Statesboro City Councilman John Riggs met with a small contingent of students Tuesday, at a town-hall style meeting in Georgia Southern University’s Education Building Auditorium.
The representative for Statesboro’s fourth council district – a district that includes many students who live in off-campus housing near the university – sat down with students to address ongoing issues and encourage a stronger connection between the city and its temporary residents.
Riggs, whose voting district includes much of Fair Road, Lanier Drive and Georgia Avenue, talked with students for more than one hour Tuesday regarding issues that ranged from alcohol sales and crime, to local business and the implementation of a student liaison to council.
“More than half of my constituency is students; based on recently released 2010 census numbers, the number may be much higher,” said Riggs to the audience. “I’m here today because I want to build a better relationship between the City of Statesboro and Georgia Southern students.”
“Georgia Southern and the City of Statesboro have a rich tradition of working together that dates back many years,” said Alton Standifer, president of the university’s Student Government Association. “This program is our attempt at continuing to do all we can to support the campus and community.”
“As students, we are a big part of the Statesboro community. We want to make sure our voices are heard on issues pertaining to the city,” said Standifer. “Tonight is our opportunity to voice any concerns we may have.”
Riggs addressed student questions and concerns following a brief introduction and speech.
In his message, the councilman warned of dangers associated with irresponsible alcohol consumption and asked students to consider safe decisions when under the influence – not to operate vehicles while intoxicated and be weary of traffic when walking down city streets.
Riggs also relayed to students information regarding the city’s newest attempt at limiting crime in Statesboro.
“The main thing I want to talk about today is crime,” he said. “We all know there are some bad folks living in the district. I hate to sound like the sky is falling, but there is armed robbery, assault and burglary. I would like for it to stop, and you can help.”
“We now have a website called crimereports.com,” he said. “If you ever see something on campus, someone doing something they are not supposed to do, you can go on the internet and anonymously turn someone in.”
The councilman assured students that they too have a role in city issues. Riggs stressed the importance of voicing concerns to members of council and encouraged everyone to contact city officials with questions or problems – the councilman provided his phone number and email address.
“We are asking for your cooperation,” he said. “I need you guys to know how accessible I am. You can call anyone within the city at any time if you have a question. We would be more than happy to help in any way.”
A question and answer session following Riggs’ address shifted focus to specific ideas about integrating the college with city government and the permitting of Sunday alcohol sales.
“You mentioned that you would like for students to stay informed about current affairs in city government,” said a student. “What advice could you give to us about how to stay informed?”
“One thing that has been talked about several times is having a student liaison from Georgia Southern, and maybe Ogeechee Technical College, to be a non-voting member of city council – to be involved in everything we do,” said Riggs. “That is a suggestion I would have.”
Several students expressed an interest in permitting alcohol sales on Sunday.
A bill that would allow local governments to permit Sunday sales has passed in the Georgia Senate and House of Representatives. The bill lacks only Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature – Deal has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
“There are two different options that we have now. If we decided, we could have liquor sold just in restaurants on Sunday and we could have it sold inside grocery stores and timesavers,” said Riggs. “I would put the issue on referendum, but we would have to see a big push in favor of it to move forward.”
“There would be a big debate,” he said. “But is my job to listen to both sides.”
The councilman invited students to continue asking questions and become active participants in city affairs by attending future city council meetings – including the next regularly scheduled meeting to be held at Georgia Southern.
Council will hold the second of its bi-monthly meetings next Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the university’s Nesmith Lane Building.
The college also was the site of a meeting last year.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454