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Airport Committee reinstated

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

Williston City Council reactivated its airport advisory committee last week, but put some conditions on it.
The committee was deactivated several weeks ago while council mulled over three appointments and weighed what direction it wanted for the airport.
Last week Elihu Ross and Charles Goodman, both new councilors, expressed an interested in filling two vacancies on the panel.
By charter, two councilors should sit on the airport committee and after the last election, those two seats were empty.
Councilor Jason Cason said ideally he would like to have someone skilled in economic development on the committee but acknowledged Goodman’s skill in construction and Ross’ life experience, which made them more than qualified.
But the appointment of the two would mean the airport committee would need to be operational and to be operational, it had to be taken out of its static state.
“What I would like to see is the airport manager to manage the airport,” Goodman said.
City Manager Pat Miller doubles as the airport manager and on more than one  occasion Council Norm Fugate has intimated that he is appalled at how the committee treats Miller.
Despite those innuendos, no one on council has asked Fugate to elaborate during a council meeting and Miller has offered no response.
Concerns were aired that the committee usurps the authority of the manager and cited vendors should be approaching Miller, not the committee.
Debra Jones, who serves as chair of the committee took umbrage with several statements made by council members and  said she didn’t like that the council was villianizing the committee.
President Jerry Robinson assured her no one was trying to villianize anyone, but Jones insisted the airport committee was being “defamed.”
She said every article of business addressed by the committee has been brought to it via city hall and they initiate nothing on their own.
Goodman disagreed.
“You stood there,” he said, pointing to the back of the room, “and said we were losing contracts [at the airport due to the suspension].”
Jones denied she made the statement and the two bandied a couple time before Robinson restored ordered.
“It’s not like we’re trying to circumvent city hall,” Jones said.
When all was  said and done, council agreed to lift the suspension, appoint Goodman, Ross and Dave Bibby to the airport committee and instructed Miller to manage the airport because the committee is only an advisory entity.
In other business,  Fugate asked that the city pay his legal fees concerning the Nan Mack investigation.
Mack, the former city clerk, had accused Fugate of creating a hostile work environment.
The charge was unfounded, an independent investigation found, and the claim never went to litigation.
Robinson said he opposed the fees for that reason, and that no one had told Fugate to hire a lawyer and the attorney’s bill was ridiculous. One charge was for accompanying Fugate to a  meeting but his counsel never spoke.
But Fugate countered that when the investigation began, he didn’t know it wasn’t going to end in court and he needed to be prepared.
He also told Robinson his attorney didn’t speak that evening because Robinson wouldn’t allow him.
Council voted 4-1, with Robinson opposing, to pay the legal fees of $6,600.
Fugate had also asked that when councilors must miss meetings that written statements on agenda topics could be read into the record.
Robinson then chastised Fugate who misses meetings to attend Cedar Key Council meetings, where he is there legal representation.
He told him he had been elected  by the people of this town to represent them, and he was a councilor when he accepted the Cedar Key position.
“You can’t represent via notes,” Robinson told Fugate. “Is there validity in a written note? If a guy’s not here, why hear from him?”
Goodman said he thought occasionally, it would be fine, but when someone is absent in perpetuity, it’s a different story.
The council will meet Monday night, May 21 to further discuss this issue, as well as establishing procedures for conducting a meeting.