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Hornbeak ponders board reduction

Hornbeak ponders board reduction
Staff Reporter
Hornbeak’s board is of-ficially requesting amendment to the town’s charter to reduce the number of aldermen from seven to five.
The town’s board of aldermen approved a resolution making the request to the Tennessee General Assembly during its month-ly session Tuesday night at Hornbeak City Hall.
There has been a problem in recent elections with finding enough citizens willing to fill Hornbeak’s seven aldermen positions. Only five people were on the ballot to fill the seven positions in the Nov. 6 city election, meaning all five were automatically elected.
The five who appeared on the ballot were current aldermen Paul Truett, Lynn Finch and Cody Caksackkar, as well as Don Petty and Robbie J. Riley.
However, Caksackkar submitted his resignation from the board Tuesday night after informing aldermen he is moving out of Hornbeak.
Current Mayor Pete Bur-po did not seek re-election and current Vice Mayor Dennis Dozier was unopposed in his bid for election to the position. He received 160 complimentary votes in last week’s balloting, according to unofficial election totals.
At its September meeting, the board approved amending the town’s charter to reduce the number of aldermen to five and to change regular meetings to a different Tuesday.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, Dozier read a response from Municipal Technical Advisory Service consultant David Angerer in regard to changing the town’s charter and the number of aldermen. MTAS had previously suggested dropping the number of aldermen to three.
“If no one wants to serve on the Hornbeak board, that’s a real problem,” Angerer wrote to Dozier. “My guess is that someone will step forward, but I cannot guarantee it. And very likely that person will be an appointee — not someone elected by the voters.”
He said although the town’s charter does not indicate, there may be provisions in state law, the state Constitution or common law to the effect that municipal elected officials serve until their replacements are sworn into office — meaning that an alderman remains on the board, even after his or her term officially expires, until a replacement is sworn in. He said that might convince some aldermen to continue to attend until a substitute is found, but he said he doesn’t know how they can compel someone to keep attending if they no longer wish to serve or have moved away.
“This is why I think it would be in Hornbeak’s best interest to reduce the number of aldermen from seven down to a much smaller number — no more than two or three, plus a mayor,” Angerer suggested in his correspondence. “With this smaller number of seats, Hornbeak might even have competitive races for aldermanic seats.”
He said the present arrangement — seven aldermen seats — “pretty much guarantees that practically everyone who files for office is going to win.”
“In my opinion, there’s not much democracy in a situation like that,” Angerer wrote. “Not much choice for the voters and, worse, no identifiable mandate for the people elected to office. And, given the four-year terms of office for aldermen, the current arrangement will frequently result in having several appointed, unelected members. Sometimes necessary, but not ideal.”
He told Dozier a five-aldermen board would be “a minor improvement, but still not optimal, in my opinion.”
Angerer said if the charter is amended as proposed, there will be six people on the Hornbeak board — a mayor and five aldermen. According to the 2012 census, there are 424 citizens in Hornbeak — meaning there would be one elected official on the board for every 71 residents.
“If the City of Memphis applied this same ratio, their city council would have over 9,100 citizens on it — seven times larger than both houses of the United States Congress. Council meetings would have to be held in the Liberty Bowl,” Angerer noted.
He said he will respect whatever decision Horn-beak makes to remedy the problem, but is certain “good government can be achieved in the town with a smaller board.”
Dozier, presiding in Burpo’s absence, asked aldermen Tuesday night if they wished to consider dropping the number to three aldermen after having previously decided on five. Truett, Finch and Caksackkar all said they feel more comfortable having five aldermen. Alderman Leon Walden noted that with recent annexation, there may be increased interest in the board from new residents.
Caksackkar made a motion to leave the number at five aldermen, as previously decided, and it was seconded by Truett and approved by the board. In addition to Burpo, aldermen Christina Gray and Debi Jerden were absent.
After the vote, the board approved the resolution to officially request the amendments to the town’s charter from the state’s legislature.
Other action
In other action during Tuesday night’s meeting, Hornbeak’s board of aldermen:
• Officially received and reluctantly accepted Caksackkar’s resignation from the board. He had been appointed to fill out an unexpired term and he thanked aldermen for the opportunity, adding there is the possibility he may someday return to Hornbeak.
• Approved payment of bills, including several pertaining to repairs to a fire department tanker and one closing out equipment ordered through a forestry grant. Hornbeak Fire Chief Bob Reavis said the department hopes to have the tanker back in service by Sunday.
• Learned from Reavis that the town will not be able to make the grant deadline to apply for funding for a fire station this year, with the town’s sewer grant project still not closed out. He said they can try for the February 2014 application date.
• Learned the town’s walking track is almost complete.
• Was reminded the town will be a satellite feeding site for next Tuesday’s Feeding of the 5,000, with meals to be served to those in need throughout the day at Hornbeak City Hall.
Published in The Messenger 11.15.12