The newest member of the Board of Alderman spoke, either to ask a question or make a comment, more than 70 times during Wednesday night’s board meeting.
Amy Livingston, elected a month ago as alderman for New Albany’s Ward One, was the last city official to take the oath of office Wednesday morning when her father, Municipal Court Judge Steve Livingston, swore in most elected officials. The July meeting of the city board started less than eight hours later at 5:30 p.m., and Livingston asked her first question about five minutes into the meeting.
Reports of department managers
The first agenda item was the regular monthly report by Bill Mattox, manager of the city’s Lights, Gas, and Water Department (NALGW). Mattox said the NALGW gas division needed a new tractor and it could be bought under the state purchasing contract for about $60,000. The current city budget already provided adequate funding to buy the tractor and the board quickly approved unanimously. Mattox concluded his report.
Alderman Livingston then asked Mattox for “an update on the city’s waste water and drinking water” systems. Improvement of these systems was a major part of her successful campaign for office. Mattox succinctly explained that the water systems could benefit from a great deal of work, which he said would cost “several million dollars.” He said it would be good to be able to do all of the work, if the money could be found to do it. He said NALGW had initiated a maintenance plan for gradual improvement to the water system including regular and systematic flushing of the pipes.
Livingston made several comments and asked follow-up questions during the exchange with Mattox.
Other city department heads then made their brief monthly reports.
- New Albany Police Department (NAPD) Chief Chris Robertson asked the board to approve moving a part-time NAPD employee to full-time. The board unanimously approved.
- New Albany Fire Department (NAFD) Chief Steve Coker told the board a fireman had resigned and asked permission to replace the fire fighter from among the pool of qualified applicants already on hand, which also resulted in unanimous agreement.
- Code Enforcement Officer Eric Thomas reported to the board on two items:
He reported that during June 12 unlicensed automobiles were tagged to be eventually towed from the owner’s property, if the owner does not comply with city ordinances regarding non-running automobiles being allowed to “rust down” in public view.
Thomas also addressed two requests that have been pending for a few months from two residents seeking to place mobile homes or manufactured houses on property on Bratton Road. The city code does not allow for manufactured housing that residential area. Thomas said the city zoning board had reviewed the matter yet again, and concluded again that the city code needs to be enforced and the requests for variances denied. The aldermen agreed.
Working through the published agenda items
The meeting then turned to the agenda of more than 20 items to be considered.
The board unanimously approved the minutes of its June meeting and unanimously approved the June 2017 claims docket, which simply means paying the city’s bills.
A couple of items on the agenda arose from the fact that the Wednesday night meeting was the first for this group of aldermen. Two new aldermen were elected in June to fill board positions that had been vacated.
First was the matter of electing a vice-mayor, who would preside if the mayor is not present for a board meeting. Second Ward Alderman Johnny Anderson, now beginning his sixth term on the city board, was unanimously re-elected as vice-mayor.
The board voted formally and unanimously to continue the employment of all current city employees and department heads.
One item on the agenda was a city ordinance to regulate the activities of mobile food vendors. During this discussion, Alderman Livingston spoke with several more of her questions and comments regarding this proposed ordinance.
The city’s controversial sign ordinance was on the agenda for discussion. Alderman Livingston had several questions and comments on the sign ordinance. Among other things, she said that the process for approving new signs for downtown businesses was too burdensome, including the fact that it can take a minimum of 45 days to have a new sign approved. She said she believed that the role of Main Street, a private organization of downtown businesses, in approving new business signs needs to be reviewed, modified and possibly eliminated.
For more information on New Albany sign ordinance: http://nanewsweb.com/new-albany-sign-ordinance-problem/
Although there was no specific item about it on the agenda, Alderman Livingston brought up the matter of the problems of heavy traffic and delays at the intersection of I-22 and Highway 30. Among other things, she said she thought the numerous traffic lights there “need to be synchronized.” That already troublesome intersection has become more congested since the opening of the new Cracker Barrel restaurant. Livingston said there was an urgent need to address the problem intersection and said, “I’m going to talk to Mike Tagert and Steve Massengill.” Tagert is the transportation commissioner for north Mississippi, and Massengill represents a part of western Union County in the state house of representatives.
Discussion of a “strategic planner” for New Albany was on the agenda at Alderman Livingston’s request. She spoke in favor hiring someone to develop a strategic plan. New Albany paid for a strategic plan several years ago, and Livingston implied that the city had not followed through on implementing the plan. Alderman Anderson disagreed and cited numerous parts of the old strategic plan that the city had, in fact, implemented. “We’ve done a good deal of what the strategic plan called for,” Anderson said. The discussion of the strategic plan took about ten minutes, and it was pointed out that a new strategic plan would likely cost well over $100,000.
At the recommendation of Alderman at Large Keith Conlee, Greg Robbins was appointed to the city zoning board. Robbins will replace Conlee on that board, where he served before being elected as an alderman.
Livingston asked to be appointed as the board of aldermen’s representative on the City Beautification Committee, and she also sought the appointment on the board of the Union County Heritage Museum. She was appointed to both boards.
This reporter kept track of the number of times Alderman Livingston spoke during the meeting to ask questions, opine on various matters and ask follow-up question. He stopped counting when the number exceeded 70. Among other items she volunteered was the statement, “I lived in Los Angeles.” She also announced her email address at least twice and asked for anyone in New Albany to contact her. Her bailiwick is Ward One, only. Many of her questions and comments were directly related to issues she had raised during her successful campaign.
The July meeting of the city board lasted two hours and six minutes, at least twice the typical time length of the monthly meeting.
Another unique feature at the meeting was that both Union County Republican Chairman Clay Hardy and Union County Democratic Chairman Marc McClinton attended the meeting. Hardy and McClinton left before the meeting was over.
Is it politics or POLITICS? http://nanewsweb.com/national-party-politics-in-local-elections/