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City Council, February 12

A kiss for Councilmember Shirley
Where’s the report on the Sofa Store fire?
Marc Knapp

Yesterday’s Council meeting was short and lackluster. Indeed the highlight was the kiss planted on Council member Shirley’s forehead by a citizen when the Mayor announced that it was the Council member’s birthday. This expression of “bonhomie” did not persist into Citizen Participation when she accused the City of not caring in the treatment its citizens. She is the owner of Tellis Pharmacy on King Street. It has been robbed a number of times and the police seem unable to ever apprehend the thieves.

Where is the Sofa Store report?
Not much has been said about the Sofa Store Fire in recent weeks. It was raised in Citizen Participation yesterday by a retired City firefighter, Richard Koger. He asked what had happened to the formal report on the fire by Gordon Routley. The contents of the report seem to have been selectively disseminated and indeed, the leader of the investigation had spoken and discussed the report in a meeting with a fire symposium in California two weeks ago. He asked that the report be released to the City’s firefighters and the public.

I too spoke and questioned as to where the report might be. Too many of us feel that again the Mayor is attempting to influence the tenor of the report as he did with that of OSHA and the so called "blue ribbon" panel that assessed the Fire Department after the tragety. I also questioned morale of the City Fire Department. I understand than a number of firefighters have left in recent months and that the City has 18 new recruits. It is admirable that the City can find new recruits but it raises the question as to why old hands are leaving in alarming numbers. I have also been told that there will soon be a vote of "no confidence" concerning the Chief by the rank and file. This comes on the continuing foot dragging by the Chief and the department to implement the recommended changes. I have also been advised that a man has been promoted to Battalion Chief who is grossly unqualified. The "good old boy system" seems alive and well and could kill more people.

Landowners seek $24 million from City
I also noted that the owners of property on Johns Island which had been down zoned last year had instigated a suit against the City. Justice Rawl was one of the owners and opposed the rezoning. The properties were on the rural side of the City’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) but had subdivision rights more appropriate for an urban development. These rights existed before the creation of the UGB and were in place before the properties were annexed into the City some ten plus years ago. The development rights were reduced by the City. Understandably, the owners felt there was a loss of value and are suing - we hear for $24 million. This will be quite a hit for the City taxpayers if the suit succeeds.

Boat show for new pier
Following on the agreement with the Beach Company to build a pier at Brittlebank Park and connected to the Bristol marina, the City has now entered into an agreement with Maritime Events LLC for the latter to hold an annual boat show. The show will be over the 2nd or 3rd weekend in April and the contract is for 5 year with an option for renewal for another 5 years. The City will receive 5% of revenues – from entrance and mooring fees, food sales etc – in consideration. No estimate was given by the City as to the expected revenue. The need to get the pier built by this April prompted Council to approve the construction at the last Council meeting.

City to build or buy new building
Council member Lewis asked at the close of the meeting as to whether he could obtain information on all the properties that the City leased and the rentals that the City paid. This Mayor readily agreed to this request and added that the City was considering moving all of the operations now in rented premises to a single building. Where this building exists or is to be build we do not know. But the City is now considering alternatives.

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