Officials back resident’s appearance

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, April 4, 2012

     Some aldermen pushed back Tuesday night against the mayor’s decision not to allow a local resident to appear before the board.

     A committee appointed by Mayor Les Bumgarner to hear comments by Roy Smith recommended at Tuesday night’s board meeting that Smith be allowed to appear before the full board.

     At the board’s last meeting, Bumgarner explained he had denied a request by Smith to speak before aldermen. Bumgarner said he believes Smith only wants to accuse board members of racism and make other “negative” comments.

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     The committee, composed of Ward One’s Dorsey Cameron, Ward Two’s Terry Bates and Ward Five’s D.W. Maxwell met with Smith Monday.

     “We were impressed by what he had to say,” Bates said. “We had nothing against what he said.”

     Bumgarner didn’t initially take to the idea, and said the intent of appointing the committee was that the committee would provide a report on Smith’s remarks.

     “We’re talking about five minutes to bring his points,” Maxwell said.

     “Was he respectful to y’all?” Bumgarner asked Maxwell in reply. “That’s my problem. I don’t want someone to get up here and disrespect this board.”

     Maxwell said he’d stressed the need for respect, but added city leaders need to make their own effort to move past previous negative relations with Smith. He also voiced disagreement with Bumgarner’s decision to allow some residents to speak to the board while denying Smith.

     “I don’t think anyone ought to be denied the right to speak before the board as long as they follow the rules,” Maxwell said.

     After the meeting, Bumgarner said there is no formal policy about who is allowed to appear before the board.

     “They give me that discretion,” Bumgarner said.

     Bumgarner said if board members wish to hear Smith at the next meeting and Smith fills out the appropriate paperwork, he does not intend to reject Smith’s request to appear.

     In other business, a request for a zoning variance prompted extended discussion Tuesday night.

     Jerolyn McCullough has a zoning variance for a singlewide mobile home in an agriculturally zoned area. She now wants to replace the singlewide with a doublewide trailer.

     Ward Six’s David Phillips said he supported the move but thought the Planning Commission should hear the matter rather than the full board.

     “We have appointed a commission just for these matters,” Phillips said. “I don’t see why we should bypass them.”

     Maxwell disagreed, pointing to past precedent, and put the issue to a vote.

     On an initial vote, the measure tied, three to three, with Ward Three’s Mary Wilson abstaining.

     When forced to break the tie, Wilson said, “I don’t know what to do.”

     After a few minutes, she voted to allow the exemption.

     The board also voted to advertise for a part-time building and property code enforcer and scheduled a work session for April 10, beginning at 5 p.m., to meet with redistricting consultants.