Council still divided on Housing Commission appointment

Published 3:47 pm Thursday, March 8, 2012

Council members still cannot decide who will fill the empty Public Housing Commission spot.

When the matter came up at Tuesday’s city council meeting, council member Larry Watkins immediately made a motion to table the matter, at about the same time council member Larry Breland was going to make a motion to appoint someone.

A vote was taken and passed 3 to 2 to table the matter with council members Jason Todd Lane, Wayne Gouguet and Larry Watkins voting to table it and Breland and Lynn Bogan Bumpers voting not to table the matter. Breland continued to press the issue, even after it was tabled, eventually making a motion to appoint the Rev. Steven Owens.

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A vote was taken on Breland’s nomination, but it failed on a 3 to 2 vote, with Breland and Bumpers voting for the motion and Lane, Gouguet and Watkins voting against it. Breland then made a motion to vote on each of the remaining four people listed as possible candidates to fill the empty spot.

Those candidates included Mary Davis, Mable Smith, Don Flemming and David Brumfield. The only candidate to get a motion for appointment, besides Owens, was Davis, made by council member Wayne Gouguet with the stipulation she start her term on April 1, since she is currently employed by the Public Housing Commission.

At the end of the meeting Breland asked why other council members did not make a motion to appoint a new commission member. Lane said he did not make a motion because he was not familiar with any of the nominees.

“My problem is I didn’t know a soul on there, didn’t know one person,” Lane said.

Council members also heard the results of the city’s annual audit, which was favorable. Chellie K. Eavenson, with the CPA firm Keene, Bourne, Sanderson, Haigler and Eavenson, said the results of the audit for fiscal year 2011 had an unqualified rating. Unqualified means no problems were found, or the city got a “gold star,” Eavenson said. All other aspects of the audit, including special reports, sections concerning governmental grant funds and the state audit also were favorable.

“In our opinion, the financial condition of the city is strong,” Eavenson said.

However, Eavenson suggested the city work harder to build up utility fund reserves. Council members then praised City Clerk Amber Hinton for her work over the last fiscal year.

An abandoned house infested with bats also was discussed. The home at 510 Forest St. is apparently infested with bats, posing a health problem, Gouguet said. The house, which has an odor noticeable even from the road and is visibly deteriorated, was set for a public hearing on April 3, along with a home at 207 Boley Dr., to decide whether to list it as a public nuisance or not. If the council decides the homes in question are a public nuisance, either the city will tear them down and assess the costs to the property owners’ taxes, or the owners will have them torn down at their expense.

Paving on Beech Street is set to begin soon. City Engineer Brooks Wallace said once the work begins, it should only take four to five days to complete the $100,000 project. That project will be funded with state aid funds. The expected completion date is April 12.

Clean up of debris at the Centraplex also is expected to move forward. Work ceased after asbestos was found in the rubble of the fire-damaged section of the building. Fire Chief Keith Brown said he spoke with the owner of that section of the building who expects a crew to be out there removing the remaining debris in the next two weeks. It should only take two days to finish the job, Brown said.

The council went into executive session and when members came out, Hinton said the council approved paying $1,301.25 to repair a vehicle that was involved in a traffic accident with City Manager Jim Luke that occurred on or about Nov. 23, 2011.

In other business the council:

— Approved purchasing a $14,250 street roller-packer for the city’s Streets Department.

— Approved entering into a contract to receive weather, news and local channels 4, 6, and 8 from DirecTv at the Intermodal Transportation Center for a monthly rate of $25.99.

The next meeting of the city council will be March 20, 2012.