Business and Agenda
Union Baptist Church will host a “Family and Friends Day” on October 20th, beginning with Sunday School and running through the afternoon. The entire community is invited.
Water pumps went out on Smith Hill with a cost over $4,000 to replace. The area was already down to one pump motor and this had to be purchased to maintain service, according to Mayor Sims. The Council approved the expense.
Council agreed to have their meeting on October 14th, which is Columbus Day, despite the holiday and the town offices being closed.
In a first, the Town Council decided that instead of paying $245 for a 1/4 page ad in the Centreville Press in support of their West Blocton Tigers on Homecoming – a tradition thus far for many years – they will instead donate $300 directly to the school, to be distributed three ways between the football team, cheerleaders, and band. No ad will be purchased in the Centreville Press.
W.B. Police Chief Jay Cromer received his certification from the University Partnership for Alabama Continuing Education at Jacksonville State University and the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police for completing 80 hours of training in Executive Law Enforcement. The Mayor and Council congratulated Cromer, and Mayor Sims thanked the Council for sending the Chief to the classes.
District 2 Council Member Glenn Johnson reported multiple streetlights still being out, with now an additional outage since nine were reported over a month ago to Alabama Power as needing repair.
In District 3, multiple vacant lots needing to be cleaned up were discussed as needing action, as well.
Tension, Confusion, and Requests for Apologies
Councilmen Johnson and Lynch debated heatedly and later citizens were heard as well, concerning the rising racial tensions in town. Some citizens have claimed to be harassed by police officers, and recently their statements were published as part of an article in the Centreville Press, which has furthered the tension.
“That is completely false,” said Mayor Sims of the statement that one man was “dragged out of his house and called a ‘boy'” as was stated in the article, having quoted Liberty Baptist Church’s Pastor Anderson when he address the Town Council. It came to light in the September 9 meeting that after the meeting concluded, the Pastor was allowed to watch the body cam video related to the incident. Mayor Sims said the Pastor apologized afterwards, saying that things had not happened the way he was told. According to people present at the meeting in question – from which the Press article was taken – the reporter left prior to Anderson seeing the video or making an apology.
Mayor Sims said from watching the video, there was no aggression by the officers in the incident in question.
“What do we know?” Glenn Johnson asked the Mayor and Council of another reported harassment incident involving Brenda Davis. “If it’s facts, something needs to be taken care of. If it’s not facts, we need to know it,” Johnson continued.
“The policeman needs an apology, the Council needs an apology … because that was not true,” Johnson went on in his demand from an apology from the Centreville Press for printing what he deemed an inaccurate story, based on accusations.
Chief Cromer stated that he had no problem with showing anyone the body cam videos of these incidents. Mayor Sims stated he would not either, except that in every incident the persons involved must give their consent. With three such incidents in recent weeks reported to the Council raising tensions around town, it would seem beneficial for everyone to see for themselves exactly what has happened.
Mayor Sims stated that officers have been instructed to always record video of interactions with any citizens in the last two years.
Impassioned discussion continued for over 40 minutes additional, including citizen statements and with Glenn Johnson and Fred Lynch (District 1 Councilman) displaying disdain for each other as they debated intent and effect of actions and inaction, and their performance as council members.
Debate raised over who or what (“maybe it was a dog” someone said at one point) recently defecated on a church porch during a town event with over 400 people present and no one saw anything. Nothing was resolved in this matter, which the mayor Deemed as “so far down the totem pole of what’s important to the town right now” that it didn’t merit the time or passion being given it.
Mayor Sims struggled to keep the meeting on track and arguments to a dull roar. Passions and tensions continue to rise in West Blocton between residents, and between residents and police. Accusations of racial profiling, gossiping, and falsehoods being spread abound. Everyone has a perspective, and everyone fervently believes they are correct.
The calm demeanor of the Mayor with his direction to treat everyone fairly appeared to line up with the comments of Cathy Cutts, who said – in summation – “We just need everyone to work together.” Indeed.
Mayor Sims also requested that citizens start asking their council representatives about issues prior to approaching at the meetings, so that they can have a chance to address the issue before being put on the spot for an answer to whatever their issue may be. He asked for the process to be followed, in order for it to be fair to everyone, including the Council.