people instead of the usual 200. Ticket sales covered the cost of the show, but not enough to put away funds for future costs.

On Dec. 3, The Henry Players will kick off their second show of Season 30, “Elf The Musical.”

In an effort to make enough money to cover their overhead and accommodate all those who would like to see it, the show has been extended for a third weekend.

“It’s a lot of work for our cast, but we know it’s worth it,” she said.

Beckner explained the opportunity to act in and watch a live show creates an outlet for everyone to step away from real life for a little while, especially in the time of the pandemic.

“It’s a creative outlet for so many in our community,” she said. “Over the last 30 seasons we have brought together thousands of people. If we lose this, our community will be affected, especially our children.”

To help keep their doors open, Beckner started a GoFundMe fundraiser, with the hopes of covering overhead through the season. The Henry Players is a non-profit organization so all donations are tax deductible. To donate, visit www.gofundme.com and search for The Henry Players.

In addition to limiting capacity, the theater and seating are cleaned using a spray sanitizer several times between shows. Theater-goers must wear a mask in all common areas, along with a temperature check before entering.

Beckner said she and the staff are playing “Jenga” with seating charts to allow for groups who are together to sit together. The concession stand will be closed; however, staff membes will filter through offering drinks and snacks.

The following is the season schedule:

♦ “Elf The Musical” — Dec. 3-6, 10-13 and 17-20

♦ “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” — Feb. 11-14 and 18-21

♦ “In the Heights” — April 29-May 2 and May 6-9

♦ “The Color Purple” — June 10-13 and 17-20

Ticket prices range between $15-18 and can be purchased on the The Henry Players Facebook page or www.henryplayers.com. Season passes are also available. All shows are held at the Hood Street Arts Center, 136 Hood St. in McDonough.

“We have a full 30th season planned, and I hope everyone will come out to join and support us,” Beckner said. “There’s been a lot of new and interesting challenges we never thought we’d have to deal with, but we’re working hard to give everyone a great experience.”

Georgia DOT seeks public input on Commercial Vehicle Lanes project
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McDONOUGH — The Georgia Department of Transportation is seeking public comment on the proposed I-75 Commercial Vehicle Lanes project in Butts, Henry, Lamar, Monroe and Spalding counties. In concordance with social distancing practices, instead of typical in-person public meetings, Georgia DOT will be hosting a virtual public information open house by posting information related to the proposed project on an online platform at https://majormobilityga.com/projects/i75cvl/. This online platform also includes information on the proposed detours associated with the overpass bridge replacements at Pea Ridge Road and High Falls Road.

“Georgia DOT has released the project’s concept design. Even though we are in a pandemic, the department is offering several engagement opportunities for the public to submit comment on the project to keep critical transportation infrastructure improvements on track,” said Georgia DOT Program Manager Matthew Fowler. “We encourage members of the public to participate in the public comment period as we strive to improve the movement of freight and reduce incidents.”

Proposed improvements include:

♦ Constructing two, toll-free, barrier-separated commercial vehicle lanes northbound along I-75 from approximately the I-475/I-75 Interchange near Macon to the McDonough area.

♦ Beginning just south of the city of Forsyth, the two commercial vehicle lanes grade-separate and overpass the I-75 general purpose lanes to transition to a barrier-separated location to the inside of the existing I-75 general purpose lanes south of the Ga. Highway 18 interchange.

♦ The two commercial vehicle lanes continue in this location northward to just north of the Ga. Highway 83 interchange.

♦ Beginning north of the Ga. Highway 83 interchange, the two commercial vehicle lanes grade-separate again and overpass the I-75 general purpose lanes to transition back to the barrier-separated outside location just south of the Ga. Highway 42 interchange.

♦ The two commercial vehicle lanes continue northward along the outside of the existing I-75 general purpose lanes to approximately Bethlehem Road, where they merge back onto the I-75 general purpose lanes. The project includes the addition of an auxiliary lane between the commercial vehicle lane merge near Bethlehem Road and the Ga. Highway 155 interchange and also between the Ga. Highway 155 interchange and the Ga. Highway 20 interchange.

Georgia DOT will host a live, virtual public information open house presentation and question and answer session scheduled for Dec. 2 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., allowing the public to meet with members of the project team and ask questions following a brief presentation about the project. For the full schedule and details on how to access the live event, please visit the online platform.

As part of the virtual experience, Georgia DOT’s online platform includes an interactive meeting room with displays, videos, and materials that would be found at traditional in-person public meetings. The information in the virtual meeting room will be available throughout the public comment period, which extends through Dec. 15.

To view the printed displays, please visit Georgia DOT’s District 3, Area 4 Office at 4499 Riverside Drive, Macon, Ga., 31210 or the Henry County Administration Building at 140 Henry Pkwy., McDonough, Ga. 30253. The displays will be available weekdays through Dec. 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Georgia DOT representatives will not be staffing these displays; however, the public may submit questions regarding the project using any of the comment options available below.

Public comments can be accepted during the virtual public information open house and until Dec. 15, 2020, by:

1 Leaving a comment in the comment section of the virtual public information open house site.

2 Emailing comments to 75CVL@dot.ga.gov

3 Calling the project hotline at 678-528-7275 to leave a recorded comment.

4 Submitting written comments to the Georgia Department of Transportation; Attention: Eric Duff, State Environmental Administrator, 600 West Peachtree St., NE – 16th Floor, Atlanta, Ga., 30308.

To learn more about the proposed project and to provide input, visit the project website at https://majormobilityga.com/projects/i75cvl/.