Tie-vote allows retired city employees to keep Ballantrae membership

In a 2-2 tie vote, the Pelham City Council voted against ordinance 443, which would repeal a 2006 ordinance granting a free lifetime membership to Ballantrae golf course and the Pelham Racquet Club to any retiring city employee with a certain minimum number of years of service.

Since Steve Powell elected to abstain from voting and the vote ended in a tie, the motion failed to carry. Teresa Nichols and Bill Meadows voted for the ordinance and Mike Dickens and Karyl Rice voted against it.

The vote was followed by heated debate between Meadows and Dickens, sparked when Meadows asked Dickens if he and Rice could potentially benefit from the 2006 ordinance.

“For the record, you could have a conflict with your vote,” Meadows said when Dickens answered in the affirmative.

“I would be very careful challenging another person’s vote,” Dickens responded, visibly agitated. “When you challenge their vote, you challenge their character.”

When Meadows appologized and explained he hadn’t meant to offend anyone, Dickens responded with “You just let Mike Dickens take care of Mike Dickens.”

Dickens also made sure everyone in the room knew he was planning to forfeit his memberships to Ballantrae and the Racquet Club, “When and if I ever retire from this council.”

Rice diffused the situation by explaining the council wouldn’t close the book on the benefits package yet.

“We need further discussion about the issue,” she said. “This motion failed, and we’ll hopefully come back with something better.”

Meadows had earlier suggested adding exceptions to the ordinance, such as allowing retirees to choose a membership to either Ballantrae or the Racquet Club, but not both. Meadows’ motion to table the ordinance pending further discussion did not get a second, and thus failed.

Dickens ended the discussion by reading a letter from city attorney Butch Ellis explaining that it’s legal to extend benefits such as free membership to a city golf club as part of its benefit package.

“That should answer any question you might have,” said Dickens. “And if it doesn’t, you weren’t listening very well.”

In other business,

– Mayor Murphy discussed new features of Pelhamonline.com, including a community calendar to advertise yard sales, lost animals and the like. Murphy said the new calendar should cut down on sign-posting.

– Mayor Murphy also suggested retired former city employees should check with their accountants to see how to properly handle the 1099 form outlining their memberships with Ballantrae and the Racquet Club. The City of Pelham has only recently begun to send out the forms, which are required by law.