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Numerous issues raised at Dresden’s board meeting

By Shannon Taylor

The board meeting had a full house with more than 40 people showing up in person and many viewing the Facebook livestream. Issues were raised regarding property owners’ demolition on the south side of court square, the dumpster at Be the Village, livestreaming the city’s meeting to keep on the city’s website for two years and much more.

When going over the minutes from the previous meeting, alderman Kenneth Moore said he wanted the meetings set up with video and audio so people who couldn’t attend could watch the meetings from home and to remain on the city’s website for up to two years. That way if anyone has any questions they can reference what goes on at the meetings.

Mayor Jeff Washburn said, “That could be done, yes.”

Moore also brought up the property owners on the south side of the square who were included in the combined demolition costs. He wanted to know who all owned property there who haven’t had there property deeded over to the city.

Washburn said he and his wife deeded their property over to the city. He added that Keeley Nanny, owner of a law firm on Court Square, “has been mailed a deed to sign.”

Moore asked for clarification on a deed being mailed for her to sign.

City attorney Beau Pemberton said, “I was asked to prepare deeds for the Dickey Hutcherson property, the Keeley Nanney property, the property owned by Mr. and Mrs. Washburn that used to be Poppi’s Pizza …”

Moore interjected, “I’m talking about these four individuals — did these people — did they say before, ‘Send us something to sign where we can give our property’ or did y’all just take it upon yourselves to send it?”

Washburn said, “I talked to the district attorney general and he planned to talk to Nanney and that he planned to talk to Dickey Hutcherson, too, and as far as I know he did. We have not had a commitment from Dickey Hutcherson to give the property to the city of Dresden. He’s offered to negotiate a price for the purchase of it, which would mean that he is going to assume the costs for the demolition.”
The mayor said Nanney was mailed a copy of the deed. “I believe she may have also received a copy of what the cost of her share of the demolition was,” he said.

Moore said, “You’re saying it’s going to be taken care of tonight? It’s going to be explained? It’s not for me. It’s for these people here that don’t understand what’s going on.”

Later in the meeting, it was brought up by alderman Klutts in reference to the demolition on whether the city had received something signed by each of the property owners stating they were all in agreement.
Washburn said, “Well, every one of them was present here and Tony Winstead, in fact, signed a request for demolition. The others had talked to and made that specific request. I don’t know that any of them signed the forms of requesting the demolition, but all of them were in agreement with it.”

Klutts responded, “Okay. So what if we don’t have anything signed and somebody decides they didn’t want their building demolished? What’s going to happen then?”

Washburn said, “I don’t think you’re going to find that. Everybody knew what was going on and were agreeable to it. That would be a surprise to me if somebody said that. Tony Winstead did actually sign a request for demolition and has done some backstepping on that.”

The Press spoke with Winstead, who said what was done was done without his permission. He told The Press he never signed anything. He said he drove by and saw the demolition taking place and told them what was going on was illegal. He said that everything he wanted to salvage was already destroyed by the time he saw it. “I’d like to see where he says I signed,” he said. “I don’t remember physically signing anything.”
Winstead said he went up to City Hall when a questionnaire was sent out to the property owners about the demolition and told Branscum that he needed more information before he signed off on anything.

In the communication from the mayor, Washburn said they still have not received bids for a contractor to do the monitoring for the debris pickup and that they have extended the date for that to Friday May 6th. He was hopeful that by Friday they would have a response. If not, this could further delay the pile of debris that is steadily growing at the water tower. “I know that somebody has already tried to make a complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency,” he said. “The Tennessee Department of Health and Environment did approve a permit for that site for a temporary holding facility for the construction debris. That’s why that material is there.” It was further stated that TDEC is aware that the city does not own that and Washburn said the owner “wants the property cleaned up as soon as possible as well and has been very patient.”

The mayor moved on with comments on the allocation committee and long-term recovery group, stating, “I think it’s time that we have some recording about what funds have been received or are expected to be received and I call upon them to make those reports available as soon as possible — not only to the city of Dresden, but to the media as well, and I expect them to likewise draw up the plan for the distribution of those profits — how it will be done, how the applications will be taken, and to share that information with the public so that the public is aware of what’s going on with those funds. There’s been too many questions and too much finger pointing back at the city of Dresden and myself about those funds.”

Washburn said the donation they received from Putnam County was forwarded to the Dresden Rotary Club, which he stated was a part of the long-term recovery group. He said every organization that has money to contribute will have a seat on that committee. “Unless that policy has changed today and from what I find is that sometimes the policies that we are told originally that were gonna happen becomes very elusive and it changes,” he said. “I feel like there is a need for accountability and there needs to be something in writing about what the policies are and how these funds are gonna be handled so there’s no confusion on the part of us as a city board, so there’s no confusion on the part of citizens that might be a recipient of those funds and so that there’s no confusion about the other citizens in the city of Dresden about how those funds are gonna be handled and distributed and what they’re intent is with those funds.”

In the input from citizens, Chelsea Woods spoke on her high water bill for a two-month period due to a water leak she had resolved, and requested some relief on the high bills which ended up totaling well over $1,000 in a two-month period. For the first bill, the city was able to give her an adjustment, but they were not able to adjust her second bill without the board’s approval due to a policy for one adjustment per year. The board unanimously approved the allotment of a second adjustment.

The next citizen to speak was Jackie Lamb concerning his storage buildings and wanting a certificate of occupancy that he was not able to receive from the inspector. “The building inspector is giving me pushback,” he said, adding that he had done everything he needed to do that he was requested to, but he felt like he could open the buildings if he had that certificate. The alderman wanted to get in touch with the inspector and have a called meeting to go over all of the issues related to that before making a decision.

Jasmine Williams, a tornado victim, asked where the conversation was at regarding the tornado sirens in Dresden. Washburn said, “Right now we’re to the point of how you apply for funding for those items. FEMA told us to find a contractor and have them do a survey of the city to determine what’s needed to reach the areas of the city and then to have a contractor give a price for what he conceives would be a total reach to the community. We’re going to proceed and see if we can get some mitigation funding for that.”

Sandra Taylor from Be the Village voiced concerns regarding her dumpster that was removed by the city and asked the city to bring it back and pay for it because she has still been helping the citizens of Dresden. The board voted for the city to pay for the dumpster and for it to be brought back to her location on Evergreen.

In reports from aldermen, Dilday asked about the electronic open meetings that Pemberton was looking into for them and that response was that someone could call in for a meeting if they were sick as long as a quorum was present in person for the meeting and that the use of that should be used sparingly.

Dilday also brought up the debris pile at the water tower and the residents houses located nearby. “Are we monitoring that and keeping the trash picked up?”

Director of Public Works Josh Lassiter said, “We put up some fencing and we pick up that area frequently. We’ve got it blocked off and we’ve stopped people from going to both locations.”

Dilday responded, “That’s not our land and if someone gets hurt on it, we’re going to be liable.”

Alderman Klutts made a motion to have the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) review the city charter for any updates that might be needed or any changes and bring it back. The motion was passed unanimously.

The first reading of the 2022-23 fiscal year budget included a balance budget and was balanced with a zero property tax increase. It does have a water rate increase due to the sewer budget having a lot of depreciation. Washburn said, “It has to be funded under the state law and the reason we have a lot of depreciation is we have a lot of assets that have been improved over the last few years that are now starting to accrue depreciation to a higher rate. This may be only a short-time increase-we might be able to lower it back down once we get houses rebuilt, businesses rebuilt and water usage comes back up as a result of returning population.”
The motion to approve the first reading was approved with a 5-1 vote with a no from alderman Moore.

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