New councilors take seats at Oneonta

Oneonta's two newest council members (left to right), Richard Phillips and Nathaniel Butler, join veterans Hal Blackwood and Ed Lowe prior to last week’s meeting.

Oneonta’s two newest council members (left to right), Richard Phillips and Nathaniel Butler, join veterans Hal Blackwood and Ed Lowe prior to last week’s meeting.

Nathaniel Butler and Richard Phillips joined the Oneonta City Council for their first regular council meeting last week. Elected in July and sworn in the night before, the two take seats formerly held by Mark Gargus and Tim McNair, respectively.

The duo had the opportunity to make a bit of history for Oneonta by approving the appointment of Ricky Statham as the city’s first male librarian. Statham’s appointment followed a string of reappointments of regular city officials.

Members renamed Tammie Noland as city clerk, Arthur Willis as fire chief, Alex Smith as city attorney, Elizabeth Nash as municipal judge, Mark Sapp as municipal prosecutor, and James Chapman as police chief, pending his upcoming retirement. At the recommendation of the Oneonta Utilities Board, councilors named Mark Gargus to that body.

Members also accepted the verbal resignation of employee Chad Weems, reportedly having accepted a position with Heritage Golf. In another personnel matter, councilors recognized employee Andy Alexander for recent additional certification he has received.

The council approved the city’s application for a matching airport grant. The proposed $260,000 land acquisition project would require a 5-percent city match and would ease encroachment pressures on Robbins Field. The body also approved an agreement with the Blount County Commission to cover debris removal in disaster or emergency situations. According to Smith, that arrangement could save the city thousands of dollars.

City manager Ed Lowe reported continued expansion of programs at Wallace State – Oneonta. He advised completion of the CDL facilities and advertisements to recruit students for that program. He noted, also, continued work on welding booths, a planned EMS offering in 2017, as well as a later engineering technology addition.

Chapman introduced police academy director Mike Harris who presented certificates to the academy’s latest graduating class. Phyllis Downing, Harold and Glenda Easterwood, Tithee Faulkner, Sherry Fox, Jolene Jones, Tamara Mitchell, June Peppers, Angela Powers, Danny Robinson, and Sandy Shelton accepted their certificates. Tommy Burns, Cristin Cowan, Jan Drake, Carolyn Jones, Nancy Malcolm, Joan Pinyan, and Gene Sitton, also completed the academy, but were not in attendance for the ceremony.

Prior to the council’s adjournment, resident Linda Peoples, who was not on the agenda, spoke on the recently completed reconstruction of LowWater Bridge. The heavy rains of December 2015 had damaged the bridge beyond use. She thanked the council and public safety director – administrator Brandon Horton for completion of the project. She noted, however, perceived problems with bolts on the bridge and redirected water flows. Mayor Ross Norris promised to have workers examine the situation the following morning.

Councilors Hal Blackwood, Danny Robinson, and Tonya Rogers along with Norris, Butler and Phillips attended the Nov. 8 session. The council holds its regular sessions the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in city hall.