Colony Town Council accomplishes business amid continuing controversy

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Colony Councilwoman Ethel Alexander (left) voices concerns about council procedures as Mayor Curtis Johnson and Councilwoman Mary Parker listen. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

COLONY, Ala. – The Colony Town Council on Tuesday evening managed to pass three resolutions related to Town business, despite ongoing controversy between council members. The council first voted unanimously to establish standing committees as follows:

  • Finance – Councilpersons Eric Carwell, Mary Parker and Mayor Curtis Johnson
  • Streets and Drainage – Councilpersons Mary Parker, Jasmine Cole and Mayor Curtis Johnson
  • Police and Fire – Councilpersons Samuel Ashford, Ethel Alexander and Mayor Curtis Johnson
  • Library and Recreation – Councilpersons Jasmine Cole, Eric Carwell and Mayor Curtis Johnson
  • Sanitation and Utilities – Councilpersons Ethel Alexander, Samuel Ashford and Mayor Curtis Johnson

 

The second resolution to pass named Town Clerk Patricia Ponder and Mayor Johnson as authorized signers of checks and other bank documents, and authorized Finance Committee Chairman Eric Carwell to act in the absence of either Johnson or Ponder. Two signatures are required by Town policy. The motion passed on a split vote, with Alexander and Carwell voting against the measure.

The third resolution to pass established Colony Town Hall business hours as 8 a.m.-noon, Monday through Friday. The measure also passed on a split vote with Alexander and Ashford voting against. The clerk’s hours, which have been the subject of substantial recent argument, were not specifically addressed by the resolution, though some seemed to assume that the two schedules were equivalent.

An additional resolution, that would have moved work sessions from 5 p.m. to 5:30, and meetings from the conclusion of the work session to the specific start time of 6 p.m., died on a tie vote. Johnson, Cole and Parker voted in favor of the change; Alexander, Ashford and Carwell voted against.

Council discussion items

Parker put out a call for volunteers with chainsaws to help cut up downed trees and large limbs in order to clean up community streets once the weather warms up. The first offers of help came from the audience even before the meeting ended. A date for the cleanup has not been set.

Cole announced that a donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, has offered to contribute to the repair of the gym roof, and that she will be getting an estimate from an unnamed contractor. Asked by Alexander to name the donor and contractor, Cole refused. After council discussion and a heated exchange between Cole and Alexander, Ponder explained the official policy: a donor to a Town project may remain anonymous but, depending on the cost, the project might have to be put out publicly for bid from contractors, thus requiring the identification of contractors.

Alexander looked into December’s high utility bill and reported that a company representative had shown her that the December 2019 bill had also jumped, noting that cold weather often caused cost spikes during that time of the year.

Alexander addressed the work session with a list of concerns and suggestions, leading to exchanges with Parker and Cole, and a heated confrontation with Johnson that brought the mayor out of his seat. She expressed concern about the length of recent meetings and the lack of accomplishment on Town business, arguing that the audience has been taking over meetings by speaking during portions of the meetings that are reserved for council business. Council agendas do include a section for public comment, during which attendees may address the council. Alexander proposed limitation of public comment to the public comment section and proposed a two-minute limit on individual addresses.

Alexander addressed those in attendance and aroused some anger when she said bluntly, “You’re invited to come, but you’re not invited to take over.” 

Alexander’s list continued through topics including COVID issues in the town and possible safety measures for council meetings and previously approved work on Wooley Road that has still not been done. As she talked through the list and Parker accused her of trying to take over the work session, Mayor Johnson called on Alexander repeatedly to stop, ultimately announcing, “Regular meeting is called to order” as she continued to speak.

The Colony Town Council meets at 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday evenings of each month at Colony Town Hall for a work session followed by its regular meeting. The public is invited to attend.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com