By Shaun Szkolnik, for the Tribune
ARGO – The city of Argo held a special meeting to address the vacant council position Wednesday, June 10.
The council considered several options, which included the possibility of not having an at-large council person for the remainder of the 14 months before the next election, approving the decision to replace the councilperson or tabling the matter until the next regularly scheduled council meeting.
Each council member, and the mayor, made a brief statement at the start of the meeting.
“I think we would be falling short of our obligation to the citizens of this city if we did not allow them to have the number of representation that they are entitled to because of the population of our city,” said Councilperson Ann Brown. “So, for that reason, I feel like we definitely need to fill this spot. We have 14 months left in this term. So, I think it is very valuable to the citizens of this city that we do that.”
Council President Tony Alldredge was the next to speak.
“To be honest with you, as we sit right now, I haven’t decided which way I feel like is going to be more problematic for us,” said Alldredge. “I somewhat agree with Councilperson Brown. I think the people of this town, when this form of government was put together … is based on population and we have a certain number of council seats. I think that anytime you have less people on the council, you potentially have less involvement and we may have picked up a person who has a particular expertise or can help in certain ways. So, I do agree with you that we could be missing something there. At the same time, actually filling that seat is going to be a pretty bumpy road and we have a short time to do it in. I can somewhat see both sides.”
After Alldredge’s comment, Councilperson Corky Massey put forth his ideas.
“I see us spending a lot of time putting one in place,” said Massey. “Time we could be using to do some of our duties that we are obligated to be doing anyway. As far as another council member, by the time they get on the board and get up to speed, the term will be over. We thought a year, a year-and-a-half, ago that we couldn’t get by with a part-time fire chief, but we are and we’re doing fine with that. So, if we’re short one council member, I think we’ll be ok with that too; besides saving $2,500 or $3,000 or whatever it is in payroll … we’ve got a tight budget and that money could go to something else. We need to weigh whether that money is more beneficial to us or a new council member for a short period of time would be more beneficial to us.”
Councilperson Ann Cowan had her say.
“Kind of like Tony, I’m undecided one way or the other,” said Cowan. “I think that the people really ought to elect their council members, not us; and we’ve only got about 14 more months. We’d be saving $3,500 if we let this seat stay empty. I kind of feel like that $3,500 would be better spent maybe on roads or something; we got some bad places in our roads right now that really need to be fixed. I don’t think that we have done enough about that in the time that we’ve been in office. I just think that our citizens really deserve better than what they’re getting.”
City Attorney Johnny Brunson took the time to inform the council that the position being discussed was at large and so leaving the spot vacant would not cause any specific area of Argo to be underrepresented.
The council was next addressed by Mayor Betty Bradley.
“I’m kind of wavering back and forth,” said Bradley. “I’m not sure how I feel about it. I feel like the person that comes in is going to be at a disadvantage because it may be a person that we decide on that has not been attending meetings or not been familiar with the things that’s been going on in the city. I’m hoping that if this council decides to fill that seat, that they’re going to look at all the options … that they feel like would represent all the citizens in the city … like the attorney said, if we don’t fill that seat there’s no district that’s not going to be represented.”
The council held a roll call vote to fill the vacant seat:
- Cowan voted no
- Massey voted no
- Alldredge voted yes
- Brown voted yes
- Bradley voted no
The position will not be filled before the next election