It’s no secret to the public that certain council members and Mayor Jerry Fannin do not see eye to eye on things, but those disagreements are beginning to fester and both sides seem to be fed up with problems that have not yet seen a solution.
Following a one-hour closed session which also did not return with a solution, council began discussions on the approval of bills, a topic that has been concerning for some council members since the beginning of the year.
According to council member C. “Shag” Branham, the city is nearly $50,000 over budget in professional services, with much of that amount coming from Abbott Engineering, a firm the city uses routinely for performing the groundwork for future projects. Branham and certain other city council members agree that continuing work on projects such as a water park is pushing the city’s finances into a bad position and they also fear that there are ongoing projects out there that they are unaware of.
“We need more guidance on what projects we’re working on,” Branham said.
Council member Gorman Collins said that the city should not be looking any further into future projects when they are already facing major concerns in regards to funding operations already in place, such as Stonecrest Golf Course, Archer Park and the Mountain Arts Center.
Council member Morris Copley agreed that the council had numerous items on the table and that the council was having a difficult time focusing on the ones most important, but not without taking a portion of the blame for previous miscommunications upon the council itself.
“Us as a new council needed to look at all of the projects to begin with,” Copley said.
Mayor Jerry Fannin, who has faced ongoing criticism since the inception of the new council, says the blame game isn’t doing anyone any good.
“If we keep arguing back and forth, we’re never going to get anything accomplished,” Fannin said.
Council members Branham, Nunnery and Collins each said that they have called upon the mayor numerous times to provide them with insight into ongoing projects, but Fannin seemed to simply either not have the answers or did not want to come forth with them willingly.
Fannin stands his ground that he has tried to provide the council with everything they have asked of him, but he’s unsure of what exactly the council wants.
“If you all give me direction and ask me questions and tell me what you want, I’ll try to work with you,” Fannin said.
Collins directed a portion of his comments towards the city’s comptroller, Yvette Stephens, citing that he had asked for reports from Stephens several months ago which he did not receive until Monday.
Stephens noted that Collins had all the information previously that he had asked for, just in a different format. Before when Collins made the request, he noted that it was hard for him to decipher the information in the format in which it was presented to him. Stephens had agreed that she would try to put it together in a way more suitable for Collins, but during Monday’s meeting, Collins blamed Stephens for not receiving it in a more timely manner.
When confronted with the situation, Stephens said, “You had all the information all along.”
Mayor Fannin temporarily intervened the argument between the two and defended Stephens, saying she had been under an extreme amount of stress with the city’s budget and numerous requests from the council in recent months.
The argument continued until Stephens evidently had enough and walked out of the courtroom — and nobody is sure if she’ll return.
“Well, you can call a new comptroller because I quit!” Stephens said as she left the room.
Fannin, who was obviously disturbed by comments that Collins made towards Stephens, said, “That’s a big mistake,” as he looked in Collins’ direction.
Branham immediately said that nobody said anything out of line to Stephens and that she had no reason to act the way she did.
Fannin fired back by saying, “Well, if we lose Yvette, we’re going to have some real big budget concerns.”
Under new business, council discussed a resolution to keep the temporary red lights just above the Wal-Mart intersection and the entrance to Archer Park. Council member Chris Slone voiced concerns regarding who was going to pay for the purchase and installment of the permanent poles for the red lights. Fannin said that the owner of the property, Franklin Fitzpatrick, would be responsible for the cost, but that the city just needed to approve the placement of the red lights.
Slone said that he felt that the existing lights which direct traffic between Wal-Mart and the post office could also be used to direct any other traffic that will come from the new business park. Council member Collins said that the second set of lights would be too inconvenient.
The council eventually agreed to pass the resolution, citing it would go forward if the highway department approves it.
A second resolution to approve a $7,500 pilot wireless internet program for downtown Prestonsburg also passed, but some council members don’t believe the service can be offered free of charge to users.
Prestonsburg’s economic development director, Brent Graden, says he is only asking that the city take the wireless internet concept for a test drive and then later decide if the benefits will outweigh any concerns. Graden insists that the city will be able to provide the service free of charge, saying that it will bring businesses to the area and provide more jobs.
Prestonsburg’s tourism director Freddy James was present at the meeting to discuss issues brought up at the April 23 meeting regarding the funding of Archer Park. James insists that tourism has given Archer Park every penny that they were supposed to. James also cited that Archer park needs to follow in the footsteps of other local attractions such as the MAC and track their patrons in order to provide proof that the park brings in visitors from other areas.
Archer Park director David Baldridge said he has been doing exactly that and if that was all tourism needed in regards to proof, then it was already there for tourism to review. Baldridge noted that family reunions are often multi-day events for which the park booked for over the next couple of months. Still yet, the park commission says they may not be able to operate the pool this summer if they don’t receive help from somewhere. The additional responsibility of the facilities at Stonecrest have put strain on the parks resources. The council agreed to look into their budget in order to determine how much funding they could provide in order to keep the park open.
Safety concerns regarding hunting at Stonecrest were the last thing discussed at the meeting. Mayor Jerry Fannin says there are signs posted that restrict hunting on city property, but the close proximity of hunting grounds and nearby houses do pose some concern. Council agreed to get in contact with the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources in order to discuss their options for improving the safety for residents on the hill.