Council approves switch to at large election


CORDOVA - The Cordova City Council approved a plan Tuesday night to reduce the size of the council and have members run at large in the upcoming municipal election.

The change, which had been discussed in several recent meetings, passed 5-1 with council member Ed Earp as the dissenting vote.

Candidates will qualify to run for one of five open seats in the Aug. 25 election. The council currently has seven members who run according to district.

Residents will be able to vote for all council members in addition to the mayor rather than one individual to represent their district. 

Mayor Drew Gilbert championed the switch, citing the complexity and cost of the current system as well as the lack of interest in running for office. Six incumbents were elected without opposition in the 2016 election, and one council member was appointed after the election because no one ran from that district. 

The council was required to approve such a change by Feb. 25, six months before the election.

Also on Tuesday, the council opened four bids from contractors interested in clearing, grading and seeding the Indian Head Mills site, which the city intends to make into a passive recreational park.

The city recently received $60,000 from the Walker Area Community Foundation to complete the first phase of the park project.

The council did not vote on the bids Tuesday night, allowing officials time to ensure that all of the contractors were qualified bidders. Once the bid is awarded, which is expected to occur at the next meeting, the contractor will have 14 days to begin the work and 85 days to complete.

In other action, the council tabled a decision on approving a 3 percent annual raise for all employees who have been with the city for at least six months. The merit increases, which Gilbert instituted early in his administration, were included in the current budget. Council member Nakia Belser asked for the opportunity to review the figures before approving the increase. Gilbert said he will also be providing a budget update for the first quarter. 

Fire Chief Dean Harbison also informed the council that the department will be answering some additional calls because two local volunteer fire departments are shutting down.

Hay Valley’s department has already closed, according to Harbison. Parrish’s fire department will handle the bulk of the calls in that coverage area, but Cordova Fire and Rescue will answer calls as needed.

“That’s not going to be our primary area because we’re not going to assume that much coverage area, but in the event that we’re needed, we’ll come as requested,” Harbison said. 

The department will also answer major incidents on U.S. Interstate 22 up to the Dora exit in the event that Yerkwood’s fire department loses its charter, which is expected, according to Harbison.

Harbison repeated comments made at the previous meeting about how grateful he was for the ongoing support of the council, especially in light of multiple area departments closing or in danger of doing so because they lack the financial commitment from their community.

Also, Gilbert announced that police officers will be concentrating on reducing speeding on Gardners Gin Road around Neal Akins Bridge where the speed limit decreases from 45 mph to 35 mph.

“We’ve got to change some habits,” Gilbert said.