Columbiana mayor’s bid for voice mail blasted

COLUMBIANA – One of the two former city mayors on council believes the new mayor is asking for more than is required.

Speaking at this week’s council meeting, Dick Simpson said Bryan Blakeman’s request for a voice mailbox at City Hall is unnecessary and indicated, somewhat sarcastically, that at some point Blakeman will “have a desk in Lance’s office.”

Lance Willard is the city manager.

Simpson said he and Schloneger and another former mayor did not have voice mail set up at City Hall.

“Just because you never did doesn’t make it right,” Blakeman responded, adding, “It just speaks volumes to the city how this town is run is that voice mail is not a needed requirement in this day and age.”

Blakeman said he requested the voice mail because it is not professional for him to receive mayoral calls at his home where his kids may answer, or his cellphone, the latter of which is property of his business, Valley Office Solutions.

“The last thing I want is city business coming to my cell phone,” he said.

The voice mail would not cost the city any money and he could access it off premises, he added.

“You have more communications than anyone in this room,” Simpson said. “You have two Facebook accounts, Twitter, two websites and voice mail.”

Former mayor and Councilman Lowell Schloneger said mayors are not supposed to answer questions in the first place, but refer to the city manager, which he said he and Simpson both did when they were in that position.

Blakeman replied Simpson’s stance on the matter was “ridiculous.”

“The intention is to bring to light the fact that I’m trying to do something and you’re trying to embarrass me. I don’t care. I just think that people in the city need to know when they vote there are consequences,” Blakeman said. “I don’t care, take it away, I just think it makes you guys look foolish.”

Blakeman was also under some scrutiny during a discussion regarding court costs. As mayor Blakeman presides over the court and half of his salary ($1,950) comes from that position.

He and Police Chief Tim Gladis previously suggested increasing costs by $20 for non-moving and moving violations to cover court expenses.

The costs have been $49 for non-moving violations and $59 for moving violations. Of that, the city received $20. The suggested increase would have resulted in costs of $69 and $79 each, with the city receiving $40.

Schloneger questioned the ethics of including Blakeman’s mayoral salary in those expenses and suggested excluding it for “appearance” sake.

His suggestion was also recommended by Municipal Attorney Daniel Blasdell, who said it could appear as though the increase was going toward Blakeman’s salary as well.

“One could make the argument that the mayor had an interest in the outcome of the mayor’s court. It’s not a very powerful argument but it’s something you don’t want (to bother with),” he added.

According to information provided to council by Gladis, the court handled 352 cases in 2011 and brought in $6,560, 431 cases in 2012 and brought in $8,680, and 367 cases in 2013 and brought in $6,170.

Average costs collected yearly amount to $7,137 while annual expenses account for $14,331, with Blakeman’s portion of salary included.

With his salary excluded expenses account for $12,381.

Gladis said removing his salary as an expense that would be covered by an increase in court costs would mean a cost increase of $15 would covering remaining expenses, which include the clerk’s salary, purchasing and printing of traffic and parking citations, a new computer and software, both amortized over three years with a three-year lifecycle replacement.

Gladis did say Blakeman’s salary remains the same no matter how many cases he handles.

Council approved reducing the increase from $20 to $15, effective immediately.