By Peggy Mackenzie
A full council chamber, a packed agenda and heated overtures by a newly elected Council member marked the long Tuesday night Lewisburg City Council meeting as unlike any other in recent memory. Edward Johns quickly revealed his governing style in outspoken assertions that a new committee, termed, “Administrative Committee of Council,” is fundamental in order for the council “to function within the bounds of the newly created charter.”
Johns also sharply questioned Police Chief Chris Teubert’s authorization under general orders to use recently purchased tasers, told City Manager Jacy Faulkner her administrative report was out of compliance and generally upended Mayor Beverly White’s control of the meeting.
“We have a new form of government” and “The council is the governing body, full stop,” Johns declared. “The city council hasn’t set policy,” but is instead operating under “historical guidelines.” He claimed the city’s three pre-existing committees – finance, public works and public safety – are not sufficient to handle the issues before the council, and, in fact, they no longer exist. “Council, by state code and our own charter, will determine rules and regulations and everything else that council does, including council committees.”
Referring to the work before the proposed new committee, Johns said, “This is going to be a daunting task for a while.”
Confounded by Johns remarks, Council member Aaron Seams asked, “Why we can’t make these administrative suggestions as this body. We meet all together, we’re all already here now…I’m just not certain we need to have another committee, comprised of us, to do something that we could in these meetings.”
City Attorney Thomas White agreed that Johns was accurate in stating that the city council is the governing body of the city, but he did not agree that the commission and committees don’t exist. Those committees were referenced during the post-election organizational meeting, indicating their continuance. The form of government was picked, during the charter amendment process under former Mayor John Manchester, White said, because it most closely mirrors the form of government currently in operation. The intent of the new charter was to solidify the then-current practices of the city government.
“Our city code indicates that while City Council can adopt, readopt, or amend rules governing the official conduct of its members conducting its business, but if it fails to do so, then the rules that were in effect prior to that organizational meeting would still be in effect,” White stated. “I think that this government has been operating under the rules that have been in effect and that’s appropriate until the rules are changed.”
At the close of the meeting [11 p.m.] a special session of City Council was approved to be held to work on the potential creation of a new administrative committee. The date and time will be announced when schedules are coordinated.
- City Council was presented with an application to divide an old Victorian house on Lee Street into a duplex after not reaching a recommendation from the planning commission. During a public hearing parties both for and against the conditional use permit (to divide) were heard and centered on whether or not the number of vehicles and parking spaces would affect the look of the neighborhood and the value of neighboring properties. The vote was split 3-3 and the permit was not approved. The applicant, if he wishes to appeal, must present it through the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA).
- Public Works Director Roger Pence described the phase three lighting upgrades ongoing for the past four years at both Hollowell and Dorie Miller parks. A Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, with a 50/50 match from the city, received only one bid for 52 LED light fixtures from Greenbrier Technologies. Pence said although there was only one bid, it was competitive, and he recommended council approve it. Installation of the lighting will require another $15,000, which Pence said he would appeal to council and finance to fund.
- Mayor White proclaimed Sept. 21 as Greenbrier Valley Shrine Day 2019, and called upon all citizens to honor and acknowledge the contributions of the Greenbrier Valley Shriners in Lewisburg, WV. Another proclamation in honor of childhood cancer awareness, the mayor proclaimed Sept. 18, 2019 as “Go Gold” Day in Lewisburg to affirm a commitment to fighting childhood cancer with the hope that more than four percent of federal funding will be designated for Childhood Cancer Research.
- Following a presentation by Census 2020 representative Debra Sizemore on the importance of the 2020 census, council approved a proclamation to create a Complete Count Committee to ensure that Lewisburg residents are properly and fully counted in the 2020 census.
- Historic Landmarks Commission Chair Carol Olson presented an annual report on the actions of the commission, stating that of the 59 cases reviewed, 52 were approved, two denied and five were tabled.
- This year, Halloween trick or treating in Lewisburg was set for Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, from 6 to 8 p.m.