The Hanceville City Council meeting Thursday night was subdued, amicable and relatively brief — a dramatic shift from the contentious, marathon meetings in recent weeks.
After the council voted to review and approve all bills, the past two city council meetings have lasted hours as City Clerk Tania Wilcox or Mayor Kenneth Nail have read through each bill from a thick stack. The procedure brought to a head long simmering tensions between Nail and council members over the city’s perpetually tight finances.
But on Thursday, a tentative ceasefire seemed to have been brokered with Councilwoman Kim Brown, the council’s lone female, playing the role of mediator. Brown proposed an alternative way for the council to review the city’s bills, suggesting bills be made available to the council from 4:30 p.m. until the start of its regular meeting at 7 p.m. The council put Brown’s proposal in action Thursday night, quietly looking over the bills during the work session and asking Nail questions for further explanation.
“When I voted for reviewing the bills, it was never my intent to go through every single bill, one-by-one, keeping the employees here on overtime and micromanaging the city operations,” Brown said. “I think the bills should be reviewed in the work session, and there’s no need to do it during the regular meeting. “
Councilman Greg Baker said the council only asked to review the bills, not keep the department heads after their regular work shifts to attend the council meetings.
“You’ll have to take that up with the mayor,” Baker said.
Nail responded that he asked department heads — including Police Chief Bob Long, Fire Chief Alan Bolling, Public Works Director Rusty Fields and Parks Director Bobby Duffie — to attend to answer questions about the bills.
“I may not know the answer to every question you ask,” Nail said.
Councilman Charles Wilson spearheaded the push for more council oversight over the city’s day-to-day finances. He said he was fine with each bill being read aloud at the meetings but had no problem reviewing them in the work session.
“The mayor said I was trying to embarrass him,” Wilson said after Thursday’s meeting of the public bill review. “I wasn’t trying to embarrass him.;I wanted to embarrass the council for not being actively involved in the city’s finances. It’s our job to look over the bills.”
Nail said he’s always wanted council involvement in regards to the city’s bills, and he has always welcomed council members to review bills.
“Councilman Wilson and I were a lot closer on our ideas than what I think people realized,” Nail said. “But I want council members to be more involved in our city and city events we have going on too.”
He added: “I think this came down to there being a lot of confusion about what it was exactly the council wanted to do with the bills.”
The Hanceville City Council conducted other business Thursday:
* Approved drafting a letter in support for Operation Hope, a national financial literacy organization, which plans to host workshops to help local small businesses. The council also agreed to allow coordinator Tanya Millhouse to use city facilities for no charge to host the workshops, which will assist businesses with everything from coming up with business plans to marketing on social media.
* Tabled a measure to open the Hanceville Recreation Center to local children and teens when school lets out for summer. Parks Director Bobby Duffie talked with Councilman Charles Wilson about increasing the daily fee from $2 to $3 to $4 and hiring part-time senior workers to supervise and collect fees.
* Approved Ordinance 600, which will establish a 5 percent tax on gross receipts on Charter Communications. The city’s original franchise tax agreement with Charter had expired, with the tax previously set at 3 percent.
* Approved Ordinance 601, agreeing to annex 58 acres owned by Alice Evans on U.S. 31 and zone the property B-2 business. It also agreed to annex between a half-acre and an acre of property, north of the Evans property, owned by Jimmy Davis and zoned it AG-1 agriculture.
* Approved Wilson’s request to amend the water and sewer board’s request at the last meeting for $11,095 from the city for a project. Wilson proposed decreasing the request to $10,000 which was what the city had currently budgeted for the department’s infrastructure fund.
* Discussed Councilwoman Kim Brown’s proposal to establish a farmer’s market in downtown Hanceville.
* Approved paying March bills.
* Reviewed bank accounts balance sheet.
* Approved minutes from March 13 meeting and March 18 special meeting
The council will hold a work session 6:30 p.m. April 10 followed by its regular meeting at 7 p.m.
* Tiffeny Owens can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at