McIntosh Mirror: Reflecting news in the Tosh

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01.14.07 -- REPORT: Prayer, Historic Ordinance, Fellman to remain

By CHER PHILLIPS

Click here to the McIntosh Town Council meeting, Jan. 11, 2007:












McIntosh residents agreed on one point and little else last Thursday night. The Lord’s Prayer will remain a part of the town’s monthly meetings.

The Historic Ordinance 151 will stay up in the air for at least another month. Motions made to remove Harris Fellman from the Code Enforcement board failed, because the land development code didn’t allow his removal. The council charged the LPA with rewriting the town’s codes where this board is concerned, as well as rezoning the town’s agricultural land to residential estate.

Keeping the Lord’s Prayer

Town Attorney Scott Walker advised the council based on U.S. Supreme Court case law to consider no longer giving the Lord’s Prayer at council meetings, suggesting that the council initiate a non-denominational prayer than the Lord’s Prayer, which can be found in the Bible.

On Jan. 3, a watchdog group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation wrote a letter Council President Frank Ciotti asking him and the council to respond on two matters. The first was that the council recited the Lord’s Prayer before their town government meetings. The second matter involved comments Council Vice President Howard Walkup made during the interview process saying he did not want to hire an atheist as the town clerk.

Walker barely finished his suggestion, when Mayor Marsha Strange disagreed with the point.

“I disagree with Scott, I suggest we continue as we have in the past,” Strange said.

Several other members from the audience also chimed in.

“I do too,” said Susan Phillips, a resident.

“I agree,” said June Glass, chairman of the Historic Preservation board.

“I’m sorry, but I like the Lord’s Prayer,” said Casey Girardin, Sportsman’s Cove owner. She asked what the town would have to do to be in compliance.

“How can an organization half-way across the United States complain with the local citizenry supporting it?” Walkup said. “Don’t they have to reveal who those people are?”

In fact, the foundation’s co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, said last weekend in a phone interview that the group’s policy is not to reveal locals who complain to their organization. She declined to say who in McIntosh complained about the Lord’s Prayer or Walkup’s comments during the town clerk search last fall.

Council President Frank Ciotti read a statement into the record.

“I make the motion that the opening of the McIntosh Town Council meeting that the Lord’s Prayer is deeply embedded in the history of this town and part of the fabric of the town of McIntosh,” Coitti said. “To invoke divine guidance on our town councilmen, councilwomen and mayor, who are entrusted in guiding the town, is simply an acknowledgement of the beliefs widely held by the people of this town.”

Ciotti’s statement met round of applause. Though, no one seconded the motion, the council voted 4-0 to keep the Lord’s Prayer as part of the custom in McIntosh.

Neither Walker nor Ciotti address the second matter in the letter from the foundation. After the meeting, Ciotti said it looked to him like direct quotes from Walkup, but he said the council already addressed Walkup during the interviewed process. He said he does not plan on responding to the foundation’s letter.

Ongoing historic ordinance struggle

In December, Walkup motioned to repeal Historic Ordinance 151. Questions arose whether or not the copy of the ordinance the council members were debating was the correct version.

Issues that had been discussed by the council before the ordinance was passed in June were not changed on the copy of the ordinance the council was looking at in December. For instance, the council had wanted “Benjamin Moore” removed from the kind of paint colors that could be used. It was determined in December that the council did not even have a correct copy of the ordinance and the motion for repeal was tabled.

While the council believes that it has a correct version of the ordinance, Casey Girardin questioned this last night. She said that she remembered there being an argument over chain link fencing that was in the ordinance. When asked, Ciotti said he thought the council was working from the correct version.

That motion was tabled again last night.

Councilman Lee Deaderick said he still does not have enough information to vote for or against tabling the ordinance. In fact, he would like residents to e-mail him. (lee@northwestseafood.com) before the February meeting to let him know their thoughts, for and against the ordinance.

“If forced to vote on this with my bend toward personal freedom, I’d repeal it right this minute,” Deaderick said. “I’m not well-informed so I’m going to plead that the people who desire to keep it inform me before the next meeting, and those who have a reason to get rid of it to inform me.”

“I’m very indecisive on this issue, and I need more information to make an informed decision,” Deaderick said. “I’d like to hear from both sides.”

Residents who were present last night were divided on the issue.

