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Internal strife confronted at town hall meeting

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By Natasha Colbaugh

An attachment to the agenda brought up mixed emotions at the Jellico Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting last Thursday. The city recorder’s report was prepared for the board’s approval but additional concerns were addressed.

City Recorder Linda Douglas said negative remarks about the audit and bookkeeping habits need to be addressed with the mayor or attorney and not with her.

“Who do I complain to? We’ve got an audit that we should’ve had a year ago and we still haven’t got it,” said Alderman Alvin Evans.

Evans conceded, saying he knows the previous mayor wouldn’t pay the bill and that was the reason why the audit wasn’t released. However, Evans said the previous council voted to pay for it.

“Why bring it up now when the council sat here and did nothing,” said Douglas. “You did not object to the mayor’s action’s and now you are bringing it to me like it’s my fault.”

The previous administration paid for a financial bookkeeper to prepare statements for the auditor but the work was not completed, said Douglas.

“I ended up sitting here doing a year’s worth or work so the auditor could even begin on the last audit-that is not my responsibility,” said Douglas. “I object to being harassed and tormented over this. I have done the best job I could do to provide this.”

The audit still needs to be completed, said Evans.

According to the Mayor Les Stiers there were many bills left unpaid by the previous administration, including bonuses and raises.

The audit will be completed by May and available to the board, said Douglas.

The report submitted to the board was a composition of bookkeeping items prepared for the auditor. Compiled through March 15, Douglas said two months remain in the fiscal year and the town has only spent 52 percent of the budget.

“You can tell that the department’s have done really well so far,” said Douglas.

The board reviewed savings and checking amounts.

Town codes, which stipulate where funds are held and the amount for bidding will be revised at a later date, said Douglas. The board approved the financial report.

Following a lengthy agenda, Alderman John Davenport announced his resignation. The decision was made for business reasons, he said.

“John has been on the city council for nine to 10 years and he has dedicated his life to public service,” said Stiers. “He has had a lot of accomplishments and he is a forward thinking person and a visionary. We are going to miss you John.”

Davenport said he has learned a lot during his service but unfortunately being a aldermen requires a lot of time.

“I have some things coming down the pike, potentially that could cause conflict with me being on the board,” said Davenport. “It was just a business decision really.”
Jellico is going in the right direction and will continue to grow, said Davenport.

“I appreciate all the people who have voted for me and I hope they can understand my decision,” said Davenport.

The board approved his resignation. A round of applause was given to Davenport for his service to the community.

Also presented to the board for approval was a grant to install lighting off the I-75 exit in Jellico. Stiers told the board the grant is a matching grant with Jellico bearing the cost of over $150,000.

Downtown business and others are hoping to get additional lighting off the interstate exit.

“We don’t have $156, 500 in the bank, but we are working toward it,” said Stiers. “We don’t have to pay it right yet but I would like to get a motion to proceed with this to sign the contract. Let me seek the ways to find the $156,500. There are ways of getting the money.”

Possibilities of loaning the money may be considered to obtain lighting.

“It will really brighten up our town, it’s the first thing you see when you cross into Tennessee,” said Stiers.

A motion was approved to seek options for funding. The board will review the item again when ways to fund the project have been established.

An ordinance approved by the board in the second reading concerned abandoned and inoperable vehicles within the town limits.

“We are going to go out and try to clean up our town,” said Stiers.

Another ordinance presented to the board was a zoning amendment. Alderman Charles Vermillion read the ordinance amending the C-1 district of downtown as a historical area from now on to be preserved.

“In the past we have made the mistake of tearing out old businesses that were of importance to us,” said Stiers, referring to the Grace Moore home and other historical establishments.

The board approved the ordinance in the first reading.

Another ordinance presented to the board was changing the name of Coal Street to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. Also included in the ordinance was making third Street, between North Main Street and Broad Street, into a one way road.

Alderman Tommy Bowlin said the businesses in particular have suggested the change to reduce congestion on the road.

In other business the board approved to advertise for bids on a water truck for the street and sanitation department. The purchase would be made from the street aid fund.