While a fantastic conversation was engaged at the council’s special session tonight, no action was taken and the Fairpoint Bldg. sale remains intact.
There were some clear issues that were my observations borne on-the-record tonight:
1. The purpose of this evening’s Special Meeting was to request council’s approval of an extension on the Fairpoint properties purchase so the council and public could get educated on information that was not previously highlighted/known to either, and allowing public discourse to be scheduled before a final approval would be granted. Adhering to the council’s proclamations of open government, transparency, and public process were the primary subjects of this evening’s session, because May 2nd’s first public announcement to May 22nd’s approval vote, 20 days, was not enough time for public education and properly scheduled discourse on this purchase.
Further, the council and their constituents were not provided the guidance of a licensed, professional advisor. This contributed to a lack of understanding, both from council and the public, especially on important details in a technical 112 page appraisal and in the local commercial real estate market, issues that were only raised publicly this evening. Public comments to council and on social media voiced concerns that their opinion does not matter yet again, only echoed tonight with no will by the council’s majority to further investigate.
2. Very few if any of the councilors were aware of specific aspects of the appraisal that would have been best if clearly enunciated to them and the public by a licensed, professional advisor. Two councilors expressed a desire to extend the PSA to include public feedback on new information presented tonight, however eventually capitulated knowing they were not the majority, both deciding not to make a motion of such.
Bottom line, the council learned tonight they have be more involved in reading/learning/understanding nuances of Action items.
3. One councilor reported Executive Sessions have no Minutes and that the city attorney should be consulted on what can be openly discussed in public from those sessions, as the mayor was not able to quote the regulations. More education on Executive Sessions protocols will surely ensue.
4. The timing and methods of how the public documents for this sale were made available and difficulty of public access to locate via the council Agendas, on the city website, in the media, and social media were raised by some councilors, by a public commenter, and on the city’s social media platform. Better public communication is in the offing. For the future, whenever council approves a real estate Purchase-Sale Agreement (PSA), the dissemination of established information protocols via an open house, public hearing, and plenty of opportunity for public access to the related documents in social media should be entertained.
5. One councilor thanked the public for attending, noting the room was filled and had more visitors than either of the last 2 meetings that had this sale on the council agendas. However, most were city staff and rightly so as they have a vested interest, plus a former councilor and another a planning commission member.
Another asked former Councilor Bob Isom, who commented supporting the purchase, why he did not buy the property when presented to him (and council in 2012). He replied, “Because the time wasn’t right and quite frankly, it was over-valued.” However, Isom’s council did not negotiate to lower the Ycom Networks, Inc. list price and also omitted public process (no open house to educate the public, no solicitation of public inclusion, and no public hearing). Instead, they bought the 2nd floor Fay Fuller Building condo for the library in a transaction way more expensive than the Ycom Networks properties.
It’s about the future! Changes will follow from tonight’s session and that is good.