MOUNT JACKSON – Town Council members have approved allotting $25,000 of town funds to help Union Church repair its roof.
Vice Mayor and Councilman Rod Shepherd said the church is an important historical point of interest for the town and the discussions about helping repair the property have been in the works.
“Union Church obviously doesn’t have revenue; it doesn’t have a lot of money,” Shepherd said. “But it is a significant landmark to the community. I think it would behoove us for us to help out with this roof replacement.”
Councilwoman Bonnie Good said she supported the plan but was curious about where the funding was coming from.
Shepherd, who is also on the Finance Committee, said the funds have been in the budget for the last two years and have been carried over. Most of the funds, Shepherd said, aren’t from local taxpayers but are scooped up from the hotel tax.
Every council member present approved the motion to provide the church with the $25,000 grant.
Tuesday’s meeting also saw the continuation of an ongoing battle between the town and Ronald Zerkel, a resident, over questions of town code violations.
Zerkel submitted a complaint to town officials in January 2018, he said, when a business next door to his property began construction on a parking lot that, Zerkel argues, is not in line with the town code as well as leaving a dumpster in public view and constructing a retention pond on the line between their two properties.
Zerkel said some of the issues have been addressed but they still aren’t up to the town code as he reads it. The dumpster, he said, has been moved but it isn’t fenced off and is too close to a residential building. The trees on the berm between the retention pond and Zerkel’s property, he argued, are not up to code because of where they are planted.
The pond is causing water to run onto his property, Zerkel said, and “undermining” his property.
Zerkel has been going back and forth with the town, hiring an attorney at one point, attempting to force the town to enforce its codes.
A sticking point has been the fact that when Zerkel had let his grass grow higher than the code allowed, the town told him he had a matter of days to trim it or they would hire someone to do so and charge him for the labor.
Donnie Pifer, in his first council meeting after taking over the mayor’s office earlier this month, asked Zerkel what his main point of contention was.
The town, Zerkel said, has not been enforcing the code fairly.
“Either you’re going to enforce the codes or you’re not going to enforce the codes,” he said.
Zerkel said the town, which has an easement running across his property for a sewer main, stopped maintaining the easement when he filed his initial complaint. He said the town used to fill holes and mow the grass around the manholes but it hasn’t in recent months.
Kevin Fauber, the town manager, said the town doesn’t provide regular maintenance for all of its easements but rather attends to projects such as mowing once or twice a year.
Good asked the town attorney if, after he provided Zerkel with the zoning termination report, the ordinance committee could convene to review the report and revisit town codes that may be unclear.
“I think there are ways we can get some of the things righted that are not satisfactory right now,” Good said.
Sitting down with the town manager, attorney and ordinance committee would give everyone an opportunity to assess whether the claims the Zerkels have are valid, Good said, and for all of them to be on the same page about what the code says.
“If we’ve got ordinances that are not clear or can be misunderstood, we should know about that,” Good said. “ We are in the process of rewriting a lot of ordinances so that would be something that we should deal with.”
Councilman Roger Rudy was not present for Tuesday’s meeting.