Aldermen Adopt Resolution to Change City Charter

February 18, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mayor and Aldermen (Older Photo)

The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen adopted a resolution Monday night to make changes to the city charter including having the terms of office go from two to four years, extending voting rights to county residents that own commercial property in the city (two persons per deed), allowing property rights voting to county residents who own at least 3,500 square feet of property in the city, and allowing by ordinance regular city council meetings to be held only once per month.

(OPEN PDF BELOW TO READ ENTIRE DOCUMENT OF PROPOSED CHARTER CHANGES)
Smithville2013Charter-change-final.pdf (137.84 KB)

The resolution, passed unanimously by the aldermen, will be sent to State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody and State Senator Mae Beavers asking that they introduce an act in the legislature to amend in its entirety the city charter, which is Chapter 486 of the Private Acts of Tennessee for 1941 and to replace it with the new charter.

After the resolution is adopted by the General Assembly, it must return to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for a second reading where it must receive a vote of not less than two thirds of the entire membership of the board before it can take effect.

In January, Mayor Jimmy Poss and Aldermen Jason Murphy, Tim Stribling, Shawn Jacobs, Gayla Hendrix, Danny Washer, and Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson met in a workshop at city hall to review the charter and to suggest changes. City officials forwarded the proposed changes to the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) for a legal review.

Under the proposed new charter, city elections will be held every two years, on the first Thursday in August to coincide with the county general election and state primaries. Terms of office for the mayor and aldermen will go from two to four years. Aldermen say the city will save money by not having to hold an election every year. By having the city election to run with the county general elections in August, it will most likely draw more city voters to the polls, according to the aldermen. City elections are currently held on the third Tuesday in June and the mayor and aldermen races are the only offices on the ballot.

The terms of office for the mayor and aldermen are staggered. For example, three aldermen are to be elected this year (2013) and a mayor and two aldermen are to be elected next year (2014). Currently the terms of office are for two years. The office holders are elected on the third Tuesday in June and their terms of office begin on July 1.

There will be no change in the date of the city election this year. The election will be held on Tuesday, June 18. The three aldermen elected this year will serve for a three year term until the day after the August election in 2016. From then on three aldermen will be elected to serve four year terms. The new charter specifies that the terms are to begin at 12:01 p.m. on the first Friday in August, or the day after the election.

Next year under the proposed new charter, a mayor and two aldermen will be elected on the first Thursday in August and take office the next day. Those elected will serve for four years.

The proposed new charter states that " The Election Commission of DeKalb County shall hold a municipal election on the third Tuesday in June of 2013 for the purpose of electing three aldermen to serve until the first Thursday in August of 2016 or until their successors are elected and qualified. At the municipal election of the first Thursday in August of 2014 a Mayor and two aldermen shall be elected to serve until the first Thursday in August 2018 or until their successors are elected and qualified. Thereafter the terms of the Mayor and aldermen shall be four year terms. The Mayor and aldermen shall be elected at large. Any elector who has been a resident of the city for at least one year may be qualified as a candidate for Mayor or Alderman by a nominating petition submitted to the DeKalb County Election Commission in the time and manner determined by the general laws of the State of Tennessee".

According to the proposed new charter, "the terms of office of Mayor and all Aldermen shall commence at 12:01 P.M. on the first Friday of August following the municipal election, and they shall serve until their successors have been elected and qualified". .

Currently, persons who live in the county may qualify as a city property rights voter in municipal elections if they own property in the city of at least 7,500 square feet. The proposed new charter changes that to 3,500 square feet and it allows property owners to count multiple floors toward the total square footage requirement. Anyone who lives in the county but owns commercial property of any size in the city may also register as a property rights voter with a limit of two persons per deed. The proposed new charter states that " any person owning property within the corporate limits of the municipality and residing outside such limits but within DeKalb County may register and vote in municipal elections, if such property ownership is of a residential lot size of not less than thirty-five hundred (3500) square feet or any person owning a commercial property of any size as long as there are not more than two (2) persons per deed in either property classification. Multiple floors shall count towards the total square footage residential requirement Such nonresident shall furnish to the Registrar's office proof of ownership and lot size and location by submitting a copy of the municipality's tax notice or such other document deemed acceptable by the Registrar. Such nonresident shall not be eligible to hold any municipal office or serve on any municipal board or commission."

The proposed new charter gives the aldermen the authority to establish by ordinance the salaries of the mayor and aldermen as well as the time and dates of all city council meetings. Regular city council meetings will only be held once, instead of twice per month, after passage by ordinance but special meetings may be called as needed. The mayor and aldermen will meet on the first Monday night of the month, as they do now, but the time will change to 6:00 p.m. instead of 7:00 p.m. If the meeting date should fall on a holiday, the mayor and aldermen would meet on the following Monday night. The second regular meeting night of each month, now on the third Monday night, will no longer be held. Special meetings could be called by either the mayor or any two aldermen, giving at least 48 hours notice.

The proposed new charter states that "the salary of the Mayor and Aldermen shall be determined by ordinance; however, those salaries may not be increased or decreased during their current term of office. The Board shall meet regularly at least once every month at the city hall or municipal building, or at another place and time prescribed by ordinance. The Board shall meet in special session on written notice of the Mayor or any two Aldermen and served on the other members of board personally at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting. Only the business stated in the written call may be transacted at a special meeting. Informal meetings or work sessions of the Board may be held for the purpose of fact finding and conducting inspections; however, there shall be no official action taken by the Board in these meetings. The Board shall exercise its powers only in public meetings," according to the proposed new charter".

The proposed new charter further states that "the Mayor shall preside at meetings of the Board, and shall not have a vote on any matter except in case of a tie vote. He shall be recognized as the ceremonial head of the city. The Mayor shall have veto power over any legislative action of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The Mayor's veto may be over-ridden by a two-thirds majority vote of all currently sitting members. Upon passage of a legislative ordinance or resolution, the Mayor shall notify the Board in writing of his veto within 10 days and the reasons for the veto. Should the Mayor choose not to veto an action of the Board and fails to sign the ordinance or resolution by the next regular meeting, the ordinance or resolution shall be deemed to be approved and become a law without the Mayor's signature," according to the new charter.

Smithville2013Charter-change-final.pdf (137.84 KB)

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