Erwin board tables absentee policy; July 4 parade planned

Brad Hicks • May 13, 2014 at 1:50 PM

ERWIN — The Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen was set Monday to consider the second draft of a resolution aimed at addressing alderman absenteeism, but a vote on the matter was again delayed, as several aldermen feel the resolution’s wording was fine the first time around.

The first draft of the resolution, which was written to tie compensation received by board members to their attendance at the board’s two regularly scheduled meetings each month, was presented at April’s meeting of the board.

This draft said aldermen, who are each paid $300 monthly for their service on the board, shall be penalized $150 for failing to attend a regularly scheduled meeting. Per this draft of the resolution, if a board member fails to attend both regularly scheduled meetings in a given month, then they will be penalized the full $300. If a regular meeting is canceled, the board member would not be penalized.

However, Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley said in April that she felt this version of the resolution was “very restrictive,” and she would like to see penalties assessed on the fourth meeting after a member of the board has missed three consecutive meetings. And although the resolution was intended to apply to the whole board, Hensley said she wanted to see it refined to include language specifically pertaining to the mayor.

At Monday’s meeting, the reworked resolution was presented. Hensley said this second draft better addressed the issue of long-term absenteeism and would give members of the town’s legislative body some leniency in missing a meeting due to happenings such as illness or vacation.

“You can miss one or two every once in a while and still come back,” she said.

However, Alderman Virgil Moore said he had thought about the matter and favored the first draft of the resolution.

“I’ve thought a lot about it, and it’s the tax dollars that’s paying us,” Moore said. “I would just hate for somebody to pay my salary and I didn’t show up for a meeting.”

Erwin Vice-Mayor Gary Edwards agreed with Moore’s take.

“I stand with him all the way,” Edwards said, “and instead of a resolution, I would like to have seen this go in the charter.”

The board’s initial discussion of the resolution followed the resignation of former alderman Robie Sullins on March 17. Sullins, who was elected to the board in 2010, had not attended a meeting since July. He previously said he was unable to attend the board’s meetings, as he is enrolled in law school in the Nashville area.

The board is set to consider the third version of the resolution at its next meeting. This version will include penalties outlined in the first draft, but specific language pertaining to the Erwin mayor will be added.

While this measure was tabled, the board did lend its enthusiastic approval to another item on its agenda. The board approved a request from resident Jim Buchanan to initiate and plan a Fourth of July parade this year within the town.

Buchanan said the town has never held a parade to honor local military veterans, something his proposed parade would accomplish.

“I went by and looked. Do you realize there’s about 4,500 names on our veterans’ memorial?” Buchanan said. “We’ve had that many people that have served in this county.”

Buchanan said he has already contacted representatives from the local American Legion, the National Guard and the Veterans of Foreign Wars for their help, as well as the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce for its assistance in organizing the parade. He said he was thinking the parade could be held July 4 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Buchanan said the parade could start at Unicoi County Intermediate School, travel down Love Street and turn left onto Elm Avenue to end at the Unicoi County Veterans Park.

“I think if we do this, we could be the forefront in the Tri-Cities because nobody else has done this to honor their veterans,” Buchanan said. “It it wasn’t for our veterans, we might be speaking fluent German or Japanese right now.”

The parade would come at no cost to the town, other than what Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson said would be “minimal” overtime expenses for Erwin police officers working the parade.

In other business, the board:

• Approved the first reading of an ordinance to rezone certain properties located on Fender Lane from R-1 (low density) to R-1A (single family) residential district.

• Approved the first reading on an ordinance to amend the zoning ordinance for the purpose of providing for limited residential uses in the B-23 central business district. This ordinance pertains primarily to residents who rent residential spaces above businesses in downtown Erwin.

• Voted to cancel the board’s meeting scheduled for May 26 due to Memorial Day.

• Announced the town’s annual retreat will be held this weekend. The retreat, which officials are calling “Advancing Erwin 2014,” will be held at Erwin Town Hall from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday.

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