Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

TOP STORY >>Cabot council, mayor set to talk

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

The Monday night Cabot City Council meeting was a short one in part because all the real business on the agenda was postponed until October to give council members time to talk with Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, who has been out of town.
The council tabled a resolution appointing Chuck Prater and reappointing David Hicks to the planning commission. An ordinance abolishing the council committees where city business is discussed before council meetings was read but not voted upon. That ordinance will be read again in October, and the council could decide at that time to read it for a third time or postpone the third reading and the vote to pass or fail in November.

The planning commission appointments drew sharp criticism from Alderman Teri Miessner, who asked that they be tabled until after she has talked to the mayor.

Miessner takes issue with the way the matter has been handled. Matt Webber, who is known in Cabot for community service work like the annual cleanup, is being removed from the commission after eight years.

Although the mayor said last week that he sent letters to all commission chairmen saying that no members would be reappointed unless there were extenuating circumstances, Webber was apparently unaware that his term was up and that someone else would soon fill his seat.

“I want to publicly apologize to Mr. Webber,” Williams said Monday night. “I wish it hadn’t happened, but it did.”

Although the reappointment of Hicks might appear to be a contradiction of the mayor’s new non-reappointment policy, the mayor said last week that Hicks’ departure from the planning commission during the administration of former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh, meets his standard for “extenuating circumstances.”

Three years ago, the city council appointed Hicks to the newly created public utilities commission to run the water and wastewater departments. Stumbaugh insisted that Hicks resign as chairman of the planning commission saying he could not serve on two at the same time.

Then a few months later when the public utilities commission was revamped into the Cabot Water and Wastewater Commission, with more authority than its short-lived predecessor, the mayor not the council appointed the members, and Stumbaugh did not appoint Hicks.

Since Williams took office in January, the city council has met in committees to discuss proposed legislation.

As the committee system was explained then, all proposed legislation was to be assigned to at least one of three committees.
And just like the state legislature, if it didn’t pass out of committee, it wouldn’t make it to the full council.

But in reality, the ordinance establishing the committees did not exclude the mayor or council members from bringing legislation to the full council that was not passed at the committee level.

Aldermen Miessner and Becky Lemaster learned that last month when the council passed a resolution from Alderman Eddie Cook calling for non-partisan elections in 2008.

Miessner and Lemaster, who are Republicans and want partisan elections, said the resolution didn’t make it out of committee and that it shouldn’t have even gone before the full council.

The day after the August council meeting, Lemaster asked City Attorney Jim Taylor to draft legislation abolishing the committees.

The council this week did pass an ordinance establishing a fine schedule for city residents whose malfunctioning alarm systems waste the time of firefighters and police officers.

Section 6 of the ordinance says residents will be fined these amounts for more than three false alarms in a three month period: $100 for the fourth, fifth or sixth false alarms; $250 for the seventh, eighth and ninth false alarms.

The emergency clause was not attached to the ordinance at the request of Police Chief Jackie Davis, who told the council he wants residents to have time to make necessary repairs to their systems.

In other business, the association that runs the soccer program in the city told the council that more restrooms, paved parking, a bigger concession stand and lights are needed at the soccer fields.

Sabrina Blankenship, spokesperson for the association, told the council 1,140 children play soccer in Cabot and the economic impact to the city is great.