Paden City Council passed the first reading of two ordinances concerning the Paden City Development Authority during a tumultuous council meeting Aug. 4.
The first change is to amend the ordinance to remove the Development Authority office from the city complex. Councilman John Staggers made a motion to approve the change.
Resident Jack Cox asked why they were making the changes. Mayor John Hopkins said, “Only because council brought it to him.” Councilwoman Ginger Wilcox said it was council’s call, not the mayor’s. “We as council members, a chosen few of us, made the decision a change was needed,” she said.
Wilcox then said former Mayor Bill Fox reported in June 2009 that the business office of the Paden City Development Authority was going to be moved to city hall. There was no action taken. She said in July 2009 he reported they had moved into the city building. “He took it upon himself and moved them up here,” said Wilcox.
Cox, a past councilman, asked her if that was in the ordinance to have them there. Wilcox said it was, but they had a very nice office at the industrial park and there was no reason for the move. She said it was never brought to council, never approved.
PCDA Member Cork Bowen said, “Well, did it have to be since it was part of the ordinance? I mean, it’s obvious it’s right there in the ordinance.”
“Yes it is and we’re changing the ordinance,” said Wilcox.
“So you’re changing it!” declared Cox. “Can I ask you why?”
Wilcox answered, “We don’t want them here anymore. Simple reason is we want the room back for an interrogation room for the police department. The walls are too thin in this building and you can hear everything that’s being said, so we, as idiots sitting here, want it changed.” Wilcox then voiced a second to the motion to make the ordinance change.
Cox said he would like to see a roll call vote on the change, saying he wanted it to be done right and not see it go back to the way it used to be.
Mayor Hopkins seemed to take offense to that and things become heated, Hopkins brought the gavel down and told Cox, “If you go back to before, it is a lot better now because we are in a pickle because we can’t have a complete audit from the city.” He said it was going to have to be a modified audit this year because “the development authority drug their feet and didn’t get their audit to us, and they did it last year and every year they say the same thing,”
“Well, we didn’t know we were supposed to do this,” replied Cox.
Hopkins said they didn’t go out for bids like they should have and now they have to go through the whole bidding process all over again. “Things haven’t been right,” declared Hopkins.
At that point Cox said he agreed with audits and would like to talk about another department’s audit.
“If you are talking about the fire department, it has been audited and every year it is,” volunteered Hopkins.
Cox said, “I’m glad you said that and I ask that it is entered into the record.”
Hopkins then called for a vote on the motion, but Bowen requested to first correct some of the statements the Mayor had made concerning the development authority and their audit.
“We did have an audit last year and previous years,” said Bowen. “This year, the fiscal year ending 2013, we sent out for bids. We sent out 26 letters and received one response, which we felt was too high.” He said after discussing it among members, they had 90 days to let the auditor know. “Unfortunately that time elapsed, to our misfortune,” said Bowen.
He said he has been working with the state auditor through several phone calls and they have given the development authority permission to have a double audit next year.
“Well that’s all well and good,” shouted Recorder Tammy Billiter, loudly.
“I am addressing the mayor, if you don’t mind,,” said Bowen. After a brief period of trying to talk over her, Bowen said, “Now the audit is pending and it is going to be a Special Dispensation Audit which will have no affect on the city’s audit nor will it affect the way you conduct business.”
He said the development authority is doing well and has over $100,000 in its accounts. They have done major repairs to their properties and have been able to increase their revenues, according to Bowen. “To say we haven’t been following the rules and regulations is not right,” he said. “We have an audit coming and our books are open to anyone you wants to examine them.”
Wilcox asked Bowen to tell her one thing that the development authority has done for the city. He cited improvements to their properties. She questioned him on who owns the property, to which he replied we do. Cox answered, “If the development authority were to go out, all their assets would belong to the city.”
Susan Wade from the Paden City Labor Day committee questioned Bowen on why the Development Authority refuses to make monetary donation toward worthwhile events in the city. Bowen responded that they have a moratorium on donations right now, but he would be one of the first to agree to help worthwhile projects.
Mayor Hopkins called for a vote on the first reading of the ordinance and, with no more comment, a roll call vote was taken. Councilman Joel Davis, a development authority member, recused himself from the vote and the motion passed four to one, with Councilman Dan Probst casting the lone vote against the change.
A vote was taken on a motion to modify the ordinance to require development authority members to be appointed by council. The motion passed four to one, with Probst as the lone vote against the measure.
Also regarding the PCDA, Davis reported that the Paden City Development Authority was preparing to have 12 new windows installed in the old middle school cafeteria. It was reported by authority member Cork Bowen that next, there are more windows in the other parts of the building they plan to replace.
A special meeting for the second reading of the ordinance changes has been set for Aug. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers.