PIEDMONT CITY COUNCIL: Bill Baker chosen as new mayor pro tem
by Laura Gaddy
May 22, 2013 | 4964 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PIEDMONT — The Piedmont City Council Tuesday night replaced its mayor pro tem.

The decision followed Councilman Kenny Kelley’s proposal late in the meeting that the council give the job to Councilman Bill Baker, a move that effectively dismissed Councilman Frank Cobb from the post. The matter was not listed on the council meeting’s agenda. Kelley, citing Cobb’s management of a recent utility committee meeting, said Cobb was not qualified to be mayor pro tem.

“What I really think needs to happen — I think we need a more experienced mayor pro tem,” Kelley said.

Cobb came under fire last week when he ended a utility committee meeting before it started because the meeting was attended by disgruntled landlords. Some have since said Cobb’s decision, though not technically wrong, was against the spirit of the open meetings law.

Cobb said he did not call the meeting off to impede public discussion, but minutes later he lost the pro tem position in a 4-2 vote.

Kelley, who sits on the three-person committee with Cobb and Councilman Ben Keller, said Cobb, who chairs the committee, was wrong to call it off. Keller seconded Kelley’s motion.

Mayor Rick Freeman was not present at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Cobb said he called the utility committee meeting off because the landlords attended to discuss proposed changes that would affect renters and landlords. Cobb said he thought the landlords would disrupt the meeting with discussion that Cobb, who is himself a landlord, can not legally discuss because of ethics laws.

“The discussion had already gone beyond the discussion that I could discuss, so I had no choice but to adjourn the meeting,” Cobb said.

The proposed changes would require landlords to keep their names on renters’ utility accounts and it would implement a utility deposit that could cost more than $500. The proposed changes, which are being considered to curb the amount of unpaid utility bills, are expected to be considered at a future meeting, City Clerk Michelle Franklin said.

In other business the council approved a resolution in support of applying for a grant to make improvements to nine wooden bridges on the Chief Ladiga Trail. The city is expected to learn within a month whether it will be cleared to apply for the grant through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

The council also approved a motion to hire a trained arborist to review old trees on city property that are at risk of toppling and may need to be removed.

Staff Writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter@LJohnson_Star.
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