Por­terdale coun­cilmem­ber re­signs

The Covington News - - News -

Por­terdale city coun­cil mem­ber Kay Piper an­nounced her res­ig­na­tion from the coun­cil at a called meet­ing Thurs­day night, af­ter three years on the coun­cil. She citied her health as the num­ber one rea­son, but also noted she had been un­happy with the di­rec­tion of the coun­cil this year.

“The first two years were pro­duc­tive and the meet­ings were pro­fes­sional,” she said. “This year, how­ever, there has been tur­moil and strife among the [coun­cil] mem­bers which has made the meet­ings un­pro­duc­tive.”

Piper said she has nu­mer­ous con­cerns, one of which is the fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion the city is cur­rently in, hav­ing a short­fall and go­ing into the next year al­ready ow­ing more than $126,000 that was bor­rowed from the recre­ational fund (for the gym re­con­struc­tion) and put into the gen­eral fund to pay for the day-to-day op­er­a­tions of the city.

An­other con­cern was the de­ci­sion by the ma­jor­ity of the coun­cil to bring back a fur­loughed po­lice of­fi­cer when they had de­cided pre­vi­ously to have de­part­ments cut back by 20 per­cent.

“The pro­posal from some of the coun­cil was that tax bills would go out and the money that came in from those could be used to meet the bud­get short­fall from this year and in my es­ti­ma­tion this is a very bad de­ci­sion be­cause the money that comes in at the end of the cal­en­dar year is for the 2009 bud­get,” she said. “It was also sug­gested the city take out a loan which I felt was a bad idea. The city can­not pay what it needs to pay al­ready and we can­not af­ford to take out an­other loan. That along with my health con­cerns con­trib­uted to my de­ci­sion.”

Piper de­vel­oped a 10-year re­vi­tal­iza­tion pro­gram for Por­terdale 12 years ago called “Let’s Sweep It Clean” and in the re­search she did for the pro­gram she found that other mill vil­lages sim­i­lar to Por­terdale had been suc­cess­ful in their ef­forts once the cen­ter of the com­mu­nity – in this case the Por­terdale Mill Lofts – was re­stored, then the rest of the com­mu­nity would fol­low.

She is con­cerned with how the com­mu­nity will fare since the coun­cil de­cided to elim­i­nate the code en­force­ment po­si­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Piper, pub­lic works also vol­un­tar­ily cut 37 per­cent and the di­rec­tor of that depart­ment is cur­rently driv­ing the garbage truck to make sure that Por­terdale has the ex­tra money it needs to op­er­ate.

Piper also said Po­lice Chief Wayne Digby’s re­port to the coun­cil, stat­ing the city had an­swered 615 calls for ser­vice in 45 days, sounded “alarm­ing” but when bro­ken down math­e­mat­i­cally it was much less so.

“That [615 calls in 45 days] is less than 14 calls in a 24 hour pe­riod. So, on av­er­age, there are 10 calls in 24 hours which sounds much less alarm­ing,” she said. “It sounds like we have a crime wave but when you do the math 10 hours a day they [po­lice depart­ment] aren’t do­ing any t h i n g . Also, with the other de­part­ments when they were asked to make their 20 per­cent cuts they had no other re­sources to rely on. How­ever, I feel the po­lice depart­ment never fully uti­lized the re­sources avail­able to them.”

The Cov­ing­ton Po­lice and the New­ton County Sher­iff’s Depart­ment are avail­able to as­sist the city, if needed, in any given sit­u­a­tion. Though the city does have to call and re­quest the as­sis­tance from the other de­part­ments in or­der for the of­fi­cers and deputies to come to help.

Piper also ad­dressed the dis­missal of city clerk Sherry Steven­son, say­ing the clerk was one of only a few in the state to be a cer­ti­fied city clerk, and that she did the best she could with the re­sources avail­able to her, say­ing soft­ware­was in­ad­e­quate as well as the com­puter sys­tem the city was us­ing.

“Changes and im­prove­ments needed to be made, cer­tainly,” she said. “But I felt dis­miss­ing our clerk was the wrong thing to do. It cer­tainly be­ganmy con­cerns about how this coun­cil was work­ing.”

Piper said she has “prayed and ag­o­nized” over whether or not to re­sign her post and that not even her fam­ily was aware of her de­ci­sion to do so when she did. Her res­ig­na­tion is ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately.

“I did not want to re­sign,” Piper said. “I love Por­terdale and I have worked for the last 12 years to bring life back into this city but with the de­ci­sions be­ing made as they were, I felt my vote no longer counted and I did not want the peo­ple of Por­terdale and New­ton County to think that I was a party to those kinds of de­ci­sions be­cause I was not.”

Piper said coun­cilmem­ber Ar­line Chap­man had been a great as­set to the coun­cil and brought a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence from her work with the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice.

Chap­man called Piper’s res­ig­na­tion “a great loss,” say­ing her fi­nan­cial ex­pe­ri­ence was “first class and I re­gret we won’t have the ben­e­fit of her ex­per­tise.”

“I know she has health prob­lems so I was not shocked by her de­ci­sion,” said Chap­man. “I did try to en­cour­age her to con­tinue on the coun­cil, but I rec­og­nize that she does not owe Por­terdale her life. It’s a great loss but it is some­thing she needed to do. She has ded­i­cated a large por­tion of her adult life to this city and I think it will be dif­fi­cult to find some­one with her ex­pe­ri­ence to fill the po­si­tion.”

Chap­man also said she did not think it was a se­cret that many times votes on the coun­cil had gone 3-2 “and Kay and I were the two,” she said.

“I went on the coun­cil in hopes we could work to­gether — all of us — as a team, but it hasn’t al­waysworked out like that. I think per­haps dif­fer­ent peo­ple have dif­fer­ent vi­sions of what they want Por­terdale to be. As time goes on the peo­ple will de­cide who the best team is to make their vi­sion of Por­terdale a re­al­ity.”

When coun­cilmem­ber Robert Fox­worth was asked to com­ment on Piper’s res­ig­na­tion he said that she had at­tempted to re­sign ear­lier in the year but was talked out of it and that he was “sur­prised she re­signed this time.”

Fox­worth was asked if her res­ig­na­tion was a loss to the coun­cil to which he replied “we’ll sur­vive.”

“We’ll move on,” he said. “If Mrs. Piper would have waited and re­signed in Jan­uary the coun­cil could have ap­pointed some­one. The way she re­signed now will just cost the city more money. But this city isn’t go­ing to stop. “We’re go­ing to con­tinue do­ing city busi­ness and tak­ing care of the city’s needs.”

As for Piper, she isn’t through with Por­terdale. “I am not go­ing away,” she said. “I will still be work­ing on Por­terdale’s be­half, just in a dif­fer­ent ca­pac­ity.”


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