By Alison James
A potential bonus for retired city employees became reality at Tuesday’s city council meeting with a 4-1 vote in favor of the lump sum.
Councilwoman Patsy Jones was one who spoke in favor of it.
“This doesn’t happen very often,” Jones said. “I feel strongly for our employees being able to have this opportunity.”
The no vote came from Councilman Dozier Smith T, who said he could not in good conscience vote for the measure, with regards to what was best for the city.
“I don’t pretend I have all the answers,” Smith T said. “At this point, I just don’t feel I can vote yes for this … The city met its obligations while (the employees) were working in their positions. Just like in every other retirement plan situation … what you have (when you retire) is what you have to live on.”
Smith T said while it was “a little uncomfortable” to be the only one to vote no on an issue, especially an issue constituents had asked him vote yes on, it was a necessary move – and he appreciated its respectful reception by the council and, hopefully, by the community.
“It’s not easy to disagree,” Smith T said. “But I think everybody on this council truly likes each other … And Patsy’s comments were so gracious to me.”
The council approved two weed abatements and one demolition Tuesday – the demolition to take place at 3501 Pepperell Parkway on three items, one of which Planning Director Jerry Kelley referred to as “pretty deplorable.”
The fruit stand, tin roof building and camper, owned by William Young, were approved for demolition by the council, despite the owner’s request for a 60-day deferral of the order.
“He asked for 60 days so he could get his son to take care of these properties,” City Administrator Joey Motley said.
Council President Eddie Smith pointed out that after the demolition is passed, the property owner has 30 days to apply for the permits and begin the process himself, and Jones said the council also has the discretion to grant owners an extension on doing the work themselves – a measure that has been taken in the past.
“I would think it would be better for us to take the legal action, and then if we need to extend the time, we can do it,” Jones said.
Becky Strickland, owner of a hair salon on Frederick Road, spoke during citizens communications to air her grievances caused by the roadwork being done.
“My septic line has been cut twice,” Strickland said. “My phone lines were cut last week … My business, being a hair salon, we live by our phones. If we don’t have a phone, it’s a lot of trouble … We went 14 hours without a phone.”
Strickland said although her phone line was eventually fixed, she has gotten the runaround on that as well as other problems at her business caused by the roadwork – the city directing her to the state and the state directing her back to the city. She also expressed concern about a change in access to her business.
“They’re going to give me two days before they close my front driveway,” Strickland said. “We’re losing business left and right … It’s just been a real pain, and I don’t know who to call when something goes wrong.”
Mayor Gary Fuller expressed his sympathy for her issues and asked her to call him or City Engineer Scott Parker and let them track down the responsible party for any particular problem.
“I wish it would be finished next week, but it’s not going to be,” Fuller said. “It’s a mess for everybody – for all the businesses. We’re trying to push them as hard as we can for them to finish because we understand the impact on all of our businesses down there.”
The council also:
– heard a proclamation setting September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
– granted a request for a special event alcohol retail license.
– set public hearing to assess demolition costs for four properties on Jeter Avenue.
– approved a budget adjustment to assist the Dixie Boys.
– reappointed Leigh Whatley and Emily Severin to positions on the Historic Preservation Commission.
– reappointed John Marsh and Debbie Purvis to the Downtown Redevelopment Board.
– appointed John Denson to Public Park and Recreation Board.