Friday, January 27, 2012

Charter and airport bantered by council: Blasting, trash cans also debated

The city charter regarding conflict of interest issues on boards and commissions was yet again a topic of discussion at Thursday afternoon’s Clarksville City Council meeting.

Mayor Kim McMillan said she brought it forward to the council again because she thinks the problem is too important to delay action.

“I have talked to the legislative delegation,” she said. “They are amenable to us submitting this single issue to them. They will introduce it at the legislature. They believe that it will receive the full approval of the General Assembly fairly quickly. They can send it back to us and we can solve this problem once and for all.”

The charter amendment would remove a provision that strictly limits members of boards and commissions from doing any sort of business with the city even indirectly, said City Attorney Lance Baker.

With the provision gone, board and committee members would then rely upon the city ethics code which contains a state-required law that would allow those members to abstain from voting on items they are financially related to, similar to how City Council members abstain.

Ward 2 Councilwoman Deanna McLaughlin pointed out that there is never any guarantee that the state legislature will pass an item. The mayor agreed.

“You are right, there is never any guarantee that the Tennessee General Assembly will do anything ... trust me, I know,” McMillan said. “But having served up there as long as I did and still knowing a number of people that are up there, I can tell you that I have had conversations with a number of legislators beyond our legislative delegation and have not had anyone raise any objection to his particular issue.”

Another topic of discussion was a request for $200,000 in additional funding from the Airport Authority, about which a few council members were wary.

Finance commissioner Ben Griffin said while he’s not the accountant for the Airport Authority, he believes the reason for the need of more funding was caused by change orders and disrupted cash flow from a past fraud case.

“There was a fraud out there and the fraud cost $100,000, and then when the state comes in and audits you, they don’t do it for free, they charge you,” he said. “I’ve heard numbers of $30,000 to $40,000 that it cost the airport to do that audit. It didn’t necessarily turn up all of the losses because there were some cash items that could not be done. I think, realistically, there could have been a $200,000 loss out there and that would hurt your cash flow, because there’s no way to get that back.”

Ward 9 Councilman Joel Wallace said he thinks the reason the council members are uncomfortable with the budget issue is that majority of the council members are on board with the airport, but a slice of the constituency is not.

“It makes us look bad when we try to sell it to the people who are skeptical of us when we go out and promote it,” he said. “I think in the future, for projects like this, I think it’ll be better to know upfront what could happen so we could sell people on that and get them prepared.”

The Smart Growth Commission was also discussed at great length. The commission would create a body that would combine the voices of the city, county, Austin Peay State University and other entities in the community, according Jeff Bibb, who spoke on behalf of the group.

“It’s important to be clear, the vision of this commission has not a thing to do with reshuffling the deck of city or county priorities,” he said. “It’s looking at the ones where the lines do cross that need more of a push, more of a cooperation and raising those up and championing those that will ultimately affect our livability, our quality and our transportation issues.”

Ward 4 Councilman Wallace Redd brought forward an amendment to the noise ordinance which would prohibit local quarries from blasting between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., making it easier for people living nearby to sleep during the night.

Ward 11 Councilwoman Kaye Jones raised a concern with limiting the noise to quarries that had been there first and said those who move into a home near a quarry should expect noise. She also suggested an attempt at a compromise with the company be made before establishing a requirement.

However, Romona Reese, who lives near the quarry, said she and her neighbors have approached the company and that this is their last effort to try to fix it.

“We’ve come to you as our leaders and those that have the ability to help us,” she said. “We’re not trying to shut down any business. We’re not trying to keep anybody’s profits down. All we’re saying is ‘let’s work together and just make it where it’s conducted at a reasonable hour.’ And that’s all we’re really asking.”

Ward 10 Councilman Bill Summers proposed an ordinance that would limit the amount of time a resident can leave a garbage can out after collection before it becomes a nuisance.

The ordinance was brought forward at the last City Council meeting, but because of lack of language addressing corner houses and commercial buildings, it was postponed until Thursday’s meeting.

Summers said those issues have been addressed now, and the ordinance will go forward for a vote at the Feb. 2 regular session meeting.


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