“I feel we should put personal and political agendas aside and concentrate on future generations for the benefit of our entire community,” he said. “It’s five minutes past eight o’clock and nobody from Bradley County has yet to come forward to ask us to continue the lawsuit. Never have they asked us to continue the lawsuit.”
Rowland made the statement after a special meeting was canceled due to the lack of a quorum. Vice Mayor Avery Johnson and 4th District Councilman David May were the only council members to attend the aborted meeting.
Rowland said he advised Alford at the April 13 Emergency Services Merger Task Force meeting of his intent to veto the resolution.
“At that time, he said it was just fine because it would not be considered anyway. As a courtesy to him, I was merely giving him a ‘heads up’ on the issue,” the mayor said. “I am totally surprised that now Bradley County wants to delay the hearing. This is the first time I have ever heard this from the County’s side, and that was only through reading the Sunday newspaper.”
Johnson said he regretted the dispute has reached the point of litigation, but he supported the mayor’s veto.
“I was sitting across from Mr. Alford when you came up to him and told him you had vetoed the resolution,” Johnson said. “I heard him say the county would appeal the decision and it would continue for another 2 1/2 years.”
“I thought that was a real negative stance to take,” Johnson added. “That’s not negotiating in good faith and I just hate to see people taking the attitude they’re taking on these very important issues.”
The mayor said if the Bradley County Commission had made this request initially, it would have certainly been considered by the city.
“The resolution they brought to City Council did not agree to drop the lawsuit they have against us, and we asked for that several times during our meeting. No one, more than I, have attempted to bear good relationships with our friends on the Bradley County Commission,” Rowland said. “The city of Cleveland must honor the wishes of the voters in the 2009 referendum. That’s why we must defend the lawsuit the county has brought against us.”
He said the city has done everything the county has asked by agreeing to mediation.
“The city has entered this process in good faith by agreeing to enter the non-binding mediations requested by the county,” Rowland said. “My understanding was to do this in a timely manner so both sides could prepare for the Chancery Court hearings. We left that meeting with the understanding the hearing would take place on April 21 as scheduled. Chairman Alford did not mention a change in these plans to the city at that time. We proceeded in good faith.”
He said the city would be irresponsible not to defend itself with its strongest legal defense.
“Both the city and county have incurred expenses for attorneys to prepare for this hearing,” he said. “To delay this hearing would require more time and additional cost. I feel this issue needs to be put behind us so both government bodies could move forward.”
Rowland said both local governments must continue to work together for economic and industrial growth and quality of life. Cleveland and Bradley are positioned to see great things in the future, he said. Rowland stressed this issue must be resolved.
“Our successful jointly funded projects should never be threatened,” he said. “I feel we should put personal and political agendas aside and concentrate on future generations for the benefit of our entire community.”
Rowland’s remarks were in response to Alford saying he was disappointed Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland denied the County Commission the opportunity to compromise with the City Council on the ongoing sales tax dispute.
“I am disappointed with the city’s lack of interest in working toward a compromise that would benefit all taxpayers of Cleveland and Bradley County,” Alford said Friday. “I appreciate the continued efforts of Councilman Richard Banks to find a compromise between the two governing bodies, but I regret the Commission will not have the opportunity to vote on Councilman Bank’s resolution.”
At-Large City Councilman Richard Banks proposed delaying the court hearing to avoid clouding negotiations between the city and county over the merger of emergency services. The resolution was approved April 11 by a 3-2 vote. At-Large Councilman George Poe, 1st District Councilman Charlie McKenzie and Banks voted in favor of the delay and did not attend the special meeting.
Vice Mayor Avery Johnson and 4th District Councilman Day May were opposed to delaying the hearing and were present this morning. Councilman Bill Estes, 2nd District, and 5th District Councilman Bill Robertson were absent from both meetings. Estes is out of town on business and Robertson is recovering from an illness.
The Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce board of directors weighed in on the city and county government dispute by forwarding a position statement to the Cleveland Daily Banner asking that both sides abide by the Chancery Court ruling Thursday — if it is held then — without an appeal by the losing side. The Chamber board letter, signed by all 18 members, pointed out an appeal by either jurisdiction could extend the litigation another two years or more.
The letter was published as a “Letter to the Editor” in Sunday’s edition and was also previewed in a front page article.
The letter was also forwarded to members of the City Council and County Commission.