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Waynesville closed sessions boring, but by the book

Waynesville closed sessions boring, but by the book

The Town of Waynesville Board of Aldermen meets every two weeks, or about 24 times a year, depending on the calendar. 

“I have always been very circumspect in having closed sessions,” said Mayor Gavin Brown back in November, when The Smoky Mountain News made the document request. 

Brown’s statement was accurate; in 2018, aldermen went into closed session just six times. Three of those closed sessions were for attorney-client conversations only, and one was for real property acquisition. 

Another was for two purposes — the rare “award” exemption, as well as attorney-client conversations. Those two topics both needed to be included in the motion to enter closed session, and they were; the town could not, for example, enter into closed session to discuss granting an award and then begin discussions with the town attorney on legal issues. 

The final closed session, held May 8, 2018, was another dual-purpose closed session for attorney-client conversations, as well as land acquisition. Again, both topics were correctly included in the motion to enter closed session, per state law. 

Those closed session minutes were released to SMN in less than a week. Present were the town attorney — a requirement of the attorney-client exemption — and the town manager. 

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The detailed notes taken during the closed session indicate that Town Attorney Bill Cannon gave the board his opinion on whether or not the town had a legal obligation to rebuild a failing water tank — a perfectly appropriate and legal exemption to sunshine laws. 

Cannon said the town had no obligation to build a 35,000-gallon tank, at a cost of $400,000. The board of aldermen then directed Town Manager Rob Hites to procure price quotes for a smaller, 10,000-gallon tank and report back to the board. 

The second topic, that of real property acquisition, was a proposal presented by First Baptist Church to sell or lease the parking lot adjacent to 33 South Main Street to the Town of Waynesville. Notes on the closed session indicate that the church has allowed the town to use the lot during the week, for free, for many years. 

The church told Hites that they would lease the lot at a market rate, and Hites told the board that of the three parking lots the town currently leases — including the one in Hazelwood — the town pays between $8.50 and $10.67 per space, per month. 

The board then instructed Hites to “hold off” on negotiations until the church made an offer to the town. 

Boring, sure — but by the book, the lot of it. The closed session took about an hour to complete.

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