Aldermen take new look at street name, worker hiring policies

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Residents of South Union Street have had all sorts of problems,since their street is not marked on some maps. But moreimportantly, it is nowhere near Union Street or Union StreetExtension.

The board of aldermen, with Mayor Bob Massengill on vacation,discussed their problem at Tuesday night’s meeting and votedunanimously to rename the street to South Whitworth Extension,since it actually runs off Whitworth Avenue.

Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes explained that within thelast year there was a resident of that street who needed anambulance, and since the street was not marked on 911 maps besidesbearing the name of a major road in town, the ambulance crew wasnot able to find the home.

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“These people can’t get even a pizza delivery there,” she said.”The four people who live there have asked if that street can berenamed for clarifications and safety reasons.”

Meanwhile, City Attorney Joe Fernald told the board he wasworking on a policy on renaming streets, as there have been severalrequests lately to change the names of established streets.

“We have no policy, but some cities have a rather involvedpolicy,” he said, explaining that some cities will allow a memorialplaque to give the street an honorary new name, but that the 911lists and post office will not have to change their files.

“We’re running into a problem that gets into qualifications, andwho in fact should have their name on a street,” he said. “What iffour people think they should have a street named for them?”

Fernald told the board that not only do 911 and the post officehave to be notified of the change, but the sign change costs haveto be addressed, which leads to the question of who should pay forthem.

“Without some recommendations on how to do this from now on,this could well become a problem,” Fernald said.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell said he didn’t see the need forsuch an ordinance since the board has to vote on every name changerequest anyway.

“The board can always turn it down,” he said. “We get too muchordinances that’s not needed.”

Fernald assured Maxwell that this is a project Massengill hadasked him to undertake, adding that he is still working on it andthat it is involved work, but that he would have a list ofconsiderations for the board to examine at some point in the nearfuture.

“Some of these streets have historic value,” he said. “I thinkthe mayor is trying to come up with the criteria of how to do itand who pays for it, plus maps have to be changed, 911 has to beupdated so that if there’s a fire, they can find the house.”

Fernald also said he is working on a policy that has been underdiscussion for some time on hiring convicted felons to city jobs,saying that there is nothing currently in the handbook about hiringemployees convicted of crimes.

“At one point the city said we do not want a convicted sexoffender working for the city in any capacity,” he said, addingthat it is already impossible for a convicted felon to work for thepolice department because they cannot legally carry a weapon, andthat since 9/11 the city considers firefighters to be quasi-lawenforcement, and are also therefore held to a higher standard.

Fernald also said hiring for the city clerk’s office is alsoalready restricted because the employees have to be bonded, soapplicants cannot have charges dealing with financial issues andmatters of integrity.

But the city would like to extend that probe to otherdepartments as well, while still allowing for youthfulindiscretions and rehabilitation.

“They will be asked to disclose if they have any priorconvictions and failure to disclose will result in immediatedismissal,” he said, adding that prior convictions should not keepsomeone from working for every branch of the city. “But ultimatelythe board will decide on those hirings.”

All applicants will sign a waiver allowing the city to run theirinformation through the National Crime Information Center’s files.He said so far it will not be necessary for potential employees toundergo a credit check, however.

“Some places do a credit and an NCIC check,” he said. “That getsa little more involved than what the mayor asked me to do.”

Fernald said he is checking on the legality of such anordinance, and that when there is an applicant that needs to bediscussed by the board, he or she would be discussed in executivesession under the personnel issues allowance in the open meetingsact.

Mayor Pro Tempore Terry Bates also reminded the board of someupcoming dates, with the ribbon cutting on the new PoliceDepartment on Highway 51 on Wednesday, May 27 at 10 a.m.

Bates also told the board that there will be a public hearing onthe Comprehensive Plan Tuesday, May 26 at 6:30.

The board also voted to move the June 2 board meeting up to 5:30p.m. instead of the 6:30 p.m. regular time because of election day.The board will meet in the county boardroom since voting will betaking place in the city boardroom.