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Aldermen OK Penny for elections post

MONTICELLO – Town aldermen moved Tuesday night to fill a vacancyin preparation for next year’s municipal elections.

“We waited until now out of respect for the family,” Nicholssaid. “There wasn’t any need to appoint someone right away, and wefelt like it was the right thing to do to wait a little while.”

However, Nichols said with municipal elections next year it wastime to appoint Penny to the position so election commissionerscould begin preparing the town for the election.

The mayor also recommended aldermen appoint James Hill Sr. aschairman of the committee. Blakeney had been serving in thatcapacity at the time of his death.

Both recommendations were approved without discussion.

In other matters, Nichols informed aldermen that negotiations ona town purchase of the Boom-Boom Room, a closed game room on BroadStreet, had stalled.

The purchase is necessary for the town to build a boulevardconnecting the Highway 84 Bypass north of the town to the downtownarea as one of several projects to keep that area vital oncetraffic is rerouted out of town.

The delay was caused by tax issues, the mayor said. Two years ofback taxes had not been paid on the property, and rights to theproperty were reserved when two separate individuals, one eachyear, paid the back taxes as a means of securing the property.Under law, should a property owner renege on taxes for three years,the property can be obtained by someone paying the back taxesowed.

City Attorney Joe Dale Walker told the board they shouldcontinue their negotiations on the property, get a set price, andredeem the back taxes as part of the purchase. The individualswould then be refunded their investment and the property could betransferred to the purchaser, in this case the town.

He also told Nichols to ensure the property owner understoodthat the back taxes would be deducted from the purchase price whilemaking the negotiations.

Nichols also informed the board that a clerical error by CityEngineer Hugh Heflin had resulted in a $9,000 overage on spendingfor an economic development grant for water and sewer lines inDistrict One.

The original project was completed with $86,000 in grant moneyleft over. The town expanded the project in order to use thatmoney, but a clerical error failed to account for $9,000 in theoriginal project.

“We’ve spent that money and authorized the work. We need to paythe overage,” Nichols said.

The board agreed and then began questioning the mayor about theerror. Nichols said while the engineer was totaling the costs heoverlooked two bills totaling $9,000.

When the board began complaining about the mistake, the mayordefended the engineer.

“We all make mistakes,” he said. “He has done a lot of work forus that he has never billed us on. Others would have. The free workhe has done for us is well over this $9,000 mistake.”

The mayor cited several instances of Heflin going beyond hiscontract to benefit the town, including substantially cutting hisfees for the project where the overage was discovered.

The board was satisfied with the mayor’s answers, although somecomments were made that the engineer rarely attends meetings.