Mayor Buz Craft broke a 2-2 tie vote last week when he cast a vote against a motion that a sign for a Vidalia hotel was out of compliance with a town ordinance and should be removed immediately.
Aldermen Tommy Probst and Robert Gardner voted for the motion to remove the Clarion Suites sign while Jon Betts and newly elected aldermen Brent Smith voted against the removal.
Probst complained at a recent meeting that the town was not enforcing its ordinances concerning signage.
Newly elected Alderman Rosa Demby was not in attendance at the special meeting last week, forcing Craft to break the tie.
The sign, located on the lot once occupied by the closed RaceTrac convenience store and gas station, was the subject of dispute among aldermen in 2017.
Virgil Jackson, the owner of Clarion Suites, formerly known as Comfort Suites, said at the special meeting that he changed the name on the sign because of the company name change but did not alter it in any other way.
Craft praised Jackson and thanked him for his investment in Vidalia. He said the only thing Jackson had done was change the sign to reflect the new name of the hotel.
He said the changing of the name did not substantially alter the billboard and did not require any action of the council.
Town Attorney George Murray said the mayor was right.
Craft said he was vacationing and could not understand why the Friday special meeting could not have been held later.
Gardner said he called for the meeting, telling Craft, “If you didn’t want to come, you should’ve stayed where you were at.”
Craft repeated that he could not understand the urgent call for the meeting.
Probst said multiple concerned citizens called him about the matter and he wanted to meet to express those concerns.
Betts said he believed the sign complied with town ordinances, while Smith said he thought the sign looked good and that the matter was “petty stuff.”
Jackson, eyeballing Probst and Gardner, said, “I’m totally disappointed in you two. It’s clear, you can’t read. You can’t understand.”
“I have done so much for this town which you have not,” he told Probst and Gardner.
He also threatened to sue both Gardner and Probst, which drew a tap of the mayor’s gavel to indicate that Jackson should end his comments on that topic.
When Jackson said that there were “lots of other things” Probst was doing around town, Craft once again tapped the gavel for Jackson to stop before Jackson explained what he meant.