By Rachel Dove
WILLIAMSON - An ordinance regulating burning was a topic of much of the discussion at the first regularly scheduled meeting of the Williamson Council Meeting for the month of April, which was held Thursday evening.
At the last council meeting, Williamson Fire Chief Jerry Mounts had introduced a proposed burn ordinance that would have set rules that would no longer allow the burning of refuse and yard waste, such as brush and leaves, or burning vegetation off a garden area. This proposal struck a chord among local citizens who adamantly opposed the idea.
Pete Dillon, a lifelong resident of Peter Street who retired from the city several years ago, was the first to speak.
“Why do we need this ordinance? Why do we need a change?” Dillon asked. “We’ve always abided by the state law that tells us the time of day we’re allowed to have an open, controlled fire, and we’ve not had any problems. Everyone I’ve spoken with about this feels the same way. I’ve lived in the same place for 75 years and we’ve always been allowed to have a controlled fire.”
Dillon lives at the head of Peter Street, and is surrounded by a wooded area. He talked about how he and those living around him are constantly cleaning up fallen limbs and raking leaves, and explained that several times each year, he and his neighbors rake leaves into the ditch and burn them, preventing them from entering the drains and causing a blockage.
“We’ve always taken care of our property, all of us that live there take pride in our yards and we are self-sustaining; we don’t ask for help with anything,” Dillon said. “I’m not calling the fire department every time I have a need to burn leaves. This town has more important things to worry about than someone burning their garden off or burning a few leaves.
“Why don’t they concentrate on all the dilapidated houses in the city that are falling down and are a fire hazard?” he asked. “Looks to me like things like that would be more important than worrying about burning a few leaves.”
Billy Gibson, who lives in close proximity to Dillon, was the next to take the floor.
“I may not have much of an education, but I’ve got a lot of common sense,” Gibson said. “I know when to burn and when not to burn, I’m not stupid.”
“Hell fire … I’m almost 85 and I’ve worked all my life and I’m still working. I work harder than people who have jobs. I have never been told I can’t burn leaves. And you know what? I’m going to burn them no matter what they say.
“If they want to fine me, let them,” he said. “I’ve never spent a minute in jail in my life but they will just have to put me in there if that’s what they want to do.
“We’ve got so many laws now that you can’t abide by one without breaking another. Why don’t you just let it alone? It works fine the way it is. It doesn’t need to be changed,” Gibson said.
“Right is right and wrong is wrong. What the hell is wrong with a man burning a few leaves?” he asked.
Williamson Mayor Darrin McCormick replied to the complaints of Dillon and Gibson by saying that he and the council members had made a collective decision to table the burning ban and look at it more closely.
Mounts said he had created a revised addition of the ban that allowed for burning under certain circumstances that were not allowed in the first draft. The mayor said he and the council members had received numerous calls from city residents who did not agree with the ban and felt that it was a matter that needed further discussion before any decisions are made.
Councilman York Smith remarked on the Harvey Street underpass being closed to traffic, saying that although he heard complaints on a daily basis about the drains popping up when people drove over them and the numerous potholes in the road, he was now hearing people complaining about the road being shut down.
“You can’t have it both ways folks,” Smith said. “The mayor and I have tried to get this work done for a couple of years now and we are very pleased it’s finally being completed. The underpass will stay closed until all the work is finished; there’s no other solution.
“We’re asking for the public to be patient while the work is being completed. This is, by far, no easy fix. It will be well worth any inconvenience it’s creating for people now when the repairs are done and the new drains are in,” he said.
Councilwoman Sherry Brown brought to the mayor’s attention that a large stack of tires located beside a business on Vinson Street was omitting a foul odor, believed to be caused by stagnant water trapped inside the tires due to the large volume of rain the Tug Valley area has received over the last month. Mayor McCormick asked Williamson Police Chief Barry Blair to speak to the owner about the problem.
Councilman Matthew Thornsbury tendered his resignation, effective April 30. Thornsbury stated in his letter that he and his family were moving out of Williamson, making him ineligible to serve. He thanked the voters for their support and said that he was proud to have served them. All council members present, as well as the mayor and City Attorney Chris Younger, expressed their regret that he was leaving and for a job well done, and wished him well.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Williamson City Council will be at 6 p.m. April 24. Those who would like to be placed on the agenda to speak about a concern are asked to call Williamson City Hall at 304-235-1510.