Following an extended executive session for pending litigation, the Oneonta City Council promoted revenue officer Joan Epps to bookkeeper. As intended, executive session discussion remains secret or privileged.
The city is in the middle of a dispute with its former bookkeeper, Geneva Wall, who contends her dismissal constitutes an illegal action. The Blount County Merit Board has agreed to hear Wall’s appeal, but the city may challenge that decision in circuit court. As of Tuesday, the board had set Wall’s hearing for Feb. 18, but Circuit Judge Steven King issued a temporary restraining order on the hearing. (See article on front page)
Councilor Tonya Rogers sought clarification in discussion prior to the vote on Epps. She asked if the move represents a transfer or promotion. She was told it is both.
After the Epps change, the council voted to hire Amanda Stanfield as an administrative assistant. When questioned after the meeting about Mayor Ross Norris’s statement that the Stanfield hiring was not an additional employee, city manager Ed Lowe explained that the city had not filled the position when it was last vacated. Beyond the two hires, the council voted to advertise the just-vacated revenue officer position.
Moving further toward granting The Redeemer Church permission to locate permanently in the downtown entertainment district, the council endorsed the unanimous vote of its planning commission to establish a place of worship special exemption with a conditional waiver for its B-3 zone (i.e. entertainment district). The exemption would permit churches within that district, while the condition formalizes the church’s agreement to waive city liquor establishment distance laws in B-3.
Later in the session, Councilman Tim McNair advised Matt Scott, the church pastor, that the zoning board of adjustment would still need to act, as would the council, before the proposed change can be completed.
Lowe provided an update on the proposed Wallace State Community College satellite campus. Among other points, he noted changes in the planned city-built building.
He said he had learned that the envisioned class and multipurpose rooms are larger than required. He indicated plans to reduce the multipurpose capacity from 300 to between 150 and 200. That reduced square footage along with similar reductions in class sizes will permit additional business incubator space in the building. He also said that the city library board objected to the planned two-story library space and that it will be redesigned for one floor.
Lowe won approval for a contract with frequently-used architecture and engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood. The firm offered to handle design and state permitting for road entrances at the city’s recently acquired 100 acres on Ala 75 North.
Although the council approved the use of electronic vote counting devices for the summer municipal elections, members delayed contract approval with William Blythe. Councilmen Danny Robinson and Mark Gargus posed questions, with Robinson suggesting tabling the matter until city attorney Alex Smith could review the proposed contract and speak with Blythe.
In closing councilor comments, McNair shared concerns of his neighbors on McCay Avenue dealing with repaving there. Norris noted, later, that the city has over $400,000 available for paving projects and will soon prioritize that expenditure.
Councilman Hal Blackwood joined Mayor Norris and the other councilors (Rogers, McNair, Robinson, and Gargus) for the Feb. 9 meeting. The council holds its regular sessions the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in city hall.