Transparency top-mentioned issue
CUMBY — Citizens of Cumby gathered during the Oct. 8 regular council meeting to voice their concerns about a proposed park ordinance that would require a $250 deposit to reserve park space, among other things.
The eight-page document would have required a gathering of 10 or more people to reserve a city park 15 days in advance by filling out a form with the city secretary and paying the refundable $250 deposit, according to documents.
Additional provisions of the document included disallowing children younger than 10 years old from using the park without adult supervision, bringing any glass container into a public park or using any city park for a gathering, formal or informal, without first obtaining an advance reservation and deposit.
Blackjack Grove Day organizer Kendra Hood spoke during the public forum section to express her concerns that the proposed ordinance would interfere with the town’s namesake holiday.
The need for the introduction of such an ordinance arose, according to alderman Julie Morris “an organization, no names mentioned, left the park in a terrific mess.”
“It took our guys [city workers] three quarters of the day to get cleaned up,” Morris said. “It’s part of their [city workers] jobs to empty the trash cans, but it was just a mess.”
“The whole deal is, we want the park nice for everybody,” mayor pro-tempore Doug Simmerman stated. “If someone is to use it say, Friday evening or Saturday and they didn’t leave it very nice and our guys don’t come in until Monday to clean it up, then the park looks bad. We’re going to receive phone calls on Monday morning asking why the park looks like it does.”
“I get this one team, one fight that’s going on,” said resident Nicole Fuentes. “To slap the wrist of all of us for one thing that one person did … I’m not paying $250 to use that park. There’s just no way.”
Citizens pointed out that the language of the proposed ordinance did not specify the reservation and $250 refundable deposit was for the use of a specific part of the park such as a pavilion, but for the entire park itself.
“Some people don’t have that,” Fuentes said, referring to the affordability of the $250 deposit. Fuentes also questioned who would assess the park as clean after it was used and authorize the deposit to be returned.
“To me, $250 is a lot of money, so if that’s what’s on the line in my pocket I’m going to make my husband sit out there,” citizen Niki Pettit said.
Simmerman suggested taking photo evidence of a clean site after using the park.
Alderman Monty Lackey stated a main concern in the past had been the theft of toilet paper from the park.
“Can’t we just send a citation for whoever messes up the park? You don’t need an ordinance for vandalization,” Niki Pettit stated.
“My issue with the whole thing is accountability,” citizen Russell Caldwell stated. “If we know who trashed that park out, they should be held accountable for it. The city shouldn’t be passing an ordinance based on the actions of one individual. They need to come out here and clean up their mess.”
Citizen Kyle Pettit inquired if the security cameras at the park were functional. Some citizens stated they were not. Other citizens stated they were not aware there were security cameras at the park.
Citizen Meghan Vaughn stated she requested a copy of the proposed ordinance in advance of the session but was refused a copy.
“We talk about transparency and the open air lines of communication. That is not transparency, that is not communication.”
“It’s a little difficult for me to send you 10 pages,” Morris stated.
“Without the people in this room, y’all are just four people sitting behind a desk,” Vaughn told the council. “So I feel like there should be a little more transparency. No disrespect.”
City attorney Edgar J. Garrett advised the city in the future there is no legal barrier to the city distributing copies of proposed ordinances to citizens, although the city shall make it clear that the ordinance is proposed only, not enacted.
The council decided to table the decision about the proposed ordinance until an undetermined, later date.
* In earlier version of this story alder Betty McCarter stated sending 10 pages of an ordinance was difficult. The story has been changed to correctly attribute the quote.