- Cullman, Alabama

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March 31, 2014

Hanceville council agree to new procedure for bill review

CULLMAN — 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.”

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