Glass and Phillips were in favor of keeping the ordinance, citing it came from federal guidelines.

DelRusso said that the ordinance wasn’t perfect but that repealing it would be moving backwards.

Debbie Miller, town clerk, has a home in the historic district, said she didn’t like the ordinance telling her what she could or couldn’t do with her home and her money.

”I purchased my home with my money and I don’t want people telling me what to do with my property,” Miller said. “I think it causes a lot of anguish when you know you’ve got this 27-page document, from my own perspective.”

“I don’t like people telling me what to do with my house,” she said. “It’s my house, it’s my money. I don’t like the government telling me what I can do.”

Miller said she did not know her home was in the historic district when she bought it.

Glass said most people know before they buy into the historic district. She argued that the old ordinance wasn’t enforceable and that she didn’t see what the “big deal” was with Ordinance 151. She said it prevented people from doing things like painting their homes “pink with orange polka dots.”

Glass said to Miller, “you may have good taste but everyone else may not.”

“The old statement that people should get to do whatever they want with their property is a bunch of hogwash because people live with rules and regulations when they drive a car, when they register to vote, whatever we do, people are told what to do and we live with the confines of what the government tells us to do,” Harris Fellman said.

He said that McIntosh is an historic town and said that Walkup had animosity toward the historic district and that Deaderick called the historic district an “hysterical district.”

“I think it’s high time that they back off and stop this foolishness,” Fellman said.

Deaderick sounded off on two issues. First, he said that he doesn’t agree with the purpose of the historic ordinance.

One purpose listed in the ordinance is that residents should protect their property values. Deaderick said he thought it was presumptuous. He said when he pays off his house, he doesn’t want his taxes to spike because his property values rise. He also said that he thinks the ordinance presumes that people wouldn’t naturally take care of their homes on their own.

The question that remains tabled is whether the council will repeal the Historic Ordinance and send it back to the LPA.

Council’s hands tied over Code Enforcement

Another matter that the council voted to send to the LPA dealt with the wording in the Land Development Code for the removal of Code Enforcement board members.

Walkup had barely made the motion to remove Fellman from the Code Enforcement board when Fellman countered him, out of order, saying that the council could not remove him from his post.

“You can’t do that,” Fellman said.

While the McIntosh Town Charter states that the citizen boards serve at the pleasure of the council, the Land Development Code details the removal process.

Members can be removed from the Code Enforcement Board for cause. Walker said the council would have to remove Fellman for one of five reasons: convicted of a crime or felony, drinking, absences, malfeasance and misfeasance.

At one point in the discussion, Deaderick quietly asked Ciotti to call Fellman out of order and remove him from the meeting if he didn’t stop addressing the council when Fellman did not have the floor.

Ironically, during the Code Enforcement meeting last week, Fellman would not allow Deaderick to make any comments. This point came up.

Fellman claimed that some council members had a personal grudge against him.

Another point of irony over the last six months has been that short of one person, every resident who has come before the code enforcement board has leveled that same accusation against Fellman only to have it fall on deaf ears. Last week, Melissa Henderson said on the record even after the board’s final decision had been made that she said she thought Fellman had something personal against her.

Walkup objected that the meeting was not properly posted. Fellman said he was not to blame for that, that it was the prosecutor’s job, not the board chairman’s to post meeting agendas.

“Another time, there were code enforcement meetings scheduled and then canceled without notification to the parties involved, and as far as your service on the board, Harris, your so adamant in your position that it’s unreasonable. That’s evidenced by the last two code enforcement meetings, that you were out voted 4-1 when you had a full board and you were out-voted 3-1 the other night,” Walkup said. “You’re the one out-of-step and not the others.”

The motion to remove Fellman failed with a 2-2 vote. Deaderick said he wouldn’t vote to remove Fellman without a cause supported by the town’s code. Walkup and Councilwoman Eunice Smith voted to remove Fellman, and Ciotti and Deaderick voted not to remove him.

But immediately following the failed vote to remove Fellman, Deaderick made two motions.

His first motion passed, which will send the section of the Land Development Code spelling out the organization of the Code Enforcement Board to the LPA for revision. The council members discussed concern that the powers of the Code Enforcement Board were too broad and were originally slapped together when they were established in the 1980’s.

The implication of the motion is clear: the LPA is charged with finding the council a manner of removing Fellman from the board.

