What started as several questions raised by senior center director Jane Childers developed into a wider-ranging discussion of what current council member and mayor-elect Tim Kent termed as harassment as well as a series of unusual activities conducted by someone with the ability to enter Town Hall.
“I ran on one thing,” Kent said, “and that is to sweep the corruption out.”
In a designated time for public comments, Childers noted that she ran for public office this election cycle and she took a leave from work at the center; however, she said that she knew of one male candidate and one female candidate who did not. She questioned the legality.
Her second question involved current council members Dale Snead and Greg Ogles who were reelected in August. She questioned their presence outside of the polling location on the day of the election asking if they were the legal distance from the building. Her third question concerned a mayoral candidate seeking a seat after having sued the town twice.
Councilman Snead said the complaint against him and Ogles had already been looked into and both were in compliance with state law and were within legal distance.
At that time, Snead resident Billy Barnes asked to speak. In addressing Childers, he said, “I’ve watched you follow people in this town. I’ve watched you hide and watch things. You have tried to get people’s jobs. If you want to call people out, then you are the pot calling the kettle black.”
Childers told Barnes, “I’m not following people around.” Barnes responded, “Then what were you doing out at night between 1 and 2 a.m. if you were not following?”
Kent told Childers that all her questions had already been brought before the council and the town’s attorney. The town’s attorney, Brett King, told Childers he did review all of the concerns she raised and “found nothing illegal.” Childers said she has sent her complaints to Montgomery.
Kent then informed the council of some activities at Town Hall that are concerning to him. He said it was brought to his attention that someone “went into the court magistrate’s office, got into the computer, and changed the email signature.”
Assistant police chief Ron Kiker said that a preliminary investigation shows that “someone came in overnight and changed it.” Kent further noted that town clerk Heather Lindsey reported that someone came into her office and ransacked her desk as well as went through her purse that was inside an office cabinet.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but there is no excuse for this behavior,” Kent said. He then revealed to the council that an outside security camera that faces the intersection of Ala 75 and U.S. 278 had been blacked out to obscure a view of a certain area. He said, “It was requested to be blacked out.”
He then told the council and department managers that “after Nov. 3, you do not have to work in these conditions. You will not be harassed and you will not be belittled, I promise you that. It’s over with; you will not be treated like that anymore.”
Police chief Stephen Gunn then informed the council that local residents are receiving scam calls from individuals trying to get stimulus checks as well as Social Security checks.
“Our senior citizens are particularly vunerable to this sort of thing, but anyone who has received or will receive a government stimulus check is game for these scammers.” Gunn continued, “Do not give out information to anyone because, if they get information, they will use it and sell it.
“The government will not call you; they will reach you by certified letters. We have a bulletin on our Facebook page warning about this activity and banks will sometimes call and tip us off or they will call their customers about unusual activity on their accounts.”
Barnes came before the council seeking financial help following an accident between him and one of the town’s policeman. He said, “I shouldn’t have to pay for the accident and the adjuster is not wanting to fix it properly. Repairs will diminish its value one half of what the vehicle is worth.”
He explained that he is in bad health and he is working and that his wife would be left with the truck and be unable to “get the value of it should she sell it because of the bonded repairs. I have nothing against the police department, it was just an accident,” he added.
Kent said he “would not want a wrecked truck either,” and suggested Barnes get with the town’s attorney to reach a settlement. King said the council would not have to take action at the present time and told them, “I think we can get that done.”
Moving into other business, King told the council that CARES Act money is available to help offset certain expenditures incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the town may be eligible and he will check into it further.
The council also received a report from Lindsey regarding the town’s health insurance. She said she had been notified that the cost would be going up beginning Jan. 1, 2021. “Copays are going up, and we will see some increases on what we pay as well,” she said. In other action the council:
• approved pay for Lindsey as absentee election manager.
• tabled paying membership dues to the Birmingham Regional Planning Commission on a motion by Snead.
• approved the $750 annual donation to the Blount County Education Foundation on a motion by Kent.
• tabled a donation request from the Community Arts Council of Blount County.
• approved $400 for the upcoming Trunk or Treat for Halloween.
The council meets on the second and fourth Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. in the Snead Community Center.