Last night’s Shoreacres City Council meeting started off on a positive note, with new Police Chief Troy Harrison taking the oath of office:
It was all downhill after that.
6.0 Citizen Comments
Patrick Stanton – Stanton was upset that no one on the council bothered to address his ideas for SMART goals and objectives for council and city employees. He noted that the city had paid a consultant to come for the workshop 18 months ago. He said that he was going to bring each one of them up at city council meetings until someone addresses them. He started with the goals for the Mayor and proceeded to talk about each one of them.
Chuck Haist – Haist said there was a coyote living on Meadowlawn. He also recommended using the current Parks & Rec Committee as the oversight committee for the planning of the Miramar waterfront.
Darlene Bays – Bays said that she had attended a presentation about the Ike Dike and urged council to get involved in the planning for protection of the coast. She also complained that she the city told her there was an ongoing investigation of the discharge of a firearm in a city vehicle but that the police department said there was not. She wants the truth about the incident and why the city told her false information regarding her PIA.
Charlotte Wells – Wells also urged council to get involved in the Ike Dike/Centennial Gate talks about the coast. She brought up the rumors about a FEMA buyout of property along Miramar and stated that after the last meeting when she brought it up, City Administrator Stall had approached her and told her that yes, there were discussions of a buyout but that he declined it. She wanted it on the record that he declined it without council’s approval or discussion. She said that the City Administrator should not be making decisions on his own.
Gerry Victor – Victor said that he was on council when the alleged buyout offer was declined by Stall and that council was not aware of it. Former Mayor Jayo Washington and former council member/Mayor Dolly Arons told Victor that they have no recollection of any buyout offered by FEMA.
7.0 Administrative Reports
General Activity – Stall noted that filing opens on January 29th for the May election for Mayor and two Aldermen.
Street and Drainage – Stall said that he had a meeting scheduled Tuesday morning for pre-construction meeting for the water main on Shoreacres Blvd but because of weather concerns it has been rescheduled for Feb. 11th. Contractors continue to make good progress on Oakdale and Forest street projects. Control valve issue for water plant one has not been resolved and is more complicated than he thought it would be.
Citizen Patrick Stanton was upset that an email about grass encroachment from Diane Victor has received no response whatsoever from the Public Works director.
Finance – The general fund has had two large deposits from property taxes. Sales tax collection for December was down but still above last year to date.
Citizen Gerry Victor asked about the status of contractor payments on Water Plant 1. The final payment has not been made.
8.2 Postponed to next meeting
8.3 Election – passed unanimously
8.4 Designating officers for the Election – Stan Krause will be Election Judge, Phil Yovino the alternate judge, and Jayo Washington an election clerk and set the pay at $10/hour. Passed unanimously.
8.5 Postponed to next meeting
8.7 (moved in front of 8.6) – Schnell was unable to get a second on her motion to pass an ordinance eliminating automatically renewing employment contracts for city employees. All citizens that spoke to council supported this ordinance.Stall defended his contract No one on council made an argument against the ordinance or offered amendments to apply only to future contracts, they simply refused to take it to a vote. Mayor Webber said that he asked for an opinion from the City Attorney on the proposed ordinance and that the City Attorney said that as written it would terminate the contract of Stall.
Webber shut discussion down without hearing from all citizens and that was really upsetting to one, who abruptly left the meeting. Webber was confused because council started discussing the ordinance during citizen comments and he thought citizen comments had been closed. They had not and the citizen was correct to object.
8.6 This was Schnell’s attempt to modify the contract of City Administrator Stall. She believes that his contract is one sided and favors the employee over the best interests of the city. Many citizens spoke on this issue, with varying views of Mr. Stall and the contract. When it became clear that she was going to lose again, Schnell made a motion to adjourn the meeting.
I continue to be amused by Alderman Moses. He has changed so much in the short time he has been on council. Last year, when he was part of the citizens that wanted changes in the city government, he stated plainly that council should be listening to the people that show up to meetings. Now that he is on council, he continues to make reference to the fact that he has to listen to the people that do not come to the meetings. Who are these people that are running council in the background?
Beyond that, it is clear that Stall’s contract is dividing citizens and council. He should do the right thing and amend his contract, dropping the automatic renewal clause. Even though I support him and think that he is an asset to the city, the plain truth is that he hasn’t had a particularly good year and council should be able to review his employment with the city and set specific goals that he has to meet. The police department debacle, the water plant 1 delays, the reluctance of the city to release records – he should be counseled by the Mayor and improvement targets set. If Stall refuses to voluntarily amend his contract, Council should have the fortitude to step and and make the necessary changes – if it results in his termination and payout of five months salary, so be it. I do not think that would happen because let’s be honest, Stall has a pretty good job here and isn’t going anywhere.
But the most egregious thing about the meeting last night was when Charlotte Wells told the story about Stall unilaterally deciding that the city, and specifically the residents on Miramar, should not have a say in pursuing or not pursuing a FEMA buyout of waterfront homes. That is simply unacceptable and he should be forced to disclose publicly his role in that alleged discussion. There is simply no reason for Ms. Wells to lie about that conversation.
The fact that the entire council sat there, listened to her complaint, and did absolutely nothing says more about the current state of the council than any commentary I could make.