By JUDY SHERIDAN
Annetta’s city hall is now available for public use according to a 3-2 decision made by the Annetta City Council Tuesday night. The decision comes on the heels of dissention among city leaders regarding the use of city facilities by Annetta South.
A motion requiring the city secretary to produce audio recordings of city council meetings and make them available to the public failed, however, with Councilman Bruce Moore as its sole supporter.
Council members Chuck Sheridan, George Ripley and Kent Stasey voted in favor of a resolution to permit other cities and community groups to use the town hall at the discretion of the mayor and city secretary.
Council members Larry Wood and Bruce Moore voted against the resolution.
Authored by Mayor Bruce Pinkard, the new resolution limits the use of the town hall to groups that are willing to obtain enough insurance coverage to protect the town’s interests and that name the town as a third-party beneficiary in their insurance policy.
The resolution states that the city hall “exists to serve the public good” and also that council decisions are often influenced by the discussions of neighboring cities, community groups and other governmental subdivisions.
“The night Annetta South used this [facility] — which prompted this [resolution] — we got valuable information about a development going on in their ETJ that nearly abuts our city limits,” Pinckard told the council.
“It behooves us to keep our ears to the ground and our eyes to the horizon about what goes on in our neighboring cities,” he said. “It gives us a valuable heads-up.”
According to Annetta South city secretary Daina Lawler, Pinckard gave the Annetta South Town Council permission to meet at Annetta City Hall as a “one-time deal”to conduct the city’s regular August meeting.
Giving that permission, however, appears to conflict with the Annetta council’s unanimous directive, as cited in the minutes from the June 20 meeting.
Moore recalled the directive when he offered a resolution opposing Pinckard’s Tuesday night. His resolution would have restricted city hall use to all groups except the Town of Annetta.
“Two meetings ago the council was very adamant in our vote that we wanted this to be for our own activities in the city and not leasing it out or lending it out to any other organizations,” Moore said. “We really don’t have the facilities; it’s not up to standards for any public use.”
A portion of the minutes from the June 20 Annetta meeting follow:
“Councilman Sheridan made the motion to enter into an interlocal agreement with the City of Annetta South for the purposes of allowing the use of Annetta Town Hall for meeting & business purposes. The motion dies due to a lack of a second. Councilman Wood made the motion to amend the agreement to allow just the drop-off portion only with no monetary exchange. Councilman Moore seconded the motion and it carried unanimously.”
In a phone interview Lawler said she knew of the council’s decision, but Pinckard told her the council’s main concern was security, and both Pinckard and city secretary Chad Roberts were in attendance.
Pinckard agreed that it might “appear on the surface” that he was not acting in accordance with the council’s decision, but said Annetta South had business that affected the City of Annetta and there was a conflict with Annetta South’s regular meeting place, Aledo’s Community Center.
“I did not disregard [the Annetta Council’s decision] in any way,” he said. “I continued to allow the previous use prior to that night’s discussion. At no time during the council meeting was the word prohibited used.”
Pinckard said Annetta’s town hall was used by Annetta South for many years, but the city stopped meeting there when Lawler, who also served as Annetta’s city secretary, offered her resignation early in the year.
In Tuesday’s meeting Moore also argued that the original building contract did not permit anything other than city business, and Wood added that the attorney should review the lease, lest the city violate the “couple days a week, a couple hours a day” agreement with the landlord.
Pinckard replied that the landlord was “very amicable” and the arguments irrelevant because of the city’s near-term plans to move to a recently purchased building at a new location.
“The building that we’ve got coming in — half of it’s going to be secured in some way — and I think it just needs to stay for Annetta’s business,” Wood said, “and then we have a policy so that anybody coming to Chad can say either the council says yes or the council says no.”
Wood later went on to move that the mayor’s resolution be amended to direct facility-use requests to the council — instead of the mayor and city secretary — but the motion failed, with he and Moore in favor and Sheridan, Ripley and Stasey opposed.
Pinckard said the resolution’s insurance requirements — which would require effort to meet — would deter most groups.
“It’s not going to be the Boy Scouts,” he said. “The minute they know about the insurance policy they’re going to say thank you very much, we’ll go down the church or somewhere else.
“But from another city’s standpoint sharing facilities is extremely beneficial. We’re closer than we were two years ago, and we need to act like it and we need to be able to get along with each other as much as we possibly can.”
In other action Moore, who said he wanted have the ability to listen to the council’s discussion when he misses a meeting — as he once could through videotapes — got no support from the rest of the council.
His motion, requiring the city secretary to produce audio recordings of council meetings, was met with abstentions from Wood and Ripley and opposed by Sheridan and Stasey.
“I would like to continue the policy of taping all of our meetings and making that available to us,” Moore said, “in addition to a paper copy of the minutes to be presented at the following meeting to be approved.”
When Sheridan asked for his opinion, attorney Steve Wood said anything said in a public forum could potentially create liability for a city, regardless of whether it’s recorded or not.
He said recording meetings was helpful for the public, but not recording meetings “makes it more difficult for folks to find information and use it against you.”
He said having the city adopt a policy not to record meetings wouldn’t apply to individuals — including council members — who wanted to bring recording devices.