The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 16, 2013

Councilman deftly delays road paving

By Jean Cole

— Athens City Councilman Joseph Cannon deftly delayed a vote Monday that would have allowed the city to spend $40,000 to pave Village Lane.

The road — which serves 14 homes on a cul-de-sac south of U.S. 72 and east of Interstate 65 — has not been paved for 25 to 27 years, residents told council members before the vote.

District 2 Council President Harold Wales, in whose district the road lies, put the item on Monday’s agenda for consideration. The road is one of the 25 or so residential streets identified by the council in March as needing to be paved.

Cannon, a first-year member of the council and, at age 32, its youngest member, said he did not oppose paving the road. However, after driving the road twice in the past few days, he questioned the priority of the road over other roads on the list.

“I want to pave roads based on priority, not seniority,” Cannon told The News Courier after the meeting. He believes the council needs to prioritize the list it identified in March and follow it accordingly.

During the work session before the meeting, Cannon pressed Wales, Councilman Jimmy Gill and Councilman Wayne Harper to delay the vote so he could determine the priority of paving Village Lane over other streets.

He questioned the street’s low population, its location on a cul-de-sac and its low traffic count compared to others on the list. He said other roads, such as Linton Road, which comes up for paving approval soon, makes more sense because its house and traffic counts are higher and because it leads to a developing area. The other roads would bring more rooftops, which would lure more retail development, Cannon said.

Council members declined to delay the vote, mainly because Village Lane was included on the priority list already established even if the list itself is not prioritized.

Residents speak

Before the vote, two residents of Village Lane asked the council to approve the repaving.

Tom Smith said it had been 25 to 27 years since the city had paved Village Lane, though he said the city had “filled potholes with tar,” over the years. The last time the road was paved, Smith said, property owners had to pay $500 toward the cost of the project.

(Mayor Ronnie Marks told The News Courier after the meeting residents had to pay to pave the road because the road had not yet been annexed into the city.)

“I realize we are just 14 houses,” Smith said. “We are not a big voting bloc. This is not a big political thing. We feel we are as entitled as those streets with 40 or 50 people (to have our road paved.)”

Resident Harry Joiner said he moved to Village Lane in 1987, and that the road had not been paved since.

“The city has not spent any money on Village Lane,” he said. “I’d hate to wait another 27 years.”

Wales asked the council for a vote to suspend the rules so the resolution could be introduced and voted on at the same meeting. Council members Wales, Gill and Harper voted “yea,’ while Cannon voted “nay.”

Cannon then invoked a rule approved earlier by the council allowing a member to delay action on a resolution until the next schedule meeting if the resolution proposes spending money that has not yet been budgeted by the council.

With the matter officially delayed, Wales said to Cannon, “I’m disappointed in that but probably you will be disappointed in me some time.”

After the meeting, former District 4 Councilman Jim Hickman, whom Cannon unseated, asked The News Courier to note that he was “very proud” of Cannon for his tactful effort to slow down the process and look closely at the expenditure.