Letter-copy

By RUSSELL VANNOZZI

Certain Thompson’s Station residents opened their mailboxes last week to find a letter from aldermen Ben Dilks and Graham Shepard.

The letter, which was paid for by Dilks and Shepard, highlighted a pledge that Dilks made a motion for during the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA) meetings in April and May. Dilk’s motion was in response to comments from concerned residents at the April and May BOMA meetings.

The pledge promised area residents that the city would not build a wastewater treatment plant on a piece of land known as the Alexander property, which was recently purchased by the city and is located adjacent to the Canterbury Neighborhood and just north of the Critz Lane entrance to Bridgemore Village.

However, the motion to approve the drafting and signing of the pledge failed by a 2-3 vote as mayor Corey Napier and aldermen Brandon Bell and Brian Stover each voted against it on both occasions. That prompted Dilks and Shepard to issue a letter, which used the city’s logo and letterhead, to residents within a three-mile radius of the Alexander property.

Just as Tuesday evening’s June BOMA meeting was about to adjourn, Stover brought the letter to the attention of the board and the citizens on hand.

Bell, Napier and Stover expressed their frustrations with the letter, and they each mentioned receiving calls from concerned residents regarding its contents. The letter was only signed by Dilks and Shepard, and its appearance gave many the impression that it was an official city document, which it was not.

“This letter concerned residents and misled them (into thinking it was from the city),” Stover said during the meeting. “This was a move purely for (Shepard’s) political gain.”

Shepard fired back, noting that the city currently does not have a clear policy regarding the use of its logo and letterhead. The letter’s return address label listed the names of Dilks and Shepard but also used the city’s official mailing address.

“If you tell me what the rules are, I’ll play by them,” Shepard said in response to Stover’s comments, “I don’t see this as a violation.”

Town attorney Todd Moore stepped in and confirmed that the letter from Dilks and Shepard did not violate any of the city’s current policies. Moore then presented a draft of a new policy that would put restrictions on the city’s logo and letterhead, modeled after a similar policy that Collierville recently adopted.

Stover urged the board to delve into the issue at Tuesday’s meeting, despite it not being on the June agenda.

“You have zero ethics, in my opinion,” Stover said to Shepard in what became a heated discussion. “Who’s to say that you won’t go rogue and do something like this again? I want this (new policy) done right now.”

The board voted and passed the first reading of the policies presented by Moore.  There will be a public hearing and vote on the second reading of the policies at the August BOMA meeting. Dilks was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

Stover lives in the Canterbury Neighborhood, which sits just west of the Alexander Property. Despite not signing the pledge, he posted on the neighborhood’s Facebook page that he would not vote for a wastewater plant on the site following the April BOMA meeting.

“(The) pledge letter is meaningless as it is not legally binding (for) any of the board members,” Stover said in the post. “I will state, for the record, that I am absolutely against (constructing) a second wastewater facility on the property and give you my word (that) I will not ever vote in favor of putting a sewer plant next to Canterbury should the issue ever arise.”

In a special BOMA session last August, outgoing town administrator Joe Cosentini and the board discussed using the extra acreage on the Alexander site for a wastewater treatment plant. However, each of the current BOMA members have since stated at different times they have no intention of voting to put a treatment facility on the land.

“If you know people that want a wastewater plant next to their house, let me know who those people are,” Shepard said. “We wanted to make them aware of this possible issue, because it could affect them dramatically in terms of property value.”

The city has contracted Barge Design Solutions to conduct a study and make recommendations on where sewage systems and water treatment facilities should be placed. Stover insisted the Alexander Property won’t be one of those options, as it’s likely to be used as drip fields for treated wastewater.

“We’ve explained that over and over,” Stover said of the city’s plans for the site. “Unfortunately, Alderman Shepard and Alderman Dilks continue to use this as a political ploy and a scare tactic against Canterbury residents.”

Home Page Media has obtained a copy of the letter in question. It can be viewed below in its entirety: