On June 2, a divided West Jefferson village council voted down a proposed amendment to a pending ordinance regarding public safety procedures for the mayor. The ordinance itself failed by the same vote count, 3-4.
The proposal came up last month after Mayor Scott Hockenbery approved installation of speed humps on Fellows Avenue. The project surprised council members, some of whom learned of the speed humps when residents called them to complain.
As director of public safety, the mayor can make such decisions without council approval.
In an attempt to prevent similar situations and ensure thorough investigation of an area before introducing speed humps, the proposed ordinance outlined certain steps be taken. Most notably, it would have required the mayor to seek approval from council before installing speed humps.
Seeing a need for revision, council Vice President Ronald Garver proposed an amendment to the ordinance to “establish some guidelines to go by,” while giving the mayor final say.
The amended proposal still included a specific process for the director of public safety to follow when considering an area for speed humps.
Hockenbery said a study was conducted in March before he gave the go-ahead to install the humps on Fellows Avenue.
“(The proposed procedure) is exactly the procedure I followed,” he said. “(Fellows Avenue) is a known problem. It’s been a problem for years. I can’t answer why there were no speed humps before, but we took action in a timely manner. That’s what the residents expect and deserve.”
Council members remained divided in discussion.
Doug Eakins, a proponent of the ordinance, said he does not doubt that Hockenbery will conduct studies prior to future speed hump installations, but said Hockenbery will not be mayor forever.
“This would keep all mayors honest,” Eakins said.
Council President Darlene Steele disagreed.
“This is a step toward taking power away from the mayor,” she said.
After nearly an hour of debate, the ordinance and its amendment failed by one vote to the satisfaction of residents at the meeting, who later thanked Hockenbery for his efforts to correct traffic woes on Fellows Avenue.
“I think there were a lot of people who didn’t like it and don’t like it, but it needed to be done,” said a resident of Fellows Avenue.
Steele, Jim King, Gene Sidner and Sheila Nelson voted against the proposal. Eakins, Garver and Randy Otis voted for it.
In other news, West Jefferson may see an increase in jobs in several years.
Council agreed to allow Hockenbery to enter into a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement with a potential developer who will bring high-paying jobs to the community, according to a resolution passed by council, 6-1. Nelson cast the lone dissenting vote.
The confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement will last two years before further information is released.