GLASGOW – Monday's meeting of the Glasgow Common Council was filled with an assortment of mostly routine business, but it was the item not on the agenda that garnered the most discussion and questions.
The council unanimously approved the appointment of Dereck Rogers, whom Mayor Harold Armstrong said had already been sworn in, as the new chief of the Glasgow Fire Department. Rogers has been with the department 21 years and had been battalion chief before the Sept. 30 retirement of Chief Bryan Marr. A selection committee had chosen him last month as the next chief and he has been acting as such since Marr's departure.
Before that, Katie Hawks, event organizer with Entertain Glasgow, gave an update on the Groove & Glow hot-air balloon event, providing an estimate that between 8,000 and 12,000 people attended. She said they would like to do it again but haven't committed to it just yet; meanwhile suggestions are sought for the next time.
Several other items of business were addressed, but before the mayor moved on to a lengthy list of announcements, with a reminder from City Attorney Danny Basil, Armstrong told Councilman Joe Trigg that Basil had been doing some research into the request Trigg asked a meeting or two ago for information on what would need to happen if the city wanted to adopt a ward system if he wanted to hear it then. Under that type of system, instead of having every council member being elected citywide and being able to live anywhere in the city, the city would be divided into wards, or districts, and only one person could be elected for each.
“I researched the statute on it pretty carefully and the directives I have on city government,” Basil said. “And then I had questions I didn't have answers to and I called the Kentucky League of Cities ….”
An equal amount of population has to be in each ward, and with the council having decided to reduce its number to nine from 12 in the next election, that would put roughly 1,500 to 1,600 in each ward. The candidate would have to live in that ward, and only residents from that ward would vote for their representative. One option, though, would be to have a hybrid ward system with a certain number of ward representatives and one or more at-large members of the council that would be elected citywide.
The council could decide whether it would be a partisan or nonpartisan race, and if they are partisan, they would have primaries like other partisan elections do.
Basil said one thing he heard from that could be a negative is that if no one runs from a particular ward, then someone would have to be appointed, and that happens more often than one might expect, but then five or six might run in another ward. With nonpartisan races, a primary could still be used to narrow the field.
“One of the things that I was going to suggest is, if you think you might like this, I'd contact some of those people in those three towns,” the city attorney said, referring to Madisonville, Hopkinsville and Somerset, which already have ward systems.
Councilman Wendell Honeycutt asked whether they could have, perhaps, three wards with three people from each ward, and Basil said only one person could be elected to represent each ward.
Armstrong asked about the residency requirement, and Basil said you'd have to live in the ward for at least a year before you run.
He said there are also timelines for when it can be done to give people enough notice before the election.
“You'd think if you do it this way and you didn't like it, you'd just switch back, but you've got to give it time,” Basil said. “But you can't just do it at the snap of a finger.”
Several other questions were asked, including inquiries about how the lines would be drawn and who does that, and he said the council would have to approve it, but it's supposed to be done in as fair a manner as possible.
“That's definitely something that could be contentious,” he said.
Even if it's not intentional, Basil said, he wasn't sure it would be possible for anyone to draw a ward map that's completely neutral.
In other business, with all members present, the council unanimously approved the following:
• A municipal order appointing Jeff Harper to the Plaza Theatre Advisory Board to fulfill the unexpired term of Sumer Harper;
• First reading of an ordinance adopting a supplement to the Code of Ordinances;
• First reading of an ordinance rezoning 855 N. L. Rogers Wells Blvd. from light industrial and low-density residential to general business;
• A resolution adopting a memorandum of agreement between the city and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for use of $304,081 in discretionary street funds previously announced;
• Two resolutions allowing application for Walmart Community Grants in the amount of $1,000 for the fire department and $5,000 for the police department;
• Two resolutions declaring some items, mostly lighting, from the Plaza Theatre as surplus and declaring as surplus a parcel of land just south of Exit 11 of the Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway that had been used, but hasn't been for decades, by the Glasgow Water Co.; and
• A motion to cancel the Nov. 11 meeting because it falls on Veterans Day.
Also, Armstrong announced that an item on the agenda to amend the animal control ordinance would be postponed because some corrections needed to be made.