The Bernie Board of Aldermen rejected a recommendation by the city Zoning Committee to allow modular homes in all R-2 areas of the city at the regular meeting of the aldermen Monday night, November 5. They agreed to send the issue back to the committee to deal specifically with four or five individual properties within the city.
According to Mayor James Tilmon, four properties were found to have modular homes on them that were surrounded by property zoned R-2, which allows only single family homes and duplexes. Tilmon said originally four properties were found to have modular homes, and a fifth has now been discovered.
Alderman Tim Gage said it was not the intent of the aldermen to have all R-2 zones changed to permit modular homes. He said this could lead to more problems in that it would allow a large part of the city to allow modular homes.
City Attorney Robin Northern said there were some questions that needed to be answered before any action was taken.
"We need to define what is a modular home," Northern said.
Alderman Todd Young commented, "I hate to see anyone move an old trailer in. Can we specify it has to be a 'brand new' modular home?"
Northern said that was something that needed to be considered. She also said landowners in R-2 zones should be notified on the proposed change, and public meetings held to gain input. She said there would be people affected by the change who needed to be heard.
Alderman Ray Coats agreed, saying that people who have built a large home in a R-2 zone may not want to have a modular home next to them.
"Most towns do zoning to restrict it to protect the people," Coats said. "The people may be for it, but we need to know their position."
Alderman Ivan Mekan asked Northern the procedure for changing the zoning law. He specifically asked if a notice had to be published prior to any vote by the board, and whether it would have to be done by ordinance. He questioned whether the Zoning Committee had actually taken any action, or was simply asking aldermen for direction.
City Superintendent Charles Dean said he believed the committee was making a recommendation to be voted on by the aldermen.
Northern said the aldermen had previously indicated they were not going to do it by ordinance. She again reiterated that she believed it would be best for the aldermen to seek public input before taking action.
Tilmon said he believed the committee did not understand what the aldermen wanted from them. He said only those properties where there is a problem need to be addressed in terms of rezoning.
Gage made a motion to reject the recommendation of the Zoning Committee, and send it back to them to decide how to make zoning changes for properties where a problem exists.
The motion passed by a 6-0 vote. In addition to Gage, Coats and Mekan, Aldermen Butch Barnes, Todd Young and Brian Jennings were present.
Another zoning issue was mentioned by the aldermen. The city has already published a public notice and scheduled a public meeting for input into zoning changes at the industrial park.
Tilmon said a landowner had asked that some property there be rezoned to residential. In researching the zoning ordinance, the city found that the industrial park was still zoned for agriculture. Tilmon said the city is in the process of rezoning it industrial, and then would decide whether to allow residential development there.
In other action, the aldermen voted 6-0 to award a contract for a single audit for 2012 to Maloney, Wright and Robbins. The cost of that audit will be $15,500. The aldermen decided to go with a three-year contract with the firm, which calls for non-single audits in 2013 at a cost of $12,700 and 2014 at a cost of $13,500. The rates for 2013-14 were cheaper by going with a three-year contract. The only other firm submitting a bid was Van De Ven, LLC. Its bid for the single audit in 2012 was $16,500. The bid for a non-single audit in 2013 was $16,300 and $17,400 in 2014.
City Clerk Gloria Dean said the single audit was required in 2012 because of the sewer bond passed by voters to construct the new sewer system. She said any time spending exceeds $500,000 in a fiscal year a single audit is required. She said it would not be needed in 2013-14.
The city received only one bid on the annual Christmas dinner for employees and family. The aldermen accepted the bid of Bernie Express. Its bid called for a buffet at $11.25 per person for 100 people (gratuity included). The menu was listed.
Coats addressed concerns about health insurance provided to employees and families by the city. He said insurance continued to rise, and some changes were going to have to be made by the city. He said the current insurance would cost the city approximately $190,000 in 2012, and it to be renewed in December. The current plan has a $250 deductible. The city also pays the cost of spousal and dependent health insurance.
After a lengthy discussion, it was decided to get some prices for employee health insurance based on a $2,500 deductible (up from $250) for employees only. Gage said they could get some prices and then decide whether they wanted to help employees meet a portion of the deductible, or perhaps pay part of the employee family premium.
The aldermen voted 6-0 to get some health insurance premium quotes to bring back to the aldermen at a special meeting.
In other business, the aldermen:
* accepted the resignations of Tina Brown, a 29-year employee, and Lindsey Jennings in the police department. They approved the hiring of Daniel Terrell and Tammy Morgan as dispatchers and Roy German as a reserve officer;
* voted to allow Kent Kassinger to take over operations of the public access television station provided by NewWave Communications;
* appointed Sarah Thompson to the Library Board at the recommendation of Tilmon;
* approved Christmas bonuses for city employees; and
* heard a request by the City Library for a storage building to be erected next to the library for extra storage. No action was taken by the aldermen.