10/22/12 — County sticks to Election Day schedule

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County sticks to Election Day schedule

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 22, 2012 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners will continue its tradition of canceling their Election Day meeting even though the two Republican members, both of whom are unopposed in the election, questioned the need and reasoning for doing so.

The cancellation was included in the board's Tuesday consent agenda, but was moved to the regular agenda at the request of Commissioner Steve Keen.

"I need to know why the county manager wanted to cancel the meeting," Keen said.

It was based on history, said County Manager Lee Smith.

"In years past when there has been an election on the board of commissioners' meeting day it has always been in the history that we found, the clerk, and I, and the attorney, that they have always not held a meeting on Election Day," he said.

However, Keen made a motion to hold the Nov. 6 meeting.

But before a vote was taken Commissioner Jack Best offered a substitute motion to forgo the Nov. 6. meeting that he said was based on history.

"We have always closed for people to be able to get out and meet the public," he said. "In the past we have not had early voting as much, but if you look at the record over half the people vote on Election Day."

"Can you produce the history and show me the exact days in the last 20 years?" Keen said.

Best said that he could not.

Keen then asked County Attorney Borden Parker if he could produce the figures.

"(Clerk to the board) Marcia (Wilson) said she has been here 22 years and we have never had one," Smith said.

"How many?" Keen said. "Two?"

"Five general (elections)," Smith said.

"Always the first Tuesday?" Keen said.

That is correct, Smith said.

"My memory is not as good as everybody else, but I am positive that the board has never met when members of the board are up for re-election," Parker said.

Keen and fellow Republican Ray Mayo voted no on Best's motion that was approved 5-2. They then voted for Keen's original motion that failed 5-2.

During discussions prior to the vote, Keen said he would like the board to "stay open for business," since the board had told the Mobile Home Park Owners and Developers Association to attend last week's Planning Board meeting and that the Planning Board would make a recommendation and report back to commissioners on Nov. 6.

Keen was referring to a request made by the group to eliminate the county's rule banning mobile homes 15 years and older from the county. The issue was referred to the Planning Board for review and recommendation by the first meeting in November.

The Planning Board voted at its Oct. 9 session to recommend eliminating the 15-year rule and instead use HUD standards as requested by the association.

"With some phone calls they (mobile home park owners) were waiting to approach it at that time (Nov. 6)," Keen said. "When I went over my agenda Thursday I saw that all of the public hearings had been posted on the 20th (of November) which is the second meeting date. I assume those dates were anticipating us not meeting on the first Tuesday."

"No that was because of time (requirements)," Smith said.

Keen, a former Planning Board member, said he stood corrected.

"I was concerned why we would shut this government down as far as the commissioners on that particular day for the citizens wanting to bring the concerns that they have in the county to the commissioners, and to the clerk, and county commissioners to put on the agenda that day," Keen said

Mayo agreed.

"I would also suggest maybe rather than cancel the commissioners' meeting, maybe change the time if it would make it more convenient," he said. "Maybe forgo the agenda (briefing) and go straight into the meeting. I feel we should conduct the county's business whenever possible."

Commissioner Sandra McCullen said the board could even meet before then if it needed to.

"I still don't have information from the mobile home (group)," she said. "I know they gave it to the Planning Board, but I have not received it. I asked the gentleman (representing the group) who was here for a copy of it. I have not seen anything so it is going to be hard to be prepared for that if that is what we are going to be talking about."

Parker said that the man in question had left the practice of law in Wayne County and is no longer associated with the Billy Strickland Law Firm that is representing the association.

Strickland appeared before the Planning Board, he said.

"When that comes back to you the thing the board would have to do, if you consider changing, you would call for a public hearing to change the ordinance," Parker said. "If he did not send it, and I understood that he was going to send it to commissioners, we will get that to you, the presentation he made as well as what the Planning Board acted on."

Keen said when he made the motion for the mobile home association it had never occurred to him that the Nov. 6 meeting would be canceled.

"If that had been the case I would have asked that the Planning Board be tasked with what they were tasked with and report back to us at our next meeting which is today," he said. "Then the mobile home association would have been able to take care of their business."