Campaign policy under scrutiny

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2006

For the past few weeks since putting his election signs up around the city of Demopolis, Marengo County Commission candidate Mitchell Congress has been feeling discriminated against.

And Thursday afternoon Congress expressed his thoughts of bias to the Demopolis City Council.

After purchasing 150 signs to advertise his running for county commission and being one of the last to put his signs out, Congress said he wanted to make sure his name was put in places where it’d be seen.

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“But when I was told there were specific places where my signs were in violation, I moved them. Yet, someone has continued to remove my signs,” he told the council.

Counting the number of signs he picked up from the city barn, Congress said his signs have been removed and placed into the storage building on 82 different occasions and now, he has a feeling that someone has a “personal vendetta” against him.

“Today I took a picture of where signs are around the city. These are places where my signs were and other signs remain,” he said. “Most of the signs are placed in the same area-together- and if being in the right of way is an issue, then why is it that just my signs are being removed. All I ask of you is to make sure that if an ordinance is supposed to be enforced, to enforce it across the board.”

According to Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson, the city has a strict policy, on paper, of where election signs can and cannot be placed around the city, but assured Congress they will look into the situation and keep him updated.

“We will have to investigate and get back to you,” she told Congress, “but thank you for bringing it to our attention.”

In preparation for Independence Day festivities, the Council granted the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce permission to use City Landing,, on Tuesday, July 4, for the annual Freedom on the River event. That afternoon residents will enjoy a Children’s Patriotic Parade and a fireworks display, along with vendors, live entertainment, children’s activities and food.

Demopolis Police Chief Jeff Manuel informed the council that officers in his department are working hard to enforce seatbelts and catch those who run red lights.

During the month of April, Manuel and his officers stopped 18 drivers for speeding, three for running red lights, and 28 for not wearing their seatbelts.

“We’re catching a lot of people on seatbelts and red light violations,” Manuel said. “I hope they understand what we are doing now.”

Councilman Thomas Moore informed the group that the building committee was working on creating a new policy pertaining to use of the Civic Center because short notice leads to problems and bigger payouts.

“We are hoping to make it so that people have to book the Civic Center two weeks in advance so that we will have time to get the police and cleaning crews scheduled,” Moore said. “We think this will also stop us from having to pay the cleaning people overtime.”

The Demopolis City Council also amended the proposed lodging tax ordinance to say there will be a three percent rebate or discount available on or before the due date.

Thus, a

motion was passed to amend the current policy for a two-week notice until a complete set of new rules and guidelines for Civic Center use was created.

As far as city purchases go, the council also accepted two bids for some much-needed equipment.

First they agreed to buy a drag rake from Jerry Pate Turf and Irrigation for $8,995.50 to keep the dirt on infields of baseball field smooth.

Next, they the decided to buy a tractor and mower attachment from Alabama Tractor Co. for $34,985.

Councilman Melvin Yelverton also suggested that all city employees report to the council after returning from a work-related trip, but councilman Barry Collins implied that may be asking for much since some employees “go to trainings on weekly basis.”

But just like the Congress issue, the idea of travel reports was tabled until the next council meeting.

The next Demopolis City Council meeting will be held at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, June 1, in the Town Hall.