Dispute ends city council meeting early

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Not liking the verbal appetizers presented by the chairman, Ironton's City Council went home Thursday with the full meal left on the table.

Now, they will all sit down at the legislative dinner table again tonight in a special meeting but only the original agenda can be discussed. Items include final adjustments to the 2004 budget and the transfer of property in the South Ironton Industrial Park to the Ironton Port Authority.

Barely 15 minutes into the regular meeting during audience participation, council voted 4-2 to adjourn after several members took exception to Chairman Jim Tordiff outlining his opinions on the city's financial state and the much-debated - and four times defeated - $10 municipal fee.

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Councilmen Bill Nenni and Richard Price each attempted to stop Tordiff on grounds that he was violating the meeting procedure by addressing the topic again during the audience participation portion of the meeting. The city solicitor said he would have to research it to determine exactly what the charter allows. Tordiff continued and the council called it quits for the night.

Councilmen Nenni, Price Bob Isaac, Jesse Roberts and Richard Price voted to adjourn. Tordiff and Councilman Chuck O'Leary voted no. Councilman Brent Pyles was absent.

"We have heard all this stuff time after time after time. We have all heard this plenty of times," Nenni said. "I am not here to have the chairman preach to me. I am here to make decisions on how to run the city of Ironton."

Nenni said that he believes the voters voiced their opposition to any types of fees by voting down the income tax increase and floodwall levy in November.

To continue to talk about the $10 fee is simply "beating a dead horse," Nenni said.

The councilmen obviously anticipated the action because they immediately presented documentation calling for the special meeting at 6:16 p.m. tonight so that only the items on the postponed agenda could be addressed. The time was set to meet state law requiring 24-hour notice to the media.

After the meeting, Tordiff said he cannot recall such a situation ever occurring before in his years with the city. The chairman adamantly defended his right to talk about the city's finances and called the entire episode "a disservice to the citizens."

"I don't know what (council) is trying to accomplish other than to limit discussion," he said. "Š I think it is out and out rude and I am very, very disappointed in this council."

Since the city continues to spend between $300,000 and $500,000 more than it brings in each year, Tordiff said something has to be done before it is too late, if it isn't already.

"I think this group will hand over financial ruin to the next group in November," Tordiff said. "Our problems did not occur overnight and they will not be fixed overnight."

The entire issue began when resident Mike Pearson spoke up once again saying that he does not understand why the city will not implement the $10 fee and take his money. Tordiff then took the opportunity to say that the city is at a crossroads and that council must look at the big picture.

Once the $10 fee came up, the line in the sand was apparently crossed as majority of council then voted to adjourn until today.

The budget remains a hot topic. The city began this year with $770,000 in carryover and is projected to end with $370,000. So, financial issues will likely be the main course again tonight.