Selection of councilman postponed

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

By Karen Hall


Residents of Lewisburg's Ward 5 will have to wait a little longer to find out who will represent them on the City Council.

A special, called meeting of the mayor and council was held Monday in order to choose a councilman from the three who applied for the job and were interviewed last week. The candidates are Dave Kennedy, David Orr and Nicholas Tipper.

As soon as Mayor Jim Bingham opened the floor for discussion, Councilman Steve Thomas said, "At least one of them holds another position in government. I asked (city attorney) Steve Broadway if there was any prohibition against that."

Broadway was not at the meeting to answer the question, which was probably referring to Kennedy, owner of Southern Carton, who is a member of the Industrial Development Board.

"We might defer it to the next meeting if there's a question," said Councilman Bam Haislip, and the other councilmen all agreed with him.

The next meeting of the council is Tuesday at 6 p.m.

"That concludes our special, called meeting," said Bingham, immediately moving on to the agenda of the council's usual monthly work session.

Lewisburg may continue its contract with Sinclair Broadcast Group at an even better price, announced City Manager Randall Dunn.

The previous contract was for six months for $20,000. For this the city got commercials on Nashville TV stations, and one special program.

"We've had nothing but positive comments," said Dunn.

Now SBG is proposing a 10-month contract for $16,333. This includes 40 commercials for Lewisburg airing per month, as well as a special documentary about Lewisburg being shown, and new video of the town being shot by SBG.

"Is it money well spent?" asked Councilman Trigg Cathey.

"It's hard to say," said Director of Economic Development Greg Lowe. "We've had phone calls from strangers, and Internet searches have increased. The key is bringing people here as visitors and turning them into residents."

"I'm OK with this," Cathey said about the contract with SBG, and paying for this year's portion of it out of reserves.

When they meet Tuesday, councilmen will also be asked to vote on a resolution adopting the interlocal agreement for consolidated dispatch. Consolidation is expected to save the city as much as $150,000 per year.

"This is a win-win," said Cathey. "Are there any stumbling blocks to stop us attaining the July 1 start date?"

"There are several," replied Police Chief Chuck Forbis. "But we are working hard to overcome them."

Councilmen also discussed the city's policy in relation to advertising jobs, which currently requires advertising all city jobs in the three issues of the Tribune.

Dunn explained the city takes applications year around for jobs, and holds the applications for a year.

"At any time we may have 50 or 60 applications on hand," he said. "If we don't have any acceptable applications on hand, we will advertise. Vacancies are posted on the city website."

Councilmen voiced several concerns about this policy, including whether all job-seekers have Internet access, and whether jobs were kept open for a set period of time.

"We don't want accusations of cronyism" which could result if a job were posted for half a day, then awarded to a friend or relative of someone in city government without anyone else having time to apply, said Thomas.

Wondering how jobs were advertised and filled elsewhere, Bingham asked Haislip about the Department of Education's policy, and then asked Dunn, "What's done in other cities?"

"I've seen it done every way you can think of," replied Dunn.

After more discussion, councilmen agreed jobs should be advertised in the Tribune once a week for two weeks and kept open for two calendar weeks.

The work session also included discussion of plans to upgrade Ellington Airport from B-2 to C-2 in order to accommodate a wider range of aircraft. The runways are being widened and resurfaced, and the lights are being replaced with LEDs which are both brighter and cheaper.

"We're spending the same amount of money, just not doing anything that would preclude us being C-2," summarized Cathey. "Sounds like common sense to me."

Councilmen were asked to agree to applying for a Tennessee Housing Development Agency grant.

"We did not get funding last year," said Dunn. "Now we're pretty far up the list, with a better chance. We're just saying the council supports the application; it does not involve any money."

He went on to explain that the grant supplies $40,000 per house to bring the dwelling up to codes.

The city will also be applying for a Community Development Block Grant with the money to be spent on upgrades and repairs to the water and sewer systems.

"The water department has been quite successful getting grants," said Dunn.

He went on to explain the CDBG is federal dollars, coming through the state, and has a narrow scope of projects, which must be carried out in low to moderate-income areas.