By J. Lynn West/New Albany News-Exchange
New Albany’s outdoor furniture and appliance nuisance ordinance has become law but the proposed public indecency ordinance which addresses wearing pants well below the hips was placed on hold after a public hearing degenerated into personal comments.
The so-called “baggy pants” ordinance was introduced by Ward Three Alderman Tommie Beasley, concerned, he said, that outstanding young people might be incorrectly judged because of the way they wore pants, and because in some cases the wearers simply showed too much underclothing or skin.
The law would have prohibited exposure of genitals, public urination or defecation, partial nudity and a variety of lewd acts but the part that drew discussion and differing opinion prohibited “Intentionally wearing pants or skirts more than three inches below the top of the hips (crest of the ilium) exposing the skin or undergarments.”
A few residents at the public hearing on the ordinance this past Tuesday spoke out in opposition to it. One criticism was that the problem is not that bad, and is a fad already going out of style. “I don’t think police should confront young people and tell them how to dress,” Southside community activist Larry Dykes, who opposed Beasley in the 2009 municipal election, said.
Jennifer Jones was opposed to the low-slung pants but said she had no trouble with asking the young people to pull them up herself. “I don’t want it to turn into a racial profiling thing. I want to teach the young people to respect the police,” she said.
Dykes argued that police should enforce current laws before getting into the business of telling people how to dress, complaining that young people are allowed to cause noise and make a mess on Wall’s parking lot but when his lodge has event police come and tell him to be quiet or shut it down.
Jones noted that the pulled-down pants are worn by white young people as well as black and others said they just did not think the police should be involved in telling people how to dress.
After Dykes and Beasley began directing personal comments toward each other rather than commenting on the issue, Beasley eventually moved to table the issue “until we feel more comfortable with it.” That motion passed unanimously with no date mentioned for when the issue might come back up.
The other public hearing was on the ordinance that would affect maintenance of private property. Specifically, it would prohibit furniture designed for indoor use to be moved outside on a porch or otherwise for any extended time, declaring such a practice to be a public nuisance.
The move was spurred by citizen complaints about people leaving old couches, mattresses, chairs and other furniture on their porches for extended periods, as well as leaving apparently non-functioning refrigerators and other appliances sitting out. The ordinance refers to furniture and does not mention appliances, although Mayor Tim Kent said it was understood that was included.
Some of those present argued that some people cannot afford expensive outdoor furniture but want to sit on the porch so they move a couch or other furniture outside. A response to this was that some outdoor furniture is affordable for almost anyone and that most people don’t buy expensive pieces. Another comment was that people may have no intention of offending neighbors, they just want to sit outside. They also said the community should get involved in this and help them move or discard furniture when appropriate.
The ordinance does not specifically prohibit limited use of indoor furniture outside for a short time, and it allows furniture to be outside on a limited basis if it is about to be sold or discarded. As Mayor Tim Kent noted, the city does pick up furniture and appliances at no cost to residents if they can get it to the street.
After some discussion, Alderman-at-Large Scott Dunnam moved that the ordinance be approved. Ward One Alderman Jeff Olson seconded and the measure passed unanimously.
Mayor Kent said that common sense can be used in applying the law and enforcement only a last measure. City Attorney Regan Russell pointed out that neither the public indecency nor the nuisance furniture ordinance calls for any jail time as punishment. There is only a misdemeanor fine schedule of from $50 to $250.
A more informal public hearing followed on the issue of using speed bumps in the city.
Ward Two Alderman Johnny Anderson had introduced installing speed bumps on a section of Oxford Loop, which connects Martintown Road and Hwy. 30 West some time back. The short section of road is narrow, steep and crooked, and intersects Martintown Road at an angle. Residents on the street have complained about the number of accidents that have occurred and the danger it presents to them and their visitor trying to get in and out of driveways.
Anderson, who has espoused addition of three- and four-way stops around town, first suggested use of asphalt speed bumps. Once installed, the asphalt bumps tended to cause damage to vehicles, however, and be something of a danger themselves. Also, as the bumps wore down, adding more asphalt made the situation worse.
As a result, the speed bumps were removed and Anderson has been looking into alternatives, such as speed tables, which are flat-topped extended speed bumps, and rubber, rather than asphalt, speed bumps, referred to as “humps.”
The rubberized bumps can be put down and easily removed on a trial basis and do not cause the damage asphalt bumps do, as long as they are installed according to code, an engineer told the city board. It was added that other options are available to slow traffic as well, including adding dividers, changing the structure of the road and even changing the color, which would change drivers’ perceptions of the road.
After discussion, Anderson moved that the humps be installed on a 90-day trial basis. Ward Four Alderman Will Tucker seconded and the measure passed unanimously. “If this is what we want we can move forward on a more permanent basis,” Anderson said.
In other business, aldermen heard from businessman Jimmy Grisham concerning removal of material from the Carter Avenue area, considered a main entrance to downtown New Albany.
Grisham, former owner of Grisham Wholesale, is in a dispute with his daughter who is the present owner of the business while he still apparently owns a lot of the material stored on the property.
Aldermen have agreed the material constituted an eyesore, if not a health or safety hazard as well, and ordered that the area be cleaned up, regardless, giving Grisham until January 1 to complete removal. He said Tuesday he continues to have difficulty in being allowed on the property by his daughter to get the material but is making pretty good progress in removing it. Aldermen reminded him that they don’t care who does it, but that if it is not gone by Jan. 1, the city will remove it and costs will be charged to Grisham’s daughter.
Aldermen also accepted bid proposals Tuesday on insurance covering city-owned real property. Twitty Insurance, the current provider, and Collins Insurance submitted bids. Aldermen were interested in whether inflation increases were included and whether newly acquired property such as the tennis complex and part of the sportsplex would be covered. Although the bids did not appear to be greatly different, the mayor and city attorney were directed to sit down and compare them as closely as possible and communicate that to the aldermen. Twitty owner Dickson Simmons pointed out that the current insurance was to expire the following night at midnight, but that he probably could get an extension for up to a month in order for the aldermen to make a decision.
• Took the low bid of $234,488 to move some utility lines in Marshall County because of a state highway project. Although the city department had to advertise the job, the Department of Transportation will pay for the cost.
• Confirmed the condemnation order for the residence at 915 Poplar was justified and correct. The owner was not present and did not contest the move concerning the home, which apparently has deteriorated dramatically over the past several years and has been judged inhabitable by building and code officials. The owner is reported seeking a new place to live.
• Accepted the plat for a new street near Lowe’s and El Agave that will serve the Tractor Supply Company about to be constructed. Aldermen approved naming the street Virginia Way, and also verified that there was a $100,000 performance bond to insure that the street is completed to meet city requirements (since it has not been built yet). The city attorney clarified that aldermen were only accepting the plat and not accepting ownership of the street and agreeing to maintain it yet.
• Briefly discussed filling two vacancies on the city election commission. Mayor Kent said the sole serving member is Varnell Kimmons and the other two members had resigned because they were moving outside the city limits and other personal reasons. Aldermen had said they would have suggestions for the vacancies at the December board meeting but no one put a name forward Tuesday. Action is needed soon because of the upcoming 2013 municipal elections and the commissioners are required by law to undergo training early in the year. Aldermen again said they would have names to suggest at the January meeting.
• Voted to go into executive session to discuss a land acquisition.