Middlesboro's First city council meeting gets heated
Last night at the well attended first Middlesboro City Council meeting of 2019, several items on the agenda were highlighted.
Issues such as the low number of firefighters and the amount of overtime hours spent within each department were addressed.
Lisa Evans gave a presentation on the PIT program which is about the homeless count in the Bell County area along with the housing issue. Middlesboro Main Street Director Emily Ayers gave a presentation in regard to progress with their organization.
Unused Kentucky Utility outlets and meters was also addressed. The mayor stated that the utility has done an audit and told the city that it can save money by turning off several meters normally used for one-time events such as festivals saving the city money and that they would turn them back on when needed at no cost to taxpayers.
Mayor Nelson also stressed the outstanding balance owed to Waste Management to the tune of $100,000 and what he called a crisis in regard to the condition of the sewage treatment plant. He also let those in attendance know that seven city employees had to be let go due to budget constraints, but that he hoped to be able to fill those positions again once the city was in better standing financially.
There was a first reading of a suggestion to repeal an order stopping former employees that retired from being re-hired with the city. Mayor Nelson stressed that the reason for the repeal was not so that anyone could “double dip” into the pension, which the state no longer allows, but to hire people with years of experience to help right the ship in regard to problems the city is facing. The mayor stressed that the repeal would save a great deal of money to the city especially in regard to not having any training expenses for the potential hires.
For the first time in at least two years, department heads came to the council meeting to give monthly reports to the council. Addressing the council was Middlesboro Fire Chief Robbie England, Police Chief Jeff Sharpe, new Street Department Superintendent Kevin Barnett, and Codes Enforcement Officer Tim Kelley.
One particular agenda item had some attending audience members upset. The issue was the appointment of the council seat that was vacated when council man Kevin Barnett had to resign due to being appointed as Street Department Superintendent. The state statute says that Barnett cannot be an employee and also serve on the council. State statute also dictates that the remaining council members are responsible for appointing the person to take that open seat. They chose former councilman and mayoral candidate Bo Green.
Many in the audience openly accused the council of cronyism when they decided not to choose the next vote getter, Jim Hyde. Hyde acquired 827 votes in the 2018 general election for city council.
Along with audience members, Hyde addressed the council and stated at one point: that he had spoken with someone at the state level asking to have the statute done away with that leave the decision in the hands of city councils. Hyde went on to say “eight votes just over ruled 827, I think it’s’ very unfair and I think it’s un-Christian…I am worried this is going to go back just like some of the councils we’ve had in the past.”
City Council meetings are scheduled for the third Tuesday of each month. If you missed the meeting here is a link to watch it. MIDDLESBORO 1-15-19 COUNCIL MEETING