The Sumner County Commission tabled at its April 19 meeting proposed changes to its standing rules that would have limited commissioners’ ability to debate items on the agenda during future meetings.

By a 20-3 vote, the commission voted to table the proposed changes and send the resolution back to the legislative committee.

The resolution would have added language to limit commissioners to speaking in five-minute increments on any topic. Further language would have recommended the limitation of restating viewpoints already made.

“We want to discuss the merits of issues up and down ... we do not want to make things personal,” Chairman Scott Langford said in asking commissioners to direct their comments to the chair and not to each other.

The debate over the proposed rules lasted almost an hour in and of itself. A number of commissioners pointed out that the ability to end debate already exists if a member calls for the question. If a two-thirds majority approves calling the question, debate ends, and the subject immediately proceeds to a final vote.

“I think we are starting down a slippery slope when we start this,” said commissioner Merrol Hyde. “I’ve sat up here when the meetings have gone after midnight. But I chose to do this, and I think everybody ought to have what they want to say.”

Commissioner Mo Taylor added, “We’re living in a cancel culture. Shut up, sit down, I don’t want to hear what you’ve got to say. I don’t agree with that. Having an open and transparent government starts nowhere in this amendment.”

Fellow commissioner Alan Driver offered his thoughts.

“We are not limiting citizens’ opportunities to speak,” Driver said. “They have that opportunity at every meeting. I do think we’ve had issues where we’ve had people take up so much time that other people didn’t get to speak before someone called the question.”

A motion by Jerry Becker to strike two sections limiting commissioner comments to five minutes failed by a 14-9 vote. Billy Geminden, Caroline Krueger and Shellie Tucker ultimately voted against tabling the proposed changes.

The commission also approved, by a 17-6 vote, the expenditure of $251,131 to allow the update of the Sumner County Comprehensive Plan, a document designed to coordinate and plan for growth in the county. The Greater Nashville Regional Council, a 13-county economic development cooperative, will work to update Sumner County’s plan, which was adopted in 2010.

“Without any plan, you have no plan for growth, and it’s happening rapidly,” said Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt. “(GNRC) services have nothing to do with bringing Nashville out here. We are suburban and rural that is becoming more suburban.”

Commissioner Chris Taylor added, “This is the next step in our evolution as far as getting in the modern times our planning and zoning.”

Becker’s motion to table until the upcoming budget cycle failed, receiving only 12 of the 16 needed votes. Hyde’s motion to refer back to the budget committee failed with just nine votes. A motion to defer received just seven votes.

Also approved was a bid of $4,669,888 for the Upper Station Camp Creek Sewer Extension project. The project will use more than $500,000 from the school district’s capital funds, with the remainder coming from a bond allocation by Sumner County government.

Commissioners also approved unanimously the rezoning of property at 1415 Old Highway 109 North in Gallatin to planned unit development for the purpose of constructing a landscaping material sales business.

The body also approved payments of $41,250 to the city of Westmoreland for its volunteer fire department, $108,100 for grant matches for the Portland Airport, $34,126 in state inmate medical reimbursement to the sheriff’s office, and $16,216 for hiring a human resources director before the end of the current fiscal year.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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