Aldermen seek to move ahead on election, make unexpected decision on insurance

New Albany is in danger of facing the upcoming municipal elections without having an election commission.

Mayor Tim Kent brought the issue up a couple of months ago, noting that three commissioners are required but the city has only one. Varnell Kimmons is still on the board but others have retired or moved outside the city limits.

Aldermen were to have proposed names of potential commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting but came up with nothing. Mayor Kent said Monday that Byrne Phyfer is apparently willing to serve but they need one more.

The commission has few duties other than to be present at the election to resolve issues and certify results, and the job pays nothing. Anyone who might be willing to serve should contact the mayor’s office.

Although their duties are limited, commission members are legally required to undergo training, which is coming up soon.

In a related matter, aldermen set a public hearing on city redistricting for the February board meeting.

Population shifts revealed by the 2010 Census required the changing of city ward boundaries to keep voter populations more evenly balanced among wards. Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, any changes that might dilute minority voting have to be approved by the U. S. Department of Justice. The city received help from Three Rivers Planning and Development District in redrawing ward lines, adopting the new map in June. The city then received DOJ approval in September and now have the legal description that needs to be adopted in ordinance form. Since this will be an ordinance, the public hearing is required. The city also is preparing to notify those residents who are affected by the change.

In a move that caught some of those present by surprise, aldermen voting on a new insurance policy to cover city-owned property apparently took the most expensive bid rather than lowest.

The board was considering bid proposals from Twitty Insurance, which has been the provider for several years, and Collins Insurance

The bids had been submitted this past month and taken under advisement so the mayor and city attorney could compare and evaluate them.

Attorney Regan Russell talked about several aspects of the bids Tuesday, saying coverage was about the same, but Collins had a lower deductible and lower price of $13,796 compared to $17,938 for Twitty, and had more coverage.

Alderman-at-large Scott Dunnam moved that the city accept the “lowest and best bid” by Collins and Alderman Olson seconded, but the motion failed with Aldermen Anderson, Beasley and Tucker voting against the low bid. After some brief confusion, Mayor Kent pointed out the city board still had to take some action to have insurance so aldermen then looked at the two deductibles listed by Twitty of either $2,500 or $5,000.

Alderman Anderson moved the city accept the $2,500 (compared to $1,000 in the Collins bid) deductible and high bid cost of $17,938. The motion passed with Anderson, Beasley and Tucker in favor and Dunnam and Olson opposed.

In justifying the action, aldermen said they wanted to keep the insurance with the provider they have been using and Beasley added they “don’t want to switch horses” (in mid-stream).

Another public hearing concerned incorporating city codes with international standard regulations.

The regulations voted on were in three parts. One was concerning maintenance of property that would give the city better means to condemn property when necessary. Another section was regulations that are essentially duplicates and could be deleted. The third was a set of ordinances approved by aldermen in 2011 but never formally incorporated into city ordinances. Ward Two Alderman Johnny Anderson asked several questions to make sure the property maintenance ordinance would not affect existing property, all of which would be grandfathered in, and was told the regulation would only be used sparingly. The measure passed unanimously.

Aldermen also revisited the question of using speed bumps or other control devices to slow traffic on Oxford Loop between Martintown Road and Hwy. 30 West. Alderman Anderson, who has been asking for something to be done at the request of local residents, reported that reusable rubber barriers are available at a cost of about $6,500 for two. These are supposed to be less hazardous than asphalt or speed bumps as well as more durable and removable.

Aldermen noted that two quotes are needed but voted approval for spending up to $6,500 for the devices on a trial basis if Anderson would get a second quote. If the devices work suitably they may remain and others may be used at other locations around town.

In other action aldermen:

  • Heard from Fire Chief Steve Coker who reported that his department has received a federal grant to purchase three thermal imaging cameras and other equipment. The cameras can be used to visual temperature differences and show hot spots on the other side of walls. The grant is for $35,500 and the city’s matching amount is five percent, or approximately $1,624. Aldermen unanimously voted for Coker to proceed with the grant process.
  • Heard from light, gas and water manager Bill Mattox who reported on the purchase of  five acres of land from the Galloway family by the electric warehouse. Mattox said the family had wanted to complete the transaction by the end of the year and, by jumping through hoops, they were able to do so. Mattox said the land will be cleared and plans call for the gas department to eventually be relocated there.
  • Gave the fire department and light, gas and water department to advertise for sale surplus vehicles, including two pickups, a trailer and a van.
  • Settled a property deed issue on Denmill Road where the road used to go on a wooden bridge over the railroad and is now where the alternative school is.
  • Set a public hearing for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, at City Hall on the city water improvement project. The hearing is required because some of the funds for the cleaning and replacing will come from Rural Development.
  • Approved a motion by Ward One Alderman Jeff Olson to begin work on a Safe Route to School grant.  Olson said grants can be for as much as $250,000 for the program, which applies to grades 1-8.
  • Learned that people are beginning to ask about renting the new tennis complex pavilion for special events. Park Commission and city officials were to do some research on what neighboring towns charge for use of similar facilities.
  • Went into executive session for a personnel matter.