First Posted: 1/15/2009

Conference call OK'd for absent commissioners

FAIRMONT - The town Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved an ordinance that will enable commissioners to participate in meetings by conference call.
But if an absent commissioner’s vote breaks a tie, the board must re-vote with the missing commissioner in attendance.
The board voted 4-2 to pass the ordinance. Commissioners Wayland Lennon, Mary Bruce Grantham, Wade Sealey and Jay Capps voted in favor of it. Commissioners J.J. McCree and Charles Townsend were opposed.
“I can’t see where there’s anything wrong,” said Sealey, who regularly leaves town on business. “Everyone has the potential to be gone when you can’t get out of it.”
Lennon, who initially pitched the idea to the board, told commissioners that he modifies his travel schedule so he can attend meetings.
“I believe it’s important and it’s very possible to conduct business over the phone,” he said. “Regardless of where someone is sitting, it doesn’t change the outpouring of words conveyed … it’s not only good for me, it’s good for everybody.”
The board tabled the proposal at its February meeting after commissioners expressed concerns about voting over the phone.
According to the ordinance, a commissioner can only participate by phone three times a year, and it must be because that person was called out of town unavoidably or had an emergency. The commissioner must call the boardroom five minutes before the meeting begins and pay the telephone bill.
Townsend said he is afraid that commissioners will unintentionally violate a law.
“There is a thin legal line we may cross and cause a problem for the town,” he said.
McCree said that the commissioners have a responsibility to attend all meetings.
“The citizens elect us, and they come to see us in action,” he said. “If we aren’t here, they might as well not come.”
In other business, the board approved a one-year moratorium on new storefront churches on Main Street. The five churches currently located on the street won’t be affected.
“We are trying desperately to get our downtown registered as a historic district with the state,” Mayor Charles Kemp said. “I believe if we allow more churches, it will detract from our ability to become a historic district.”
Kemp said that an historic designation could lure businesses into vacant storefronts and spur downtown growth.
The board again voted 4-2 in favor of the resolution. Commissioners Grantham, Sealey, Lennon and Capps voted in favor, and Commissioners McCree and Townsend opposed.
“As far as churches, there’s nothing wrong with them,” McCree said. “They aren’t bothering anyone; they aren’t causing a nuisance.”
Also Tuesday, Kemp updated the board on the town’s efforts to establish a summer recreation program. Kemp, who directed the summer recreation program from 1973 to 1982, said the board has up to $7,000 in recreation money to pay for a program administrator. Kemp said the county Recreation Department would provide supplies, and he has asked the school system to open the gym at Fairmont Middle School.
The program would probably begin in June and last about 10 weeks, he said.
“All we need is a facility, and we’re working on that,” he said. “Then it’s just putting a key in a lock, opening it up and listening to children having a good time.”
The board also:
- Endorsed a resolution supporting the town’s application for a $600,000 grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation. The commissioners said the money would be used to turn the old Popes Building on Main Street into a community building.
- Approved a resolution declaring a 1976 Chevrolet LaFrance fire truck a surplus vehicle.

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