SPLOST Accepted by Nelson; Argument Taints Meeting

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Nelson City Council meetings are known for their contentious atmosphere. However the meeting conducted Monday night was marked by arguing between a public official and a citizen, unlike other recent nearby city meetings which were earmarked by S.P.L.O.S.T. disagreements.The Nelson City Council did accept the S.P.L.O.S.T. terms without controversy. However, City Manager Brandy Edwards, like Jasper, does believe the estimated collection figure of $729,000 is overstated. Nevertheless, the 2.43 percent Nelson would receive over the period of the six year S.P.L.O.S.T. was approved with council member Martha Tipton moving to that end and Edith Portillo seconding. The city decided unanimously to participate in the program should it pass muster with voters in March.

Edwards gave the city manager’s report covering the current financial statement, update on the park project and street signage. Please see the report here:

Nelson will also be seeking a part-time police chief as the former chief resigned at the last council meeting. Council approved for the appointment of an interview board and recommendations will be returned to them at their December 2 meeting.

Edwards presented a new fund balance policy that was approved by the council stating that the city will maintain a 20 percent balance and ways to recoup that should it be utilized below that 20 percent. The policy may be viewed below:

In the always lively public appearance portion of the meeting, Lamar Kellett stated his displeasure with the way the audit figures were presented. He said the figures in the report don’t reflect the statements made by some council members.

“On several occasions I’ve heard council members say ‘we saved $90,000 in FY 2013’ and according to the audit, they say the revenues increased by $49,000. The property taxes increased by $23,000. The bottom line is the city actually only saved about $9900 from what was budgeted,”

he stated.

He concluded that when money is laterally transferred or income is higher than projected, council shouldn’t present those numbers in that manner unless the numbers truly reflect a savings.

“Those numbers were used without really a basis in facts,”

Kellett reported.

Next to speak was Phyllis Jones who admonished the council for maintaining two police vehicles when there will only be one officer and had questions regarding the park. She then asked why she would receive election flyers in her mailbox without postage and pointed out it came from a council member.

Portillo interrupted her and asked to answer the charge, thus admitting responsibility for the document. She was asked by Mayor Pro Tem Jonathan Bishop to wait until Jones had completed her statement.

Jones then continued,

“I get my mail in a mailbox. I think if you’re doing that we need to reimburse the post office or let me send my mail in Nelson free.”

After she finished Portillo stated she paid $90 at the Ball Ground Post Office to have her mailings sent because the Nelson Post Office was unsure of the procedure for mass mailing. She wasn’t sure why it wasn’t postmarked as thats the post office’s responsibility. She stated she has a receipt and offered to escort Jones to the Ball Ground Post Office to address the issue but Jones didn’t seem satisfied with her answer.

She accused Portillo of arguing and Portillo began to defend herself once again when Bishop intervened stating the question had been answered.

Council member Jackie Jarrett asked for the opportunity to speak as he’d been through a similar experience.

“If you take it to Nelson, they just put it in Nelson boxes but if you want to put it on rural routes to pay for that, you have to go to Ball Ground because they’re the ones who handle the routes,”

he explained.

Duane Cronic echoed Jarrett’s assertions on the procedure.

Mike Haviland then asked to speak and addressed his beliefs on procedures for hiring the police chief process and establishing policies and procedures to ensure job description and duties are known ahead of time. He also mentioned the continuing costs of maintaining two police vehicles when there will only be one officer hired.

Haviland said that the Cherokee County S.P.L.O.S.T. monies should be redistributed to varying budgets.

The meeting ended without further incident but as Portillo exited she and Jones engaged again, loudly arguing. In the exchange Jones accused Portillo of thinking she’s “better than us” since she wasn’t born in the area. At that point, Portillo turned on her heel and exited the building.

Video of the S.P.L.O.S.T. portion and the public statements may be seen below:

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