Willow Springs City Council Hears Citizen’s Concerns

James Carr, currently a resident of Summersville, requested to appear before the Willow Springs City Council at their regular meeting on July 16. According to his request to be heard, his concerns were “city employee conduct” and “public safety.” He gave a short self-introduction, stating that he was born and raised in Willow Springs and that he still has interests in the town. 
 
 
The event that prompted his allegedly unsatisfactory interactions with City employees occurred on March 21, when Officer Jim Hedlesten pulled him over at the South Junction for a stop sign violation. Carr said this traffic stop occurred in the thick of the COVID pandemic and he was very uncomfortable to see that Officer Hedlesten was not wearing any personal protective equipment (PPE) and that he approached his driver’s side window, instead of keeping distance by using the passenger’s side. During the traffic stop, Carr refused to accept the ticket from the officer in hand and would not hand the officer his driver’s license. The citation was mailed to Carr’s mother’s residence, who Carr said is at high risk of catching the coronavirus. “It made me mad that he sent the ticket there and endangered my family,” Carr said. 
 
 
From there, Carr detailed more than a dozen interactions with City employees including Police Chief Bryan Hogan, Assistant Chief Wes Ellison, City Administrator Beverly Hicks, and City Attorney Zane Privette, in which he did not find a satisfactory resolution to his concerns and only became more frustrated. He also named City Hall employees by name, alleging that they were not courteous and that they did not return his calls.
 
 
At his municipal court date, Carr refused to plead guilty to a lesser charge to avoid a moving violation and chose instead to proceed to a jury trial. 
 
 
After he presented his grievances, the City employees he named had a chance to address the Council. Officer Jim Hedlesten confirmed that Carr read him his driver’s license number through the closed window. He ran the license number through the MULES system, and the information that came back, including the address, is what he used to write the ticket. City Attorney Zane Privette confirmed that mailing a ticket is the officer’s only option if the subject will not personally accept it in hand. 
 
 
Regarding the recent municipal court date, Privette revealed Carr was offered options which included a guilty plea for a lesser charge if he were to apologize to Officer Hedlesten, but because he and the judge “got into it,” the judge refused to accept a guilty plea, and now Carr’s only remedy is a jury trial. 
 “It sounds like no one here has made you happy, and I will apologize on everyone’s behalf,” Hicks concluded.
“I’m sorry that Officer Hedlesten’s measures didn’t meet your approval,” Privette offered as well. Alderman Susan Rackley explained to Carr, “It’s a court issue. There’s not anything we can do [about the ticket.]” 
 
 
In terms of a suggested remedy, none of the Aldermen or City employees asked Carr what could be done to satisfy him or what his goal was in appearing before the Council. In an interview on July 17, Hicks said she personally looked into each one of Carr’s complaints prior to the meeting. 
 
 
There was lengthy discussion about the City’s problems with stop sign violations at the South Junction and the need for aggressive enforcement. Mayor Fair explained that failing to enforce the law is not an option, thanked Carr for coming, and announced it was time to move on. 
 
 
In an interview on July 17, Alderman Rackley said, “I think [Carr] was offered several options and didn’t take them. It was my understanding the city employees had given him plenty of attention, and we’re kind of a sounding board.”  According to Rackley, merely airing grievances is not the only remedy citizens can achieve when they come before the Council.
“I’m sure we would have taken action if it were necessary,” she said.

Howell County News

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