Town council president resigns after sidewalk debate

“Buzz” King is stepping down as Nashville Town Council president.

He made the surprise announcement to fellow council members in the last couple minutes of the April 6 meeting.

It wasn’t something he’d planned, he explained afterward. It was based on personal reasons, and on the way fellow council members reacted to a legal situation discussed earlier in the meeting.

“I work 10 to 12 hours before coming here, and it’s just not worth it,” he told the council, about time spent on town business outside of meetings. “It’s not working out for me personally.”

“I can’t imagine the things I hear here,” he added.

In the hallway after the meeting, he said he was upset about council members’ willingness to compromise with a shop owner who had built a sidewalk on town land without permission, surveys or permits.

“It’s illegal,” King said, mentioning the oath he took as a council member.

“And to negate that by making a deal … I don’t want to be a part of it,” he said.

Clenna Perkins built a sidewalk with a handicap ramp behind property she owns near the town’s Old School Way restrooms. She told the council she thought the land was hers; however, the sidewalk is completely on town property.

Even when someone wants to build a sidewalk on their property in town, they need a permit first, King said. That way the town can check for potential problems with sidewalk placement, such as if it’s going over water or gas lines — which is the case with Perkins’ sidewalk, King said.

He said no one called 811 to try to locate utilities when the work was done, and there are other problems with it, too.

Utility Coordinator Sean Cassiday said the sidewalk also doesn’t appear to be fully ADA-compliant. It also blocks access to the mechanical room in the restroom building, said Nashville Parking and Public Facilities Commission President Lamond Martin.

Neighboring property owner Brian Yeatman said Perkins meant no harm, and they concede that what was done was wrong. But they hoped some kind of compromise could be made instead of tearing out the sidewalk.

Perkins said the new sidewalk provides handicap access to the town’s parking lot around the restrooms. She said her daughter, who has spinal problems, had fallen several times because of loose rocks and terrain before the sidewalk was built.

She also gave the town a list of $18,013.20 in work she’s had done to try to correct water runoff problems. She said they began when the town built the restrooms and parking lot, and she’d hoped the new curb and sidewalk would help.

The council had discussed possible litigation in an executive session before this meeting.

Town Attorney James T. Roberts said the town could take legal steps to have the sidewalk removed since it was on town property, but in his experience, a judge likely would order the parties into mediation to try to find a compromise.

Council member Arthur Omberg suggested the council try to work things out with Perkins, and council member Alisha Jacoba supported that idea.

Omberg asked Cassiday to inspect the sidewalk to see if it could be brought into compliance. If it couldn’t, it would have to go, Omberg said.

King has been a council member for 14 years and president for two.

He said he’d still be a member of the town council, but was giving his 30 days’ notice that he was resigning as president. Jane Gore is vice president.

However, he said he could still change his mind.

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Sara Clifford has been raising a family in Brown County since 2005 and leading the Brown County Democrat since late 2009. In addition to editor, she is the beat reporter for town government and writes columns, features and general news stories.