Thursday, October 28, 2010
Board says, open cemetery gate
By SUE WATSON
With a dissenting Mayor Andre’ DeBerry, the Holly Springs Board of Aldermen voted unanimously last week to open the front gate at historic Hill Crest Cemetery.
The vote followed a motion by alderman Garrie Colhoun and a second by alderman Harvey Payne and a full discussion, much of it a rehashing of previous talks.
Colhoun brought the matter up at the end of business at last week’s board of aldermen meeting.
“We discussed the gates weeks and weeks and months and months,” Colhoun began. “Since we have finished the main gate columns (recently rebuilt after damage over a year ago), I would like to see us repair the gates. But, I motion to take down the cones and guards and open for traffic.”
Payne quickly seconded the motion.
“Why?” asked the mayor. “If we are not finished, why do we open? I appreciate what you are saying. We know what needs to be said but don’t want to say it.
“We know someone is going to knock those gates down again. Everybody is crying because this one (gate) is not open. We have five gates with four open to traffic. One is not open. Some want to say the sky is falling.”
“Put in that motion that that gate be opened and no vault trucks are allowed to come through that gate,” Colhoun said. “That’s my motion. Vault trucks cannot go through.”
In discussion that followed, alderman Johnnie Ree Bagley suggested the gate be closed to all vehicles since the road is so narrow through the columns.
DeBerry asked if Colhoun could drive through the front gate with his car.
“We just spent $7,000 to get it repaired and soon as we open, somebody is coming through and will take a sharp right turn,” said the mayor. “Vault trucks and monument trucks have to use the Maury Street entrance.”
The mayor at one point recommended opening the front gate to foot traffic only.
“It is too small for traffic,” DeBerry continued. “All of us know it is not wide enough. It’s barely six feet.”
A lengthy back and forth discussion of the matter was finally brought to a close with a vote 5-0 to reopen to traffic, but no service trucks.
The gate remained blocked at press-time Tuesday.
In business that followed, the board and mayor discussed at length fair compensation to employees who take on extra duties that causes them to have to work beyond a 40-hour week. The matter was brought up in conjunction with a concern from police chief Robert Pearson that his new hires without police academy certification rapidly receive raises that soon put their salaries over those of experienced and seasoned employees.
Alderman Bagley asked if the board minutes reflect these conditions and city clerk Belinda McDonald said those pay policies for police officers were made years back.
DeBerry said those pay policies may have to be revisited.
“We have boxed ourselves in,” he said. “By the fact we didn’t address existing employees, it pushed them up back-to-back to each other.”
Pearson said he has five vacancies and he introduced two academy-certified applicants to the board for consideration.
“What is going to be the starting pay for officers with experience?” Pearson asked.
“I’m not sure we know that,” the mayor said. “It has to be a recommendation coming from you.”
The board then took up a matter of paying employees by direct deposit to the employees’ bank accounts.
DeBerry was opposed to electronic transfer because some employees may not have bank accounts and would be required to open one.
“What is the great benefit of changing?” he asked.
Bagley said it would stop the rush of employees to the bank to cash or deposit their checks during regular banking hours. Some employees are taking more than the lunch hour to cash checks, she said. She also expressed concern that some employees are cashing payroll checks at the liquor store.
Discussion of the matter was vigorous with aldermen considering all checks be deposited directly, to none, to some being deposited for the employees who want it.
“Why can’t we offer direct deposit to those who want it?” asked alderman Payne.
He followed with a motion that was seconded by alderman Russell Johnson and the motion passed unanimously.
A final matter of business brought up for discussion by alderman Russell Johnson was how development on lands adjacent to the new North Holly Springs bypass road would be handled by the city - through the city’s comprehensive plan under revision or through the Marshall County Industrial Development Authority.
“Do we have a covenant with the county so we would have the same building code as the county?” he asked.
Utility general manager Don Hollingsworth said most of the land along the bypass is in the city limits.
The mayor suggested that the matter be put to Bob Barber, who has been hired to update the city’s comprehensive plan and land use ordinances.
Johnson asked if the city should market the properties for the landowners or whether it should be handled by IDA.
Hollingsworth said the city had marketed land through IDA before and met with the landowners as was done in the Chickasaw Trail Industrial Park area, “so not just anybody can come and put in a smoke stack.”
“IDA should be involved,” said Johnson.
“I’m not saying IDA should not but...” said DeBerry.
“Why pay Barber? Why reinvent the wheel? Have him sit down with IDA,” Johnson said.
“I can’t see crossing him out,” said the mayor.
Johnson said some properties had already been marketed by IDA.
“We are not cutting out IDA,” DeBerry said. “Our first priority is the City of Holly Springs.”
Colhoun weighed in on the issue.
“They ask us for all kinds of stuff,” he said. “We need to do a little leaning on our own. This Chickasaw Trail is a great opportunity. We’ve got land all around us and we are close to Blue Springs (Toyota assembly plant).”
The mayor said he has just met with Barber and will talk about land use with the board in December. The planning commissioners need to be certified, he added.
Johnson said the city would need a website.
“What is the use of paying IDA fees, then?” he asked.
The matter was dropped after intense discussion without a motion.
In utility news, Hollingsworth said the Tennessee Valley Authority has announced a roughly 50 percent reduction in the fuel cost adjustment rate for November. Residential customers will see a roughly $7 reduction in their electricity bill for the month, he said.
This is the first rollback in the FCA in about nine months, he said.
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