Four new faces graced the Board of Aldermen and mayor’s meeting on July 6. Representing their wards for the first time were Ward 1 Alderwoman Karen Godfrey, Ward 4 Alderman Chip Wilbanks, Ward 5 Alderwoman Beverly Oliver, and Ward 6 Alderman James Lott III.
By Katherine R. Dougan
Despite a lengthy, 21-item agenda, members were undaunted and were prepared with questions crafted to obtain more understanding of the agenda items and projects seeking their consent.
Board members didn’t hesitate to push back and table items which required more details and a thorough explanation, instead of giving rubber-stamp approval to spending constituents’ money, indicating that this Board intends to maintain strong oversight and recognizes they have a serious responsibility for the Board’s business.
According to Robert’s Rules of Order, a parliamentary procedure manual for meetings, when a board is not ready to vote for a lack of information, a sensitive topic or other urgent matters, a board member may make a motion to “table” the item. Once a board member makes the motion and it is seconded by another board member and followed by a majority vote on the motion, the item is no longer open to discussion at the meeting. Once an agenda item is tabled, it must be re-addressed at the next official meeting.
Board members were consistent in asking for more information, including tabling an agenda item to vote to appoint/reappoint City department heads to their positions.
“As you all know, we have a Board of Aldermen that is predominantly made up of new Board members,” said Alderwoman-at-Large Ricki Garrett. “And as smart as they are and as quick to learn as they are, I have sensed some real desire to dig further into some issues to educate themselves… It’s my belief, and the belief I think of the majority of the Board, that there’s a need for further discussion and analysis before we move to just blanket all of the department heads in this manner.”
For the reasons Garrett cited, she made a motion to table the item for further discussion and analysis. The motion was seconded, and the Board voted 6-1 to table the agenda item. The dissenting vote was Ward 3 Alderman William O. Barnett.
A proposal for a site plan mural at 815 Northside Drive in Ward 3 (Indian Lanes Bowling Center) was presented to the Board. Clintonian Paul Gore, who owns and operates a hand-painted sign business in Clinton and who would be painting the mural for the Bowling Alley, presented an image comprised of a lime green oval bisected by a line representing the Natchez Trace trail, with two arrowheads and the words “Bison” and “Trace” in the center of each arrowhead. The image was described as one that would take up partial space on the side of the building.
Gore said he has received an arts grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mississippi Arts Commission to design and paint the mural on the side of the Indian Lanes building. He explained that other background images will include bison, tundra and vegetation from the era of when the bison fist migrated to the Natchez Trace. To the right of the main image, Gore plans to paint hardwood forests and indigenous people.
As Gore spoke, it became apparent that the drawing presented to the Board was incomplete and did not reflect what Gore was planning for the final project, even though both the City’s architectural review committee and planning and zoning commission approved Gore’s project to be sent to the Board for approval.
“It is possible that we could see what’s going to be there, the entire thing?” queried Ward 4 Alderman Chip Wilbanks. Gore replied that it would take a lot of time to prepare a sample sketch. “My problem is the grant would not be for a lot of money, so I did what I could come up with to be up there.”
“I haven’t done a final sketch; having a marquee of any size would be taking off time that I could be putting into the mural,” Gore responded. He explained that he has a good idea in his mind of what will be there, and that he plans to go to a bison ranch in Brandon and take a picture of some bison “up close and personal.”
“Anytime I can put it [image] on the wall, I’d rather spend time doing that than putting it on a piece of canvas.”
“Is there a deadline for when you need to have this completed?” Ward 6 Alderman James Lott III asked.
“There’s not really a deadline, as their [MAC/NEA] deadline was not realistic, as they expected the work to take place during the winter months,” Gore replied.
“So, this is just the background?” Lott asked.
“Yes, it’s basically just the background,” Gore replied.
“I feel like you’re asking us to approve the background without the final [rendering],” Lott said.
Wilbanks commented that he was sure Gore would do a good job on the mural; however, Board members agreed they need to see a sketch of the entire mural before they can grant approval. After Gore explained that, since it was supposed to rain the next few days, he would probably have time to put together a sample, Gore agreed to bring that back to the Board’s July 20 meeting. The motion to table the item until the July 20 meeting passed.
Roy Edwards, the City’s director of community development, brought an amended ordinance for Interstate Corridor Signs to the Board for approval, which the Board also tabled until their next meeting. Ward 2 Alderman Jim Martin noted that the ordinance had been just recently amended based on findings from surveying other municipalities’ related ordinances. Edwards was asked to return to the Board with the information obtained during that survey, so the Board can review it in more detail.
In addition, by a vote of 6-1, with Ward 3 Alderman William Barnett being the dissenting vote, the Board tabled a resolution for the Easthaven Homeowner’s Association to donate a piece of land on Patio Place to the City for the intention of building a city park on a portion of the portion of the property. Parks and Recreation Director Adam Wade presented the matter to the Board, but he could not provide adequate costs or plans for the proposed park to answer the detailed questions and concerns of the Board members. One concern was the cost for the City to demolish the site’s building and pool, which are in an extreme condition of disrepair. Board members, with the exception of Barnett, asked for concrete plans, costs and time for consideration of the matter. Barnett would like the item to be resolved by the next meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, July 20.
On some items, the Board was unanimously aligned, including the approval of Alderwoman-at-Large Rikki Garrett as Mayor Pro Tempore.
“Our mayor pro tempore for the last four years has been Ricki Garrett, and she was elected citywide as Alderwoman-at-Large,” Ward 2 Alderman Jim Martin stated. The Mayor Pro Tempore performs the duties of the Mayor if the Mayor is unable to perform them.
The Board also unanimously approved the addition of a drive-through canopy on the east side of Chick-Fil-A at 952 Highway 80 in Clinton. The new canopy will be positioned over the order pickup area and will stylistically resemble the canopy on the west side, the order placement side of the building.
While not unanimous, the Board voted 6-1, with Ward 5 Alderwoman Beverly Oliver dissenting, to grant a conditional use variance for development of the Albritton family property at 500 West College Street in Clinton. Dr. James Hurt III and John Trealor are in the process of purchasing the Albritton property and proposed a project to develop townhouses and homes. Dr. Hurt, who has strong ties to Clinton, estimated the work will begin in about two years.
Other unanimous approvals included permission being granted to Cellular South Real Estate Inc. for installation of a small cell tower on top of the City’s municipal court building at 305 North Monroe Street; appointment of Ward 3 Alderman William O. Barnett as principal Mississippi Municipal League 2021 Voting Delegate for the City of Clinton, and Alderwoman Garrett as first alternate delegate; the purchase of six electronic Radar Speed Signs with eighteen semi-portable mounting brackets from RadarSign, the lowest and best bidder, for $17,658; acceptance of a grant from Keep Mississippi Beautiful in the amount of $1,950; authorizing the Mayor to execute agreements and documentation related to receipt of the American Rescue Plan Act funds received by the City; and awarding the lowest and best bid of $412,690 to Greenbriar Digging Service, LP, for Section 592 Water System Improvements project, including approval for the Mayor to execute all documents associated with the project.
The Board also approved the surplus/selling of nine shipping container boxes that were purchased as part of a grant from Homeland Security at $1,000 per container. Police Chief Ford Hayman explained to the Board that the containers were used for special training exercises, such as simulating a neighborhood or city, for the department and were located at Camp Down Range on Kickapoo Road. The property has since changed owners, who have requested that the shipping containers be removed. The grant under which the containers were purchased allows the Clinton Police Department to sell the containers at fair market value if they no longer needed by the department.
The next meeting of the Board of Aldermen will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 20, at the Municipal Courtroom, 305 Monroe Street.