In what most cases would not be considered newsworthy, the Town of Paint Rock held a regularly scheduled town council meeting Tuesday evening – and the meeting was open to members of the press and the public.
The small community of approximately 200 garnered state and national attention this week when the Sentinel reported that proposed meeting guidelines for the town would restrict visitors not residing or owning property in the town limits as well as news media from attendance, barring prior approval by a majority of the council.
Mayor Brenda Fisk told the Sentinel by phone Friday that what transpires at meetings of the Paint Rock town council is the business of those who own property or live in Paint Rock, and should not matter to anyone else.
“What goes on in Paint Rock is the business of the people who live in Paint Rock,” she said. “I really don’t see the benefit for anyone outside of Paint Rock or who doesn’t own property here to come to these meetings.”
Fisk later walked back those claims, telling other outlets that she did not believe the phone interviewer on Friday to be a reporter from the newspaper, and that she thought it was a scam phone call.
She said she proposed the guidelines in January, as a result of the media frenzy that ensued when Paint Rock moved to shutter their small Police Department in 2013 under then-mayor Jane Nevels.
"The media was brought in and it made this town a circus," Fisk told Kody Fisher of WAAY-TV, ABC Channel 31 in Huntsville.
At the meeting Tuesday evening, Fisk went on to explain that the guidelines were presented for consideration to the council, but never passed or enacted.
“This is something the council had not voted on, has not voted on today, and will not vote on in the future,” she said. “We want to continue with the code of conduct that we are under, those items are not part of a process or our government.”
A member of the community challenged Fisk as to why the guidelines were ever developed for consideration to begin with – citing the difficulty in locating minutes of past meetings and other public records.
“I passed that for council’s consideration,” said Fisk. “It didn’t happen, has not happened and won’t happen. End of discussion.”
Other items of discussion centered around the cleanup of property in Paint Rock where tall grass is housing rats and snakes adjacent to the property of other residents in attendance at the meeting. After lengthy discussion, Mayor Fisk and councilman Jay O’Neal negotiated a 30-day window to have the property cleaned up and bush hogged.
The council also discussed delays in a drainage project along Highway 72 as a result of needed revisions to the project’s engineering design. Mayor Fisk notified the council that she is awaiting an update from Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) who is responsible for the grant funding the project.
To close the meeting, the council moved to adjust the meeting times of future town council meetings. Meetings will now be held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, beginning at 6 p.m. at Paint Rock Town Hall.