Deaderick’s second concern was the amount of money spent by the code enforcement board.

He motioned to impose a budget on all of the citizen boards as a means of limiting their powers. Deaderick initially threw out a $1,000 budget for the code enforcement board.

Fellman balked at Deaderick’s proposal.

“To accuse me of wasting town money is heinous, is truly heinous,” Fellman said.

The Code enforcement board employs two attorneys and a code enforcement officer. Town records show that Gifford made $560 for one meeting last fall and $525 for another. Add to that the $30 per hour for the code enforcement board and the town attorney’s $160 per hour rate, one three-hour code enforcement meeting could feasibly cost the town more than $1,200.

In addition to that, Fellman said at Thursday night’s meeting he would like the town to pay for transcribing the meeting’s minutes. The code enforcement board minutes have not been made available since last summer because Fellman does not believe he is responsible for transcribing the tapes of the meetings he chairs. Florida’s Sunshine Law requires that public boards, even quasi-judicial boards like the code enforcement board keep minutes.

McIntosh’s other citizen boards keep track of their own minutes.

Other news:

-- The town will be looking for bids for the services of a civil engineer. Walker reported that he met with Lee Mills to access ongoing problems involving water drainage on the west side of town.

In November, the council voted to help Steve Race take measures to divert town water that was draining onto his land and eroding his yard. But the town never followed through with this. Race pointed out that if he built up his yard, the water would erode…

Water drainage has been a problem on the west side of town. Walker advised the council not to attempt to pay for individual person’s drainage problems because fixes could easily run up a bill that could cost the town more than $100,000. Deaderick did not agree with Walker.

-- The town is opening up to bids for a new town office in response to a rent hike from their landlords Murray Musselman and his wife, Julie, the town’s retired town clerk. In December, the Musselman’s brought a lease to the council that would raise the town’s rent from $250 to $700 per month. Musselman justified this hike saying that the proposed rates were the less than other commercial rents in the area. In addition, the Musselman’s had to do work on the septic system.

The town is considering purchasing commercial space, as well as renting a different office.

-- The town will work with McIntosh Area School to rework its 25-year lease agreement so they can move forward with loan applications to build a new school.

-- The Town Council agreed not to pay a $23,834 for the MSTU covering Emergency Medical Services and Fire Rescue Services. Last year, the town agreed to pay this bill but agreed that future fees should go on individual’s tax bills.

This did not happen and the town has been charged again for EMT and Fire services to the area.

Walker suggested that the town negotiate an hourly rate county for the calls with to the town.


--The McIntosh Town Council agreed the LPA will start over with rezoning the agricultural land in McIntosh into residential parcels. During the last two years, the town has struggled with how to rezone the agricultural land in town and what design standards should be imposed on that zoning.

Rezoning could open doors to future development in McIntosh, which could mean a strain on existing structures like the water system and roads.

posted by Cher @ 7:06 PM,

3 Comments:

At   January 14, 2007 7:45 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Debbie Miller, town clerk, has a home in the historic district, said she didn’t like the ordinance telling her what she could or couldn’t do with her home and her money.

”I purchased my home with my money and I don’t want people telling me what to do with my property,” Miller said. “I think it causes a lot of anguish when you know you’ve got this 27-page document, from my own perspective.”

“I don’t like people telling me what to do with my house,” she said. “It’s my house, it’s my money. I don’t like the government telling me what I can do.”

Miller said she did not know her home was in the historic district when she bought it.

If this is what she had said at that meeting then.

This is not true at all! You can't tell anyone that you did not know that your house was in the Historic District when you bought it. Our new town clerk making up lies now that is sad. If you don't like the Historic rules there is a lot of other places to buy a house!

Debbie I was not at the meeting so if these are not you're words then I apologize Debbie.

 
At   January 14, 2007 9:02 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

I can't post the audio file right now because the FTP isn't working. I just went back over it:

The gist is that Miller gave her opinion and June Glass and Susan Phillips asked if she knew she was moving into an historic district when she bought her house.

She said she did not and could not find her house on the historic register.

I'll probably post the audio file from school on Tuesday.

 
At   January 17, 2007 12:39 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

To The Anonymous
You said our Town Clerk has made up lies if you can't sign your name you should not make such a statement.
C. Stott

 

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Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

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