THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 8/12/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY

The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the August 12th, 2013 City Council Regular Meeting. The complete agenda packet as well as a video of the meeting can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will be posted at the city website as part of the September 9th Regular Meeting Agenda packet.

VI. SPECIAL REPORTS – 1 item, passed by unanimous vote

Resolution approving the City Attorney’s employment agreement to remain in place as currently stipulated and allow for a 1% salary increase.

VII. CONSENT AGENDA 7 items total, 1 removed by Hensley (a proclamation paying tribute to Dr. Russell’s 90th birthday) was passed unanimously, remaining 6 passed by unanimous vote

a. Approval of the July 8, 2013 City Council meeting minutes.
c. Resolution authorizing a Certificate of Good Moral Character for Michael Marion Marsh, Elks Lodge No.1684.
d. Resolution renewing permit to Scott E. Garriott to engage in the retail sale of alcoholic beverages for one year and waiving the residency requirement for the nonresident applicant.
e. Resolution authorizing Certificate of Compliance for Scott E. Garriott to engage in the retail sale of alcoholic beverages at Oak Ridge Package Store, 971 Oak Ridge Turnpike.
f. Resolution approving a termination of Lease Agreement with Learning Ally
g. Resolution urging the Tennessee Congressional Delegation to strongly oppose a reduction or elimination of the tax exemption on municipal bond interest.

VIII. RESOLUTIONS

A. $3,334,437 Contract to Hurst Excavating for rehabilitation work on wastewater collection and transportation systems related to the EPA administrative order. Passed 6-1 with Baughn voting “Nay”

Note: I will continue to vote against funding projects related to the EPA mandate until city council takes steps towards alleviating the financial burden on the rate payers and accepts responsibility for the city’s failures leading up to the EPA administrative order (read here). We’ve already increased rates twice in the last year (to cover the $23M of debt issued in less than 18 months) and another increase is looming in the near future.

B. Renewal of ETHRA contract to include fare increases from $1.50 to $2.00 Passed 6-0 with Hensley abstaining

C. Participation in DOE/TVA Electric Power Research Agency/Purchase of Plug In Hybrid Bucket and Charging Stations. Passed unanimously

D. $30,000 Contract renewal for state lobbyist Bill Nolan

Hensley motioned to increase contract amount to $40K, seconded by Miller. Motion passed 4-3 with Miller, Hensley, Beehan & Garcia Garland voting “Aye” and Baughn, Hope and Mosby voting “Nay.” Amended resolution approved unanimously 7-0. Note: The city manager maintains discretion to allocate funding and is under no obligation to spend the entire $40K.

E. $42,000 contract renewal for economic development services provided by Ray Evans Passed unanimously

IX. PUBLIC HEARING AND FIRST READING OF AN ORDINANCE

A. First reading of sign ordinance amendment regarding electronic signs

Miller motioned to remove the restriction on animated video and scrolling of messages; seconded by Baughn. Motion failed 3-4 with Miller, Baughn & Hope voting “Aye” and Garcia Garland, Hensley, Beehan and Mosby voting “Nay.” Original amendment passed 4-3 with Garcia Garland, Hensley, Beehan and Mosby voting “Aye” and Miller, Baughn & Hope voting “Nay.”  

B. First reading of amended ordinance to establish the Oak Ridge Land Bank Corporation Passed on first reading 6-1 with Baughn voting “Nay.”

Note: My stated reasons for not supporting this ordinance were as follows:

 Scope of homes we would “target” for inclusion in the land bank program has not been clearly defined. Though the press and some documentation specifies vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent/foreclosed properties, Mr. Jernigan, staff and Mr. Watson have stated that such properties could include donated, blight and those on a “pathway to blight.”

Cost has not been determined and the initial source will be from the property taxes. We already have budgeted nearly $500K from the grants we receive to address such issues. We’ve also budgeted an additional $150K from the general fund for the Land Bank.

We have a poor track record of converting government properties into fully-taxable properties.

I fail to see what a Land Bank can accomplish to the benefit of the public that we cannot already do. The only answers I have heard that differentiate a land bank from existing mechanisms are very bothersome: “increased power” stated by the mayor, Mr. Watson and Mr. Jernigan. The city manager provided an example of the land bank holding 7 of ten properties on a block and negotiating the remaining 3 down who may want too much for their properties.

We have no business getting into the real estate business – another example of competing with private businesses, i.e. golf course, proposed hotel/event center. Our existing businesses are already hurting enough without government becoming their competition.

We already have 16 boards/commissions run by 100’s of citizens who are neither elected nor employed by the city who are not held accountable but have tremendous influence over policy and budgetary matters.

C. First reading of amended ordinance to expand residential inspection district Passed unanimously

XII. COUNCIL REQUEST FOR NEW BUSINESS/FUTURE BRIEFINGS

Baughn praised Chief Akagi and staff for successfully finalizing the MOU with the schools and asked the council to task the city manager with coordinating quarterly meetings with the BOE in an effort to track the progress of outstanding school security issues (physical security, risk assessments, etc.) Hope, Garcia Garland and Henlsey concurred thus providing the city manager with a task to coordinate future meetings

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