Finance companies might promise decisions on loan applications within hours, but Mount Airy officials will not be nearly as prompt due to action taken regarding funding requests made to them.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Thursday night — with Commissioner Jon Cawley dissenting — that a request for city funding which might pop up unexpectedly at one of its meetings won’t be decided on then, but during the next meeting.
That change arose from concerns by Commissioner Shirley Brinkley when the board had last met on May 18. Brinkley has been bothered by situations in which someone requests funds for certain non-profit organizations or needs and the board is compelled to give approval then and there.
“Many times it puts us on the spot,” Brinkley said. She added that such situations end up costing the municipality money and that more time should be devoted for funding requests to receive proper study and deliberation among board members.
The catalyst for the change approved Thursday night apparently was a unanimous March 16 decision by the city commissioners to grant $20,000 to help the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Honor Guard replace an aging bus used for military funerals.
This resulted from a request by the Honor Guard commander during a public forum, held near the start of council sessions in which speakers are allowed to address any topic related to city government. Members of the unit had attended the meeting to present the flag and were in uniform, with a patriotic fervor seeming to prevail in the meeting room as the decision was made.
It later prompted Commissioner Steve Yokeley, who did vote in favor of the VFW donation, to voice complaints about the process, saying it was part of a pattern in which action is taken on matters not placed on the commissioners’ meeting agenda ahead of time.
He criticized a lack of planning with issues being decided “on the cuff” without due diligence.
Yokeley seconded a motion made by Brinkley Thursday night to implement the new rule.
Brinkley has said she wanted to adopt something similar to the Surry County Board of Commissioners, which recently changed its bylaws to make it clear that any request for funding cannot be considered during the open forums of its meetings. Those requests now must go through the county finance office.
That change also came after the same Honor Guard group requested, and subsequently received, funding for its bus from county officials.
Commissioner Cawley, before voting against Brinkley’s motion Thursday night, had expressed concern about having a more flexible policy that would allow the board to approve a request at the time it is made if there is a need to expedite a situation.
“In case of some extreme emergency that might come up,” Commissioner Dean Brown agreed.
Cawley said he wanted to reserve the right to override a policy requiring a decision at a later meeting, while pointing out that the city council doesn’t always abide by rules it adopts.
City Attorney Hugh Campbell said at the May 18 meeting that a board may always override its own policy, citing information presented during a council planning meeting in March by UNC School of Government experts.
“If you will make a rule, I’ll do my best to enforce it,” Mayor David Rowe said during the May meeting regarding the funding request policy and other procedures governing council operations.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.