Meeting called for development

Published 7:12 pm Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Demopolis City Council District 5 representative Jack Cooley announced Monday evening that there would be a special meeting of the Demopolis City Council to discuss needs regarding the Airport Industrial Park.

The meeting will take place tomorrow, Sept. 25, at 5 p.m. at Rooster Hall.

“About three weeks ago, the City Council passed a resolution which was necessary for us to proceed with our project there in securing funds from ALDOT (the Alabama Dept. of Transportation),” Cooley said. “When the paperwork was sent in, Mayor (Cecil P.) Williamson had (engineering firm) Goodwin, Mills and Kawood come out to the site and make notes in order to present a cost estimate on the project. That was done, and the paperwork was sent in.

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“It was just discovered a few days ago that — from ALDOT’s standpoint — Goodwin, Mills and Kawood is the engineering firm of record, and that Mayor Williamson had put herself in there as the contact person for the City of Demopolis.”

Cooley said that the special meeting was called to rectify those chanes officially before city and county officials met next week.

“Since that paperwork was turned in by the mayor, the council voted to hire Almon and Associates, which we did,” Cooley said. “Then, we learned that Mayor Williamson had put herself as the contact person, and she’s going out of office on Nov. 3. So, we needed to set the record straight with ALDOT on two points: One, that Almon and Associates is the designated engineering firm as voted on by the City Council, and No. 2, we need a contact person who is in touch with the program. The person who initially started this project was Debra Fox, with the Marengo County Economic Development Agency.

“So, we have to go through the formal process to rectify that because the meeting between city and county officials and ALDOT is next Monday, Sept. 29, and that necessitated the called meeting.”

However, Williamson said that a special meeting cannot take place unless she calls one.

“There will be no meeting,” Williamson said, citing Section 57 of the Alabama Handbook for Mayors and Council Members.

According to this section, which outlines statutory procedures for calling special meetings, “The presiding officer of the council (the mayor in cities of less than 12,000 inhabitants) shall call special meetings whenever in his or her opinion the public interest requires it.”

However, the same paragraph also states, “If the presiding officer fails or refuses to call such a meeting, when requested, the two council members making the request…have the right to call such a meeting.”

That section is based on Section 11-43-50 of the 1975 Code of Alabama.

Williamson said that the request for a special meeting needed to be in writing and signed by two council members. Since she did not receive that, she has not had the opportunity to refuse to call the special meeting, so it cannot be called by other council members. Williamson said she received an e-mail regarding the meeting that was sent to her and the other council members.

There is no stipulation in Section 57 of the handbook that details how the mayor or presiding officer should be notified. However, the same section of the Code of Alabama as shown on the Web site does state that “two (council members) or the mayor request (the special meeting) in writing to call such meeting.”

The need to call the meeting to formalize decisions already made by the City Council is uncertain, as it seems that the City of Demopolis could have contacted ALDOT about these changes by phone or e-mail or mailed the official minutes of those meetings to Montgomery. The same applies to notifying ALDOT of the upcoming change in mayor. However, as a matter of procedure, the special meeting will go forward with its validity called to question by Williamson.