After an executive session at the end of its regular monthly meeting July 8, the Kuttawa City Council reconvened for nearly another hour to rehash something members had spent the vast majority of their earlier session discussing: Whether they should pave the grass lot across from Hu-B's to be used as a parking lot.
The executive session convened in order for the council to discuss details of its audit that could have bearing on the ongoing investigation into missing funds discovered in the city clerk's office while former Clerk Katie Harrison held the position.
As a courtesy to the public and media in attendance, officials generally announce prior to an executive session whether they believe there will be any action taken as a result of the session. If they believe there is no action to be taken, visitors often stay to hear the outcome, which is publicly announced. If there is no action to be taken, it is standard for those not included in the session to leave, and the meeting to be officially adjourned at the end of the executive session. As was the case with this meeting, however, sometimes plans change.
Kuttawa Mayor Jimmy Campbell said he did not expect the regular meeting to reconvene as it did after the executive session, as no action was taken in the session, so when the council opted to continue its public meeting after the session it was to an empty house.
It is important to note, this way of conducting a meeting is in line with open meeting laws, and the city immediately offered a recording of the post-executive session portion of the meeting to the Herald Ledger upon request.
Earlier in the meeting, while Kuttawa City Hall was still packed with visitors, as it is regularly the most well-attended of public meetings in Lyon County, council members heard a proposal from Hu-B's/Kuttawa Harbor owner Wayne Breedlove about the possibility of paving the lot across from his marina, which is already used as overflow parking.
The grassy lot is owned by the Corps of Engineers, but the City of Kuttawa holds the lease on it until 2026, which is why Breedlove needed the city's permission to proceed with the project, even though he was willing to fund it himself.
After over an hour of discussion, the council took what was essentially an up or down vote on the project, with council members Kenny Ames, Sean Cotham, and Kim Clapp voting to proceed with the project (pending any necessary regulatory information that arose), and council members Sandra Stark, Tom Simpson, and Skyla Grief voting in opposition.
This left them at a 3-3 tie, which Campbell broke by voting 'no.'
The meeting that took place after the executive session saw a still-divided council rehash the issue, with Clapp eventually making a motion that would allow the mayor to move forward with what is essentially a fact-finding mission to see whether the parking lot project is even possible, and to help the city gather all information necessary for them to make an educated decision.
The council members voted down the same lines as the previous vote on the new motion, though this time Campbell broke the tie by voting in the affirmative, thereby allowing them to move forward with gathering information.
"The first vote was up or down, just up or down," Campbell told the Herald Ledger on Thursday. He said that vote was easy, because the only concrete information Breedlove presented to the council was a map of the area he hoped to pave.
Since the meeting, he has been working to gather information to present to the council at their next meeting, where there will undoubtedly be more discussion on the controversial topic.
As it stands, he said he has already spoken with nearly every entity that would be involved in the process.
"I've about got all the ones I had initially decided I needed to talk to with the exception of the Corps of Engineers, so I've got to set up something between now and then and see what our lease actually says," Campbell explained. "Jay (Matheny, Kuttawa city attorney) brought up that there was some language in there that we had to return the property to its original state, or might have to, and that kinda flipped me out, so I'm going to make sure that's not an issue… That'd break the deal."
Campbell also expressed concerns about maintaining the city's easement around the property, which is something else he said will need to be addressed.
There is also the issue of liability when it comes to the property.
"That snake's got a lot of tails. Liability, that became an issue. Once I got through one step of it, then the next step said 'Well, do you have a policy that would cover this?'" he said. "Well, since we don't have the blacktop down, we don't have it covered for that kind of an accident. And whether our umbrella coverage would be enough, I don't know. I guess the insurance question, I'll have to ask."
Campbell said the council will have all of the information he gathers with ample time for members to examine it themselves and pinpoint any concerns or questions before their next meeting on Aug. 12.