Majority of Council supports Police Chief Chuck Forbis

Monday, January 11, 2010

At least three of five Lewisburg Councilmen say the police chief is doing a good job and should continue in that position.

"He suits me just fine," Councilman Hershel Davis said Friday during a round of calls polling the voting members of the Council. "I don't have a problem with him (Chief Chuck Forbis) unless there's something I don't know.

"There's a lot of that," the senior member of the Council said with a chuckle.

Councilman Quinn Brandon Stewart said, "I think the chief is doing a good job."

Stewart confirmed she's aware of public speculation that there are three councilmen who want the chief fired, but she declined to say how she became aware of the now-debunked majority on the Council.

"I wouldn't say my sources are reliable," she said of the speculation. "I can't verify it at all."

If there were members of the Council who believe the police chief should be replaced, then they ought to say so publicly, she said.

Asked about the speculation that most councilmen want Forbis replaced, Councilman Robin Minor replied, "I don't know nothing about it."

"That's the city manager's job," Minor said of the Lewisburg City Charter that assigns hiring and firing responsibilities to the city manager.

The Council hires only three officials: the manager, treasurer and city attorney.

Asked for an evaluation to the chief's performance, Minor said, "I don't even want to comment on it. I'm not going to comment either way. That's a personnel issue and the city manager's job."

Councilman Odie Whitehead also declined to give a substantive response to a question about whether there's a majority on the Council to dismiss the chief, or if he's aware of public speculation on the chief's job security.

"I have no comment and no knowledge" of such, Whitehead said.

So, if he were one of the councilmen who, according to speculative discussion in the community, might want a new police chief, Whitehead would have no comment.

"I have no knowledge of any discussion of this sort," he said.

Forbis "is doing a great job," according to Councilman Ronald McRady. "I will support him in any way I can. I've made that known to him and the Police Advisory Board."

Like Stewart, McRady has been aware of speculation among area residents with regard to police personnel issues, but McRady went a step further.

"About the conduct of three councilmen voting in blocks; it's a flagrant abuse of their power from being elected from their wards," McRady said. "This -- having disregard for the Sunshine Law (which requires public officials to deliberate toward decisions during public meetings) -- you can tell that these subjects were discussed before they got there" at City Hall for public meetings.

"I'm hoping that the people in their wards would speak up and say 'Enough is enough,'" McRady said.

Meanwhile, some of the councilmen expressed concern for larger issues, such as what the city must do if and when Cedar Ridge Landfill fails to obtain a permit to expand and then must close.

"I'm concerned about the garbage situation," Minor said. "The state's going to have the last say so, but if they decide not to permit the expansion, there will be financial concerns for the city and the county."

Commissioner Jim Fyke of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has tentatively decided against issuing a permit for expansion of the landfill. The commissioner's decision may be final in March, but the Solid Waste Control Board can hear appeals. Waste Management officials say they'll appeal a commissioner's decision against expansion.

"Our garbage is not going to miraculously disappear," Minor continued. "We've got to do something with it. There will still be problems there.

"What are we going to do with our garbage if cell 7 (the expansion area) isn't OK'd and what's it going to cost us?" Minor asked. "There's no easy solution to anything."

Asked about other recent developments, Minor said, "I think the director of schools did the right thing (by closing schools because of the winter weather.) Not anybody wants their kids out at 6 a.m. waiting for a bus. So, regardless of the snow, the cold temperatures were the reason... All of Middle Tennessee did the same thing."

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Department of Transportation has a construction contractor rebuilding Mooresville Pike between the West Side Fire Hall and Interstate 65.

"Construction of 373 (Mooresville Pike) is going on real good," Davis said.

"We need to do some things that are good for the community too," he added.

While the reconstruction of the highway is not on the Council's agenda, a discussion of the city's options regarding the future for disposal of solid waste is scheduled, as well as some routine matters from the city's Planning Commission.

They are for rezoning two properties.

One is for 1111 and 1113 East Commerce Street from a C-4 classification for medical professional uses as well as from an R-3 classification for "high density residential" purposes to a C-2 zone, a land use classification that includes "intermediate business," according to the Council's agenda.

The property was at one time used by Dr. Victor Wakefield's clinic. Dr. Teresa Grisham is developing her dog kennel business with a service sometimes referred to as doggie daycare.

That proposed amendment to the city's zoning ordinance was to be presented to the City Council during its meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday for a vote on "first reading," meaning the document could not proceed toward adoption without that vote.

A public hearing would be conducted before the second reading, presumably on Feb. 9 the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Council. Unless other meetings are called, such an ordinance could be adopted on the third and final vote (reading) on March 9.

That might not be the end of the city's consideration of the kennel's development, according to Planning Commissioner Leland Carden who indicated last week that Commission Chairman Jim Bingham had advised Grisham that the city's Board of Zoning Appeals may have to vote on her request.

The BZA, a quasi judicial panel of the city, considers requests for variances from stri9ct interpretation of the zoning code so, for example, the distance between a property line and a building might be shorter than normally allowed. BZAs also consider whether a property's proposed use should be allowed when it's not even mentioned in the code.

Another proposed ordinance would amend the city's zoning code to allow rezoning of 570 and 580 West Church Street, properties formerly known as the Borden's, or Dairymen plant which is currently classified for a "light industrial" use in an I-1 zone. It's proposed to be rezoned as C-2, or a commercial classification for "intermediate business" uses, according to the Council's agenda.

"If they're recommended by the Planning Commission," Davis said, "we normally listen to that" and consider issues brought up during a Council meeting.

Another ordinance being considered with a first reading vote on Tuesday is for the adoption of the 2006 International Fire Code.

While ordinances require three successful votes, resolutions need only one majority vote.

There's a resolution to be considered that would add the city treasurer, City Recorder Connie Edde, as a city official who could sign documents for the city employees' retirement fund.