Cornersville officials under fire for short meetings, comment rules

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Some Cornersville citizens are not happy with the way their elected officials are doing business.

"I think what they're doing over there is wrong," exclaimed Bobby Wolaver Friday, the day after the Board of Mayor and Aldermen met. "Their meeting is a joke."

The meeting Thursday evening lasted 10 minutes. Wolaver said each alderman was paid $100 and the mayor got $200 for attending the meeting.

During the short meeting, board members unanimously passed a resolution on citizens' comments. These are now limited to three minutes per person, and a citizen may speak only twice on any one topic. The mayor has the sole authority to eject a citizen from the meeting if the guidelines are violated. It is not specified whether the limit for "two speeches on any one topic" expires after a certain period of time, a year, for instance, or whether it is a lifetime cap.

As soon as the resolution had been passed, Robert Pugh, of 314 North Main St., got up to say he would like to change three minutes to five.

"With three minutes you don't have much time," he complained. Mayor Amos Davis firmly told him the three-minute limit had just been passed, and showed no inclination to reopen discussion on the matter.

Wolaver was the next citizen to stand up. He lives on state Route 129, and his property was recently annexed into the town of Cornersville, leading to on-going complaints about paying city taxes and not getting anything in return.

"I think everyone here knows you're doing me wrong," he said, leaving the building before the mayor could order his ejection, with the parting comment, "I didn't say a cuss word. I've been pretty good."

"They won't let me speak and I still have to pay taxes," Wolaver said Friday.

Pugh has already used up his limit of talking on the topic of septic tanks, without getting what he regards as a satisfactory answer.

Pugh remembers when the city sewer was put in during the 1980s, using grant money. He said homeowners were told at that time the city would maintain the sewage lines, and the septic tanks. Pugh says the copies of the ordinances he has support his view that the city owns the septic tanks.

After Pugh raised the septic tank issue at the January meeting, city attorney Quinn Brandon Stewart studied the relevant ordinances and wrote a letter of opinion.

"The ... ordinances make the property owner entirely responsible for the sewer located on private property, which includes a septic tank ... None of my research makes Cornersville liable for septic tanks on private property," concluded Stewart, who is the sister of town administrator Taylor Brandon.

Wolaver agreed with Pugh on Friday, stating, "They do own them, but they don't want to fix them." Pugh continues to seek legal advice on the septic tank question, though according to the ordinance just passed he won't be able to talk about it at meetings of the board of mayor and aldermen.

The only person to bring a completely new topic to Thursday night's meeting was John Beard of 420 N. Main St., complaining about the round bales of hay stored near his house.

"This hay is about to kill my family," Beard said. "It's behind my house now. There's rot and mold in it, and it's about to kill my children."

The mayor and aldermen had nothing to tell Beard, since they have no control over where farmers choose to store their hay.