For his first Cove City Council meeting, Wednesday new Mayor Del Little had an ambitious agenda. His city council and the citizens of Cove in attendance had other ideas.
Little placed three proposals — a right-of-way permit, a snow and ice removal plan and a sidewalk ordinance — on the agenda under his mayor’s report. All three proposals received considerable pushback from city council members and Cove residents.
The meeting began with the swearing in of Little, followed by the three new city councilors — Shawn Parker, Matthew McCowan and Lana Shira.
Next, in a 4-2 vote, the council elected Nate Conrad as council president. Conrad will act as mayor in any scenario where Little is unable to perform his duties.
Before delving into his report, Little told the council members he would be waiting to assign them monthly reports so they could focus on more pressing issues. In the previous council, councilors gave monthly reports on water, personnel, planning, sewer and streets.
Little then requested comments from the council on the first of his proposals — requiring a permit for anyone doing volunteer work in a right-of-way. One example of this is an individual shoveling snow or raking leaves off a sidewalk or road. McCowan immediately took issue with the proposal.
“Any volunteer who wants to plow snow on the sidewalks needs to have one of these?” McCowan asked Little, who responded affirmatively. “That’s going to limit volunteers, I think.”
McCowan’s trepidations were echoed by Jack Hagey, a Cove resident and husband of Vicky Hagey, a city council member. Hagey said he often does snow plowing during the winter and requiring a permit would deter him.
“This is my contribution to my community,” Jack Hagey said. “My dad was born and raised in this town (and I want to plow snow) for my neighbors without a ‘You owe me.’ I get out and do it even without a thanks.”
Little tried to explain the permit would help make sure the city wasn’t liable for any accidents or injuries caused by someone doing work in a city-owned right-of-way, then concluded the discussion by stating he would not pursue the proposal.
“The purpose of this was not to shut down volunteers,” Little said. “That’s something a community like this really needs, and I’m glad to see there’s a lot of that. Obviously there’s enough (pushback) from the council, (and) I wouldn’t entertain a motion to move this forward at all.”
The mayor’s report continued with a draft of a snow and ice removal plan. The necessity of such a plan, which was not made available to the public, was questioned by McCowan and Shira.
“I don’t think there needs to be hard and fast rules,” McCowan said. “Our volunteers do it as they can, as their paying jobs permit. I don’t know that we need an ordinance that mandates it. We don’t have a way to enforce it anyway.”
McCowan offered up the idea of having a volunteer phone list so if there were particular problem areas where elderly or disabled individuals were living a volunteer could be called to remove snow.
A piece of paper was then circulated at the meeting to gather the names of residents who were willing to be volunteers. Little told the council he had proposed the snow removal plan because he heard it as a recurring concern when canvassing during his campaign for mayor.
“A lot of (people told me) the city was not doing anything about snow removal,” he said, noting the importance of having a plan.
McCowan said he thought the volunteer phone list would be adequate. Members of the council agreed with him.
See complete story in Friday's Observer