By Leila Beem Núñez, News Editor
The Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen will hold a vote on whether to approve the new city charter on Tuesday, Dec. 20. The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at city hall.
In a previous meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 6, the board voted to table the charter for further discussion, which was reviewed and adjusted in a work session Monday, Dec. 12 by attending aldermen, city and University of Tennessee Municipal Advisory Service attorneys and Mayor Lonnie Norman.
One of the issues discussed at the work session was whether or not an article in the old charter, prohibiting an individual employed by the city of Manchester to hold any other compensated city office before his or her term of office has expired, should be left unchanged. In the proposed change to the new charter, an individual would be allowed to hold a second city-appointed office if he or she had resigned from their original post, even if their term had not yet finished. Though Honna Rogers, the MTAS attorney present, said other attorneys at MTAS advised that this prohibition was not legal, Alderman Bob Bellamy questioned why it would be against the law.
“If the federal government does it, I don’t see why we can’t do it here,” Bellamy said.
During the work session, the article was changed back to the original, with minor rewording making clear that a person employed by the city could run for elected office regardless of whether or not his or her term had ended.
Another major matter of discussion was that of who had legal right to vote in the city of Manchester, particularly pertaining to individuals who do not reside in the city but own property there. The session attendees decided the article in question should state that a person owning 6,000 square feet of property in the city, up from the previous 5,000 square feet, can vote in a city election. The voter should be otherwise qualified to vote in state elections, the proposed article change will state, and furthermore be an individual, not a corporation. Alderman Bellamy clarified that according to the proposed wording a person can own a business in the city and still vote, as long as one does so individually.
“I’d just hate to exclude just the average guy who has a little company here in town,” Bellamy said.
Also discussed was whether or not an article in the charter, stating that 20 percent of the enrollment in city schools can be made up of non-Manchester residents as long as they pay tuition, can be made an ordinance and left out of the actual charter. Alderman Cheryl Swan, had originally proposed making the 20 percent definition an ordinance.
“We wanted to see if we could do that because if the percentage needed to be changed in the future, it would be easier to do that. If we left it in the charter, it could take up to a year to change,” Swan said, adding that Manchester Board of Education director Lee Wilkerson told the board of aldermen that tuition enrollment was already up to 10 percent.
Swan, who had voted in favor of tabling the matter of the charter for further discussion during the Dec. 6 meeting, said that though getting the charter passed is crucial, getting it passed without mistakes is even more so.
“The charter pretty much lays out how the city is to be run,” Swan said. “It’s one of the most important things we can change and pass, so we’ve got to make sure we get it right.”
The charter must pass two initial readings, be sent to the state legislature for ratification, and pass a final reading after state approval. The first reading will take place at the meeting Dec. 20.