Friday, December 02, 2016

TOP STORY >> Council rebuffs veto by mayor

Leader staff writer

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Young, in a rare use of veto power, vetoed an ordinance the council passed in October splitting the city’s engineering department into two sections.

But the city council turned right around Monday night and overturned the mayor’s veto by a 6-2 vote.

Back on Oct. 24 the council voted 7-2 Oct. to split its engineering department into an engineering department and a planning department.

In a letter where she vetoed the ordinance, Young wrote that state law says, “a mayor may veto, within five days, Sundays excepted, after the action of the city council thereon, any ordinance, resolution, or order adopted or made by the council, or any part thereof, which in his or her judgment is contrary to public interest.”

City Attorney Steve Cobb said it’s the first time that he could recall in his time with the city that a mayor has used the veto power.

The veto letter was dated Oct. 26 and received by the city’s clerk office the next day.

In the letter, which she read into the record Monday night, Hillman stated she issued the veto because she believed the ordinance was “contrary to the best interest of the public.”

A number of residents and developers spoke on Monday night in favor of the veto, and Alderman Tim McMinn read a letter into the record from a number of people opposing the veto.

The split of the departments could take place as early as Jan. 1 even though no one has been hired yet to be the city planner.

Alderman Mary Jo Heye, the sponsor of the ordinance that called for streamlining the engineering, permits and planning department into an engineering department and creating a planning, permitting and inspection department, said Sherwood was a growing city and like most growing cities in the state it needed two departments.

She also made the motion Monday night and garnered enough votes to override the veto. Only Alderman Mike Sanders and Beverly Williams voted no. They were the only two to vote against the ordinance back in October.

Back in October, Williams said even though everyone on the council believed in the concept of the city planner, the “elephant” was whether or not there should be two separate departments.

Williams said the original concept was for a joint unit. “As the only one up here with human resource experience, I can say that the joint unit plan was doable and viable.”

The mayor said then the new ordinance would just be passing the burden from the city engineer to the city planner. “You are just going to move the problem,” Young said.

At one time the city had two separate departments.

Former longtime mayor Bill Harmon was the one to merge the two departments because of his relationship with Michael Clayton who became the city engineer. “My dad believed Clayton could do anything. It was a personality move, not a personnel move,” Alderman Charlie Harmon, the former mayor’s son, said previously.

Heye said the city did have a city planner consultant for a while. “But he was dismissed by the mayor and the position never filled.”

She said a city planner would provide long-term strategic planning for the city. “We are one of the few cities our size that doesn’t have a planner. The up-and-coming cities have them. The growing cities have them,” she said, adding that North Little Rock had three planners, so does Conway, and Bentonville has a number of them.

Heye said it has nothing to do with the city engineer. “It’s two different areas of expertise. The engineer knows how to build infrastructure and work with draining. The planner looks at where the roads need to be, how the city will grow so it will be vibrant 20 years from now, 50 years for now. We’ve had no guidance for quite some time,” she said.