Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - December 2008
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City fathers deny appeal
Houston County Courier - December 2008
By Daphne Hereford
In a unanimous vote by the members of Crockett City Council present at the regular meeting held on Monday night, Dec. 1, city fathers denied an appeal by Magic Media to allow them to reconstruct billboards damaged during Hurricane Ike.
Shortly after calling the meeting to order at 6 p.m. Mayor Wayne Mask said that council would adjourn to an executive session to consult with the city attorney regarding the billboard ordinance.
About 10 minutes later City Attorney Bill Penderton indicated the executive session was over but quickly recanted saying one council member had another question. At 6:26 p.m. the public meeting reconvened.
Following the executive session, in his opening remarks to Council, Michael Burkepile, Magic Media real estate manager said, "We do not feel the code enforcement officer read the whole ordinance when making the determination," citing that the winds produced by Hurricane Ike were double what the city requirements called for and that one of the signs only had 25 percent damage because the damage was only to one face of a four face structure.
"We want you to reconsider. We are a business in the city and want to be treated like every other business," Burkepile said.
Councilman James Hall, before posing several questions to Burkepile, said, "I don't know much about your business, please enlighten me about Magic Media."
Burkepile said Magic Media was the fourth largest company of its kind in the U.S. and they had billboards in four states numbering some 4,000 spaces. He added that the average cost per month to advertise on the billboards was $125-$200 but added that costs could be as much as $350 per month.
Hall referred to a letter written by Magic Media dated Nov. 18, that in effect they were asking for special consideration to deviate from the ordinance because the signs were blown down by a storm.
Hall asked how many signs Magic Media owned in the city and City Administrator Ron Duncan said there were 62 permitted to them.
Hall said that 90 percent of Magic Media's signs were still operational if only seven were damaged in the storm.
Hall asked Duncan to read from both the Home Rule Charter and the sign ordinance to convey his point.
Hall said, "The issue here is only if the code enforcement officer made an error in judgment as to the cost of replacement percentage, I feel the damage to the sign would cost more than 60 percent to rebuild," noting that is what the ordinance requires.
Hall then made a motion to deny the appeal.
Councilman Jackie Jones was absent from the meeting and the remaining councilmen voted unanimously for approval of Hall's motion to deny Magic Media's request.
Following the vote, Councilman Darius Kitchen said, "I want to make it known it is not what I wanted."
Councilman Nathan Gardner followed by saying the city had worked hard on an ordinance and a storm came and seven signs were blown down and someone should have mercy and allow them to rebuild them.
Council conducted other city business before hearing from three citizens during the public comment portion of the meeting.
The first to address council was Billy Groves who said, "We can agree to disagree. It's crazy not to allow them to build their business back. Y'all all own your homes. Y'all are living off black people being arrested."
Next up was Kelly Nicol who said he did not believe the city was allowed to go into executive session stating, "I will take that up with the attorney general."
The final round of comments on the billboard issue came from Ansel Bradshaw who said he wanted to correct an error. "Ten billboards were blown down, not seven," he said.
"We have a situation that consists of opinions. I realize we have a law," Bradshaw said.
"In the future have the code enforcement officer ask for a bid plan about costs to reconstruct the sign, I think that is what should have been done," Bradshaw said.
In other business, council awarded the high bid for a surplus 1992 Jeep Cherokee to Wesley Wood in the amount of $520. Duncan said the remainder of the surplus property would be sold as scrap since the bids that were received were so low.
Council unanimously approved an ordinance establishing an identity theft prevention program for transactions with the city.