In the first few minutes of a special called meeting on Tuesday, June 17 the Lafayette City Council passed the 2008/2009 tax rate ($.71 on $100 assessed value) and budget on third and final reading.
The last item on the agenda – city vehicle usage and fuel cost – was discussed long and somewhat passionately, with several citizens speaking on the subject.
“Cities and towns across the nation are forced to cut back on spending because we are now in a depression,” citizen J. Ray McClard of Cothron Drive said, addressing the council. “Jobs are hard to come by for the working class, we have many people here in Lafayette and Macon County who are forced to drive to Nashville, Lebanon, Portland, and other places seeking employment. The high price of gas takes a large chunk out of the pay check, yet some of the same people who live in Lafayette, they are forced to help pay the tab for some city employees who get a freebie to and from work.”
McClard spoke concerning some city employees who live outside of the city, yet drive city vehicles, filled with city gasoline, to and from work each day.
“We the property owners here in Lafayette who pay the bills, we say it is time for the council to stop up to the bat and put a stop to free transportation for the employees of which I made mention of,” said McClard.
George Duffer, who lives on the Scottsville Road, named names after telling the council that he sits on his porch and watches a city fire truck pass by two times every day.
“This is a misuse of city property,” said Duffer. “There’s also a Parks Department car that passes by four or five times a day. The city doesn’t have a park out there!”
Duffer also had words with Atwell concerning city clean-up, saying he had been told by Atwell that the city had hired someone to do the clean up but had “been unable to get him out of the fire hall”.
“I said we’d sent letters – lots of letters,” said Atwell.
“Letters!” Duffer exclaimed. “Why don’t you make him clean them up?”
Jack Butrum spoke on behalf of his three aging aunts, asking the council to consider changing the date of the late fee on water bills.
Apparently, the aunts’ monthly checks arrive after the payment due date, so they are required to pay a late fee each month.
“They’d also like to see the $10 a month gas meter fee that they pay through the summer months removed,” said Butrum. “These people on fixed incomes have to choose between food and gas and medicine.”
On the flip side of city vehicle usage, council member Ruby Flowers pointed out that everyone slows down when they see a police car, parked or not.
“There’s an officer living down the street from me on Ellington Drive, who drives his car home and parks it,” Flowers related, “and I can tell you for certain – because I live there and I see it – that cars slow down when they see that patrol car. In the past, there were cars that went by my house going very fast, but since that patrol car has been parked there, the traffic has slowed down.”
“We’re not Mayberry,” said Police Chief Jerry Dallas. “I’ve heard the speeches, and I understand where they’re coming from, but a half pint to a half gallon of gas is not worth public safety. You can’t measure a human life in terms of gas saved.”
Keith Scruggs, Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director said that he, personally, didn’t care whether he was required to park his emergency vehicle overnight or not.
“I just think it makes sense, I think it’s important for public safety that I have a car, in the case of emergencies. Like the night of the tornado,” said Scruggs, one of the very first responders on that tragic night.
“No matter what we do about this, we’re not going to satisfy everybody,” Dallas pointed out. “Even Jesus Christ, when he was walking the earth, couldn’t satisfy everybody.”
A motion by Wilmore, seconded by Bransford, to park all vehicles overnight except one each from the sewer, gas, and water departments failed, with Turner, Atwell, Flowers, and Krantz voting no.
Turner suggested that a committee to study the situation was needed; but City Attorney Jon Wells advised that it couldn’t be done at the special called meeting because it was not on the agenda.
A motion to adjourn, called for by Mayor Carter, was quickly made and seconded, and the meeting was over.
In other business, the council:
•passed a motion to remove the $100 annual sprinkler fee and the annual water rate increase based on the consumer price index from water rates through the year 2001. The motion hung on a tie vote, with Turner, Wilmore, and Bransford voting yes; Atwell, Flowers, and Krantz voting no. “We did a lot of work on that,” said Atwell. “Three times, six council members voted to pass that.”
The motion passed after Mayor J.Y. Carter broke the tie with a yes vote.
•passed, unanimously, a motion allowing the city to send a ‘red’ bill to water customers with delinquent bills, five days after the bill becomes delinquent instead of the 30 days that the city was previously required to wait. Also included in the motion was the addition of a $50 after-hours service charge. “This will be so much easier on the customers,” said Cheryl Huntsman, assistant CLERK. “The way it is now, their second water bill is due by the time they get a delinquent notice for the previous bill. They then have to pay both bills, and sometimes a reconnect fee, and it’s hard for people to come up with that much money at once.”
The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on July 1 at city hall.