Political sign fees to be eliminated

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lewisburg's City Council is changing part of city law that charges fees for signs endorsing candidates for political office.

"I've talked to some attorneys and they don't feel it would survive a test case," Councilman Ronald McRady said during last week's council meeting.

Councilman Odie Whitehead Jr. moved to amend the ordinance that charges fees for signs and Councilman Quinn Brandon Stewart seconded the motion commenting that "It could be a problem, and expensive."

A $25 charge is assessed when signs are larger than eight square feet, usually two feet tall and four feet wide.

"One candidate paid over $400," McRady reported.

Whitehead asked Codes Director Greg Lowe how much the city has collected from sign fees and Lowe replied, "Less than $1,500 this election time."

Discussion among councilmen showed some agreement that the cost of a campaign is already "enough" and that sometimes it's hard to get residents to run for local office.

The council unanimously voted to amend the ordinance. Three successful votes and a public hearing are required before a pending ordinance becomes law in Lewisburg.

Also on Oct. 12, the Council decided to delay action on two notable matters.

Don Wright, a pharmacist who serves as chairman of the Marshall County Election Commission, has expressed interest in being a member of the city's Industrial Development Board.

Several names had already been forwarded to the Council by the IDB after the board declined to vote publicly on which two applicants should be recommended. All applicants' names were sent to the Council.

Discussion indicated some preference to wait until the IDB met again and put Wright's name on the list of names already submitted. Chris Collins, one of the prospective members of the IDB, was present during the Council's regular monthly meeting.

Whitehead moved to defer the decision and the vote was unanimous.

The Council also agreed to wait until there are people attending a council meeting who represent the businesses interested in establishment of a railroad loading dock along CSX tracks near the Little League Park.

This, too, was an issue forwarded to the Council without an IDB recommendation about construction of a dock, according to discussion among councilmen and the mayor.

City Attorney Steve Broadway discussed two contracts that would become part of the agreement with CSX Railroad. Liability issues attracted McRady's attention and Minor asked about the cost.

Stewart wants a cost analysis and said, "We don't need to go lightly into this. I'm not comfortable voting on this now."

McRady said, "This is not just a general agreement. It's an obligation."

Minor wanted to know why the IDB didn't make a recommendation and the mayor said there is no request for a dock, but rather access for a business that's willing to unload from a train car to a flatbed truck.

Without a representative from the railroad or the business that wants to receive shipments by rail, Stewart asked, "Why don't we just wait until they're available?"

The Council agreed.