ROGERSVILLE - Although members adopted an ordinance, on first reading, that would leave a vacancy six months before a city election, by the end of Tuesday night’s city meeting Mark DeWitte was named to a vacant alderman’s seat on the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The seat became vacant in November with the resignation of Philip Beal, who moved outside the city. Appointing a new alderman was not on the agenda for Tuesday night’s BMA meeting, but an ordinance dealing with filling vacancies was. City Attorney Bill Phillips said he had been asked to “look into” filling the vacancy. "The charter provides that the Board of Mayor and Alderman has the authority to adopt the manner and method any vacancies will be filled," the attorney explained. "You have the authority to do it but you have to have an ordinance in place to do it." The proposed ordinance would give the remaining members of the BMA the authority to fill any vacancy but had a blank section stating that any vacancy occurring an undetermined number of months prior to an election would remain empty. Alderman Brian Hartness suggested the blank be filled with a six-month deadline. The last time a vacancy occurred was in 2009 when alderman Bennie Floyd died in February of that year and Eloise Edwards, who came in seventh in the 2005 election, was appointed to the vacancy in April. She then went on to win the seat in that June’s election. Using the language of the proposed ordinance, Edwards would not have been appointed with the Floyd and Beal seats remaining empty. Alderman John Johnson questioned why the board needed to make the proposed change now. "We have always, at least the two times that I know of, gone to the next top vote getter," Johnson said, adding that even unsuccessful candidates get to know the voters and issues the city faces. Mark DeWitte, who was the seventh ranked alderman candidate in the 2009 city election, questioned whether adoption of the ordinance, which would not be final until March, would prevent the city from acting on the vacancy. "Before the ordinance is actually approved could the board appoint whoever they want before the ordinance goes into play?" DeWitte inquired. "I’m not prepared to say one way or the other. It’s been done in the past," Phillips replied, with the attorney later adding that "because the city has done it wrong in the past doesn’t mean we should continue doing it." Edwards said the appointment process was something the board should have already addressed. "I think we have let the people down by taking care of this before hand," Edwards said, suggesting any new policy should be addressed by a new board, with the current board making an appointment to fill the vacancy. The ordinance was adopted but then at the end of the meeting Johnson made a motion to fill the vacancy with DeWitte, which was approved unanimously by the aldermen. In other business the BMA approved a calendar for the upcoming June 1 city election. Candidates will have until noon on March 21 to submit a petition to election officials, with a withdrawal deadline of noon on March 28. May 2 is the final day to register to vote and early voting begins on May 13 and continues until May 24. According to election officials, as of midday Thursday Mayor Jim Sells, of Nelson Street, has picked up a petition making another run for mayor, and incumbent Alderman Eloise Edwards, of West Hills Drive, has one for alderman. Others who have picked up petitions for an alderman’s seat include Bill Henderson, of Spindletop Drive, Michael Bradley, of Cate Lane, and Gay Murrell, of Pine Ridge Road. The BMA also: • Approved, on third and final reading, an ordinance annexing the Rogersville Street Department property on Colonial Road; • Approved a budget amendment to fund a School Resource Officer at the Rogersville City School for the remainder of the fiscal year; • Approved, on third and final reading, an ordinance rezoning two parcels on West Broadway for business use; • Added John Metz to the Historic Preservation Commission, replacing Clayton Armstrong; • Approved, on second reading, an ordinance establishing rules for retail package liquor stores, with an amendment that the square footage for display space be reduced to 1,000 square feet; and • Approved, on second reading, ordinances concerning liquor by the drink rules and an ordinance renaming the Beer Board to the Rogersville Alcohol Beverage Board.
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