Historic commission put on back burner
by Laura Johnson
Jacksonville residents who came to the city’s Monday council meeting to hear discussion about a proposed historic commission, left disappointed.

The city council planned to discuss the idea in a work session Monday, but ran out of time after discussion about cemetery mapping, road projects and ambulance billing. The delay is becoming routine for the handful of area residents who have begun attending each meeting in support of establishing the commission, they said.

“It seems like it keeps getting pushed off,” said Gail DeParma, one of the commission supporters.

Council President Mark Jones said the city officials ran out of time to discuss the topic at the Monday work session. Jones also said the council was unable to discuss the matter at the last meeting due to time constraints.

Supporters expected to hear discussion on the matter during the next work session after learning that it would be on the agenda from an email sent from Jacksonville Councilman Jonathan Tompkins.  Tompkins said he’s also ready for the city to take the next step concerning the matter.

“I just want us to move forward. We’ve been talking about this for a while now,” Tompkins said.

Minutes before the work session ended, Mayor Johnny Smith said the city should discuss the matter at an upcoming council work session since they ran out of time Monday.  Work sessions are typically held before a formal meeting, but city officials scheduled one of the sessions for Thursday to discuss more items before the next formal meeting in two weeks.

Council members vote on city matters during formal meetings, and discuss them during work sessions.

Smith said he thinks the city needs to discuss the idea of creating a historic commission in greater detail before taking steps to establish one.

“I feel like the way it’s written now, it takes away too many property rights,” Smith said. “It’s just we didn’t get a chance to never talk about it.”

Discussion is just the first step toward creating change for the city. The council will have to read proposed historic commission resolution, a process known as the “first reading,” at one meeting and wait at least two weeks to vote on the matter at the next meeting.

“I was glad they didn’t put the first reading on it because I felt like we needed to have a discussion on it,” Smith said.

Smith added that he thinks establishing a historic commission could threaten the rights of some property owners and present cost concerns for city officials. Proponents of the establishment of a historic commission say it has the power to help the city secure grant funding and create jobs.

“It gives us another hurdle to discuss,” commission supporter Joseph Munster said at the close of the meeting.

Staff Writer Laura Johnson: 245-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.
© 2013