Council meeting marked by heated exchange

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham City Council President Mike Dickens and Tony Harlow, the president of Pelham Youth Hockey and a member of the Pelham Civic Complex community advisory board, briefly traded heated words after a Sept. 19 council work session.

During the work session, the council heard a presentation conducted by representatives from the Rink Management Services Corporation. The company, which is looking to possibly manage the Civic Complex in the future, was invited to speak to the council by Pelham Mayor Don Murphy.

During the presentation, the representatives made several suggestions they said would raise the Civic Complex’s revenue, such as reducing payroll expenses and operating with only one ice rink during the summer months. The consultants said the council would have to decide in the future if any Civic Complex employees are laid off.

Currently, the complex loses about $950,000 a year, Murphy said previously.

During an April meeting, Murphy said he would remove the Civic Complex as a possible venue for a county fire museum if skating enthusiasts would help the city make the complex profitable. In mid April, Murphy held his first meeting with members of the Civic Complex advisory committee.

During the Sept. 19 council work session, Councilman Steve Powell said the committee had originally planned to meet with another rink management company on the same night, but postponed the meeting to attend the council work session.

“Mr. Darnell, did you know about this presentation (by Rink Management Services) before tonight?” Powell asked committee representative Greg Darnell.

“No,” Darnell said.

“I understand your point, but Mr. Darnell is not an elected official,” Dickens responded to Powell. “Mr. Darnell is not making the decision here.”

After the council work session, Harlow confronted Dickens in the council chambers before the regular council meeting and the two traded heated words. As Harlow walked toward the back of the room, Dickens said “There are some arrogant people in the world.”

“Excuse me?” Harlow responded.

“Don’t excuse me. You are a guest here tonight. I can throw you out in two minutes,” Dickens said.

“You’re going to have me arrested for talking to an elected official,” Harlow responded.

“I don’t want to have anyone arrested. I have a problem with your attitude,” Dickens said.

After the meeting, Darnell said Harlow was “hacked off” after Dickens’ comment toward Darnell in the work session.

“During our last meeting, we were asked by the council to contact (City Marketing Director) Eva (Shepherd) before we brought any proposals to the city,” Darnell said. “One side gets contacted, but we were not contacted before this meeting tonight.

“This would have been a great opportunity for us to work together, and it still is. But it has cut down somewhat on that trust,” Darnell said. “We still have the best interests of the ice rink at heart, and I hope we can still partner with the city to offer suggestions.”

After the meeting, Dickens said he had “no issue with talking to a constituent,” but said he was surprised by the confrontation.

“He basically walked up to me and said ‘You’re wrong’ without saying ‘Hey’ or anything,” Dickens said.