Perkins clashes with former alderman over gate issue

November 7, 2012 10:40:46 AM



By its normal standards, Tuesday's Board of Aldermen meeting figured to be a low-key affair. 


But the tension that emerged during the citizens' comment period made for a contentious meeting. 


Former Ward 1 Alderman Sumner Davis came to the board Tuesday night to address what he and former Mayor Dan Camp saw as serious allegations concerning their time in office made by Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins in connection with the construction and installation of an emergency access gate at Douglas McArthur Drive and Stark Road in 2007. 


After a veto override failed at the board's Oct. 16 meeting, Perkins called on chief administrative officer Lynn Spruill, city clerk Taylor Adams and city attorney Chris Latimer to answer questions about whether there had ever been a specific board vote ordering the installation of the gate. 


None of the officials said they had been able to find any record of a board vote on the matter in the board's minutes. Perkins said since the board speaks through its minutes and no authorization was found, the gate was not legal and had to be removed. 


That assertion drew a strenuous objection from Davis during Tuesday's meeting. 


"That is making allegations about something done illegally," Davis said. 


Davis repeatedly said he agreed with Perkins that there was, indeed, no specific board order to install a gate. Davis also agreed with Perkins that the board speaks through its minutes. 


But Davis argued that there was an order to address that intersection, which fell in Davis' ward at the time.  


Green Oaks subdivision was closed to Stark Road at Douglas McArthur Drive, Maple Street and Redbud Drive in March 2000, except to emergency vehicle access only at McArthur. Signs were posted declaring the intersection was closed to public traffic. 


"This happened before I was on the board, so when I was elected to the board, I inherited it," Davis said. 


During his tenure as alderman, Davis said he and Starkville Police Department Chief David Lindley received numerous complaints and expressions of concern about violations of the order, and short of parking a police car next to the intersection, very few solutions worked. 


In 2007, seven years after the board order was passed, Davis said Lindley suggested an emergency gate similar to the one at the city airport, which opens for emergency vehicles from the sound of their siren. Davis liked the idea and they installed the gate. 


At the Oct. 16 meeting, Perkins asked Spruill and Adams if there was anything on the claims docket that showed the payment of the gate. 


Both Spruill and Adams said that nothing had been found on the docket yet, but that a check had been found. Davis said this should have been enough for Perkins to know that the funding for the construction and installation of the gate was on the docket because there is a reference number on city checks that notes their place on the claims docket.  


"When Mrs. Spruill found the check, the thing should have been over," Davis said. "But then Mr. Perkins said the gate is illegal and wanted it removed. In all honesty, the only thing done illegally was when he asked Mrs. Spruill to take down that gate." 


Perkins vehemently denied that accusation. 


"Never would I distort any facts," Perkins said. "I strongly deny any and all allegations. "I want to make sure the record is clear." 


Perkins proceeded to shift the focus from himself to Spruill, Adams and Latimer, who he asked to "thoroughly and extensively" research the questions he would eventually ask at the Oct. 16 meeting. 


"I received all the facts as there were tended to me," Perkins said. "I said to be sure and sure and then sure. Based on those representations and facts, the gate was not legal and proper.  


"Alderman Perkins has done nothing wrong. When I get out-voted, I don't cry about it." 


Camp and Davis leaned forward in their seats, elbows on their knees, listening intently as Perkins spoke. 


Nothing was decided, and no action was taken. 


In other board business, the board voted down a permitted use exemption for 300 Traditions, a residential development proposed in the Thad Cochran Research Park. The motion failed 4-2-1, with Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas abstaining and Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver and Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker voting in favor of the motion. 


All seemed to agree that there is a future for residential mix at the research park, but divisions came mostly from the site plans presented by developer Clyde Pritchard. Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk and Dumas both had issues with the recently drafted chart of permitted uses.