Request for keeping peace a short-lived lesson

BOURBON — Shirley Morris, a Bourbon resident and business owner for more than 50 years, attended the September Bourbon Town Council meeting to express a special request from the council members — for them to try to put their feelings aside — with the hopes that mature, well-thought-out decisions could be made for the townspeople in the future. She tried to counsel the council in a matronly manner, knowing full well that the men had some, often-unbridled, grievances with one another.
“I ask you to just listen,” Morris began, and then reminded the men of their duty to the townspeople, asked them to put their differences aside in order to assure good moves were made to the betterment of the community. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see there’s tension on this board,” she continued. “I was not at the last meeting but a decision was made to fill a position — I don’t know if it was needed or not — but I didn’t think it was fair to all of the employees.”
The position she spoke of was the one that council member Gary Collins had filled after nominating himself for the position of assistant police chief. Councilman Tim Perkins had seconded the motion that sparked President Larry Wattenbarger to question them both, at both the August and September meetings.
Following the lesson requested by Morris, he started out mildly, “We had an interesting sequence of events where a member of the board basically gave himself a raise. ... We put a person into a job of which there is no job description, a position of which wasn’t filled for a lengthy amount of time. ... Should we rescind this?”
Neither Collins nor Perkins voted to rescind. “You gave yourself a raise and a promotion,” Wattenbarger continued, “You didn’t ask for a recommendation from the chief.”
Perkins explained that when present chief Bill Martin and council member Collins (also a Bourbon Police officer) had interviewed for the position of assistant chief — a position created by the former council in order to train the person that would be taking John West’s position when he retired — that he felt both men were “excellent candidates.” It wasn’t something organized or discussed before the meeting,” he said.
“Well it sure seems like it,” Wattenbarger volleyed. “And,” Perkins continued, “I did ask Chief Martin and he did say Collins would make a good assistant, and he asked us (the council) about filling the position.”
Chief Martin, also present, agreed that he and Perkins had discussed Collins as a candidate for assistant chief and that he felt he was worthy of the position. He also agreed that he had asked the council if and when it would be filling the position he had left.
Collins added, “Back when John was the chief he was training me too for the position with paperwork and budgetary duties.”
Even with that explanation Wattenbarger was still unsettled. He spoke to Collins directly, “But you gave yourself a raise and a promotion.”
“Didn’t you do that when you nominated yourself as president?” asked Collins.
Though he had, and Perkins had seconded when the position was decided upon at the beginning of the calendar year, Wattenbarger’s position as president did not come with a raise, though Collins’ was only a difference of $1,200 annually from what he was already being paid.
“But how can a person do that?” Wattenbarger continued, “How do you justify that to the taxpayers? It is immoral. How can you look at yourself in the mirror?”
Collins retorted that he could look himself “in the mirror just fine” adding, “If the town wants to keep me here (on the council) I can do more to make the town move forward. If they don’t that’s fine. We’ve got more pipe in the ground since I’ve been put on the board than ever before.”
“And you’ve done that on your own?” Wattenbarger asked. “No,” Collins replied, “But I’ve done a good job for 21 years as police officer for this town.”
The meeting was then quickly adjourned — and with the movement, Morris’ lesson of doing their best to get along — just as quickly, completely forgotten.
Also addressed at the Sept. 14 meeting:
• After some safety concerns were addressed, the Bourbon Town Council approved a request by Triton AD Mason McIntyre for a Homecoming Week bonfire scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. to be lit at the field south of the football field.
• Resident Nick Kuhn expressed concerns about the accuracy of his water bill and worried that he was being overcharged. The council and town employees brought him up to date on the new system, how it works, why his bill would show a difference in usage, and the accuracy of the system. Kuhn asked why customers weren’t notified of the change, to which he was informed that the entire process was discussed at several monthly meetings and published in local newspapers each time.
• Business owner and town resident Robin Racolta asked that there be more police patrols made in town as children are becoming a nuisance. She described an incident that occurred at her business on Main Street and town employee Mike McFarland agreed that something needed to be done as damage was done to a manhole cover, a receipt box and other town property.
Trespassing in the town dump was also addressed as a concern.
• P.J. Hanley was appointed to the Bourbon Board of Zoning Appeals.
• Councilman Wattenbarger gave kudos to town employees for “getting the job done” in replacing and repairing water lines on North Street.
• Wastewater superintendent Mike McFarland noted that the wastewater was noncompliant with the levels of e-coli, likely due to the abundance of geese living at the wastewater ponds, and that a state inspector would be available some time later this month to work with the town to get the numbers down. The daily maximum of e-coli colonies allowed in wastewater is 235 and readings over the last few weeks were: 130, 60, 10, 2,480, >10 and >10.
• A wind turbine order was discussed and passed on the first reading pending corrections.
• Much discussion was held regarding enforcement of penalties for code and ordinance violations and possibly setting up a violations bureau.
• Chief Martin commended the town street and water departments for their speedy response to putting up barricades for the Triton Summerfest.
• Chief Martin commented that being short one person on the force, and even with part time officers employed by the town, that officers’ vacation requests are being turned down to cover shifts.
• Bourbon Clerk-treasurer Kim Berger noted that all the town’s ordinances and zoning codes are now available for anyone to see online via the town’s website.
• A budget hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
• Water and wastewater departments employee Jim Eads’ resignation was approved as he is going to work for the city of Knox. Stephen Stacy of the street department was consequently moved to the water/wastewater department with a change in pay to $16.17 an hour.
• Council president Wattenbarg-er said he felt the Republican convention held last month in Bourbon was “very unprofessional,” “confusing,” and noted that one person turned away for being an Independent was later let in the locked doors to vote. “The rules changed two or three times,” he said. “We had people show up that just wanted to vote and go and they were told they couldn’t; it started late; we had a person show up at 6:20 and they basically ran him off; some people had to show ID while others didn’t.”
He asked whether the town could have the elections of that sort run through the November elections rather than done by local party leaders so that it would be a more accurate and efficient process.
Clerk Berger commented that townspeople had expressed to her that there wasn’t enough notice for townspeople to make arrangements to attend and there wasn’t enough time for them to come to vote. Attorney Mark Wagner said that he thought the town had years ago adopted the practice to save money.