Tensions heightened at Fillmore council meeting
FILLMORE -- In a rare example of tension in a Fillmore meeting, members of the Fillmore Town Council found themselves in heated discussions with community members last week.
During its rescheduled regular July meeting last Thursday evening, comments from the audience were rooted in some questioning the council’s unity and commitment to the town, as well as town politics being played out on social media.
Resident Jerry Huff began by stating that statements and posts made on social media had caused concern about the council being trustworthy. He also said that he should have been free to post his views and observations online, as the people who would “vote for (him)” could see them.
Council President Bill Ashcraft stopped Huff short on that point, saying firmly that there would be no “politicking in my house,” only outside in the community. Huff said that it was his right to speak his mind in the public forum.
He further opined that recent decisions made by the council did not have “common sense” behind them.
Huff has put in as a candidate for a position on the council along with Meridith Trusty, who added similar comments about unity and the good of the town during the meeting. However, his were without any deliberate political implications or references to the upcoming elections.
However, the loudest comments came from resident Jeff Haldeman, who broadly and repeatedly criticized the council for alleged disunity between themselves, as well as whether some residents were being treated differently.
Haldeman claimed that council member Robin Duncan had not promptly paid a water bill, even though other residents may have had their water turned off due to not paying theirs.
In turn, Duncan acknowledged that she had indeed been late on a recent bill, but that this was a case of forgetfulness and that it was eventually paid. She delineated that there was a difference between a mistake and repeated failures to pay on time.
Haldeman then turned to distrust between the council members, with Duncan and Ashcraft briefly arguing that the she had not been contacted or consulted in the past with regard to town issues. Duncan said it was rare for her to be unavailable, while Ashcraft and council member C.J. Huller both seemed to agree that she had told them she didn’t want to be contacted during work.
As Clerk-Treasurer Jayna Haldeman’s husband, he said that she had been working hard to keep up with her work, and implied that the council should do the same every month. The council expressed that each of them were also continuing to devote their due time to the town.
At the beginning of the meeting, Ashcraft stated that social media was not a place to conduct business related to the town or its politics. It is unclear exactly what the content of these posts entailed, but Ashcraft tied them in to the town’s efforts to rectify financial issues brought on by mismanagement, and that it was important for everyone to be patient.
In other public comments, resident Amanda Maynard brought attention to a trailer on the corner of Hendricks and First streets that she said was not anchored and just sitting. She said it posed a safety hazard, but whoever owned it had not done anything to move it.
Clerk-Treasurer Haldeman said she had reached out to the previous owner toward the end of last month.
Maynard also complained that recent roadwork done on First Street had not been completed properly. She claimed that the asphalt had already begun to break up, and that the sides of the road had not been graded. The council emphasized that the company that did the work could not be paid until it was completed to satisfaction, and that it would consult David Kieser, who has assisted the town in assessing road repairs.
In a brief monthly report, Town Marshal Darrel Bunten said he had received many complaints of speeding, emphasizing that not every one will be caught. He said Fillmore’s force had been working on a “skeleton crew,” but former Putnam County Sheriff Steve Fenwick would come on as a reserve. Bunten said it was unclear when he could begin patrols, as he is waiting on his uniform to be delivered.
In new business, Haldeman said a new audit review had begun on July 10 to account for funds expended from 2015 until now. She further said that the audit could take up to a month, and that she was continuing to compile documents and work with the town’s auditor on expenditures done before she became clerk-treasurer.
In a Friday afternoon call to the Banner Graphic, Ashcraft added that a special meeting will be held this Thursday at 7 p.m. to consider next steps concerning ongoing roadwork within the town limits.
The next regular meeting of the Fillmore Town Council is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Fillmore Town Hall.