Norris Council Meeting Hits a Few Snags

By George and Susan Miceli – The Norris Bulletin

The Norris City Council’s February meeting definitely did not run as smoothly as January’s. In fact, at times, it seemed to be running off the rails.

Like in January, this meeting limited public participation to online.
Only City Council Members, the City Manager and members of the press were allowed in-person. A stuttering start/stop rhythm seemed to persist throughout the meeting, caused perhaps by bad A/V technology, sloppy wording in several motions put to vote, and the unusual nature of a couple of topics.

Scott Hackler, Norris City Manager

Norris residents have consistently complained about the inadequate technology being used to execute the City’s virtual meetings format. Each month, City Manager Scott Hackler has attempted to tweak the technology for improved performance, but a permanent solution is yet to be found.

The meeting started slowly, with a lengthy complaint from an online participant who posted that the City was failing to provide true public access to its city meetings, that is, in-person meetings have been disallowed yet current A/V technology fails to offset that loss.

The latest Governor’s Executive Order authorizes City Council to limit in-person participation in favor of online participation for health and safety reasons. Rather than make this a recurring Council decision, the mayor stated he has asked the City Manager to make that decision based on closely monitoring the latest COVID guidelines and infection numbers. The online complainant remained dissatisfied and read various portions of the Governor’s Executive Order to support his various allegations.

In an attempt to bring this 20 minute long protest to a conclusion, Council Member Jill Holland made a motion that the City Council members take over these decisions for future meetings (presumably instead of the City Manager).

This motion passed but was unclear as to how this can actually happen
without council scheduling a public pre-meeting to decide on how to meet for the regular council meeting. Regardless, after 25 minutes, the topic
changed.

Under old business, there were no updates to make on the four current projects (East Norris Sidewalks, Safe Routes to Schools, SIA Sawmill Road Project, and TDOT Property License). Council also approved filling four board and commission vacancies.

Under new business, the State of Tennessee Sunshine Law topic reared up its hydra-head. An email sent with alleged innocent intent by one of the new council members to another council member regarding some private property issues was flagged by the recipient council member as a Sunshine Law violation. (Tennessee Sunshine Law declares that the formation of public policy and public business must be transacted in public and not in secret.)

After the mandatory flagging and referral to state authorities for a ruling, it was deemed to be only a minor violation, but one that required a public clarification. That clarification was made at this meeting.

Again, under new business, the West Norris Property line discussion from last month was brought up with new information to be shared. A newer high tech property survey found that, contrary to prior indications, the Vega/Benchmark building does not infringe on the city’s property, with a one inch margin to spare.

However, that did not put an end to the topic. There was a need to discuss the issue of water runoff from the Fire House that is causing water damage to the Vega/Benchmark building during heavy rains. Mayor Chris Mitchell, the property owner, offered the city two options as to how he could fix the water leakage into his building at his own expense, one of which required City approval.

Once again, sloppily worded motions were put to vote, one was approved one was not, but it’s unclear whether these motions materially addressed the proposals and gave any clarity as to next steps. Mayor Mitchell abstained from both of these votes.

The following day after the meeting, one council member, in an attempt
to offset the confusion caused by the prior motions, sent an email to all other council members suggesting a way to alter the execution of the
motions passed the night before.

Though obviously well intended, this once again seems to be a violation of the Tennessee public meeting Sunshine Laws, and surely more teaching moments will transpire from it.

For more details, readers can go to the City’s website (cityofnorris.
com). Council minutes are posted after approval at the next month’s
meeting.

Reprinted from the Norris Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Bulletin by calling 859-421-3851, or email the Norris Bulletin [email protected]

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 27, Chandler 22, and Naomi 13. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 11 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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