East Ridge City Council members spent most of Tuesday's special meeting discussing the legality of an Aug. 29 meeting over objections of the audience to get to the task at hand -- voting for a second time to restart repairs to foot bridges in the Cedar Glen neighborhood.
The repairs to the neighborhood's 10 dilapidated and rotting wooden foot bridges that had been approved in April were stopped when the city learned that the neighborhood had not formed a neighborhood association to receive the funds -- something that was not communicated to residents.
In the Aug. 29 meeting, the council voted to continue repairs to the bridges without requiring the neighborhood to form an association. However, Mayor Brent Lambert said the August meeting may have violated the City Charter, which states emergency meetings can be called by the vice mayor or two councilmen in the mayor's absence or if the mayor is unable or unwilling to act. Tuesday's meeting was called to ensure the legality of the vote. The council voted unanimously Tuesday to restart the repairs.
"I agree wholeheartedly with the decision that was made. And yet, there is a right way and a wrong way to proceed in conducting city business. Tonight we are going to do it the right way," he said.
The meeting on Aug. 29 was called by Councilmen Jim Bethune and Denny Manning over the mayor's request that the meeting be moved to Tuesday because he would be out of town on Aug. 29, according to Lambert.
"For safety reasons, not because you were going to be out of town, nothing against you, I felt and feel that there was a special need," Bethune said. "There's nothing wrong with our [first] meeting; it was 100 percent [legal]."
Lambert also addressed several comments Bethune made to the Times Free Press, in which he said Bethune implied Lambert had been unresponsive to the special called meeting. Bethune said the mayor previously had called a meeting when he and Manning had been out of town.
As Lambert and Bethune argued, the audience became restless, whispering things like, "What does this have to do with this meeting?" and "You are wasting our time."
Susan Daniels, a Cedar Glen resident who has led the charge for the repairs, said she called the mayor to ask for the Aug. 29 meeting but he never responded.
"We had a gaping hole and that couldn't wait until the mayor was back from his vacation," she said. "I think he needs to keep in mind the safety of the residents."
The same statement could be made for all of the council members, Daniels said in regard to the arguing by officials that took place Tuesday.
"If they had in mind the safety of the residents, this would have been over long before this," she said.