by Sean Macken

At Tuesday afternoon’s meeting, Long Beach Mayor George Bass, with the unanimous consent of the Board of Aldermen, swore in acting Chief Griff Skellie as the new Fire Chief effective July 1, 2019. With his right hand on a bible held by his father, and former Long Beach Mayor, Billy Skellie, Chief Skellie took the oath of office. Chief Skellie was named the acting Chief when then Fire Chief Mike Brown announced his retirement in February. Mayor Bass said he was proud of Chief Skellie’s accomplishments and knew he was the man for the job.

After a short celebration, the Board returned to other city business. The Board approved all but item #1 of the June 13th Planning and Development Commission’s minutes. David & Lynda Youmans are appealing a tree removal recommendation that will be addressed at the July 2nd Planning & Development Commission meeting.

The agenda then turned to addressing docket claims for the city to pay. Unlike most meetings, Alderman Bernie Parker indicated he was voting no on a specific claim of $180,000 settlement payment for an undisclosed lawsuit brought against the City. Alderman Parker emphasized he wanted his objections noted in the public record. Alderman Mark Lishen joined in voting against the docket claims. Payment of the docket claim was approved by a vote of 5-2.

Appointments for the next 2-year term of the Long Beach Planning & Development Commission came up next in front of the Board. The Mayor and Aldermen then announced their appointments: Shawn Barlow and Frank Olaiver (Mayor Bass’s appointments); Jeff Hansen (Alderman Frazer); Kevin McKenzie (Alderman Robertson); Chris Carruba (Alderman Parker); Eddie Seal  (Alderman Griffin); Mark McMillin (Alderman McCaffrey); Larry Ward (Alderman Lishen); and Junior Husband (Alderman Bennett). Of note, Mr. Husband will replace Randy Fischer who resigned. Mayor Bass publicly thanked Fischer for his hard work and encouraged the Board to pass on their thanks as well.

The Board then approved an entertainment contract of $4,000 for next year’s Jeepin’ The Coast, slated to be hosted by the City of Long Beach on May 30, 2020.

As the night’s agenda moved to the Mayor’s business, Mayor Bass brought forward a request not on the official agenda to support the Fetch Dog Park project. Mayor Bass requested the board approve an expenditure of $25,030 to keep the project moving forward. This did not sit well with several Aldermen. Aldermen Robertson and Bennett did not see how the City could make this payment at this time due to higher priority projects. The Board asked what happened with the promised support of the Harrison County Board of Supervisors. Mayor Bass noted County Board President Marlin Ladner indicated he could not follow through with financial support due to a higher priority to pave Mitchell Road near Pineville Road. Board members also asked why the Fetch Dog Park Committee was not able to support this, and the Mayor stated he did not believe they the money at this time to contribute. The payment would go towards required wetlands mitigation credits. After another rare lengthy debate, the Board voted 5-2 to approve the Mayor’s request.

Mayor Bass also updated the Board on recent visits to Washington D.C. to secure funding for various projects including drainage, the harbor, and Beatline Parkway effort. He stated another visit was slated for July and more specifics would be provided at a later meeting.

The Mayor then provided time to Alderman Kelly Griffin to speak about the July 19th “Leaders Against Litter” event. She invited her colleagues and the Mayor to support the event and schedule cleanups throughout all wards.

City Engineer David Ball updated the Board on several construction projects, to include a request for the Board to approve change orders for the drainage improvements on Lover’s Lane and Daugherty Roads. The Board approved the change orders; however, they acknowledged the prime contractor would revisit additional change orders for time overages due to delays caused by other installations in the area by other businesses.

City Attorney Jim Simpson closed out the meeting by apprising the Board of several items. First, he noted he would have finalized lawsuit language to move forward with Board sanctioned condemnation efforts for properties at 108 Park Road and 247 Reinike Road and asked the City Clerk to include official minutes be included in the lawsuit filing. Two condemnation lawsuits for undisclosed properties would not move forward because the property owners had taken the necessary action to bring the properties into compliance.

Simpson then reminded the Mayor and Board that any desired application for funds from the BP Restoration fund had to be filed by July 31, 2019, which would also require resolutions from the Mayor and Board prior to submission.

With no further business identified, the Board adjourned. The next meeting will be held at City Hall Tuesday July 2, 2019.