Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

September 23, 2013

Local, unruly crowd crams into Thursday night Town Hall meeting

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — You'd think over 70 Jacksonville residents couldn't be wrong.

Well, most of the residents at the local Town Hall meeting Thursday night seemed to have been thinking that, too.

Scads of these area residents — many with their minds already made up about this, that or the other  — crowded into city chambers at the Norman Activity Center Thursday night to question a panel of city officials about various issues of importance to them.

And, once seated, audience inquiries soared — about potential asbestos flying around town, about code enforcement, about proposed trash receptacles and about a proposal that would have allowed residents to volunteer to move the debris at Yum Yum's, 215 S. Main Street.

(That Yum Yum's debris would have been moved one brick at a time — had the answer not been a sound, resounding, “Nope.”)

As evidenced by the apparent weariness of the panel, Thursday's was an exhausting, incredibly taxing meeting.

Most residents agreed with this assessment as they exited later that evening — even if many couldn't completely recall everything that happened during.

“It was mostly three hours long,” Whitney Graham Carter recalled on Facebook. “It was exhausting, but I think some rusty wheels are turning. … We are getting somewhere."

The panel, incidentally, included City Manager Mo Raissi, City Public Works Director  Will Cole, Police Chief Reece Daniel, and City Attorney Joe Angle.

The good news was parliamentarian supreme, Jacksonville Mayor Kenneth Melvin, was there at the meeting.

The bad news: The mayor wasn't there to moderate. No one was truly running the meeting in terms of order.

Therefore, after the topics of proposed Yum Yum's repair, potential asbestos feared out in the city and local house maintenance was exhausted, the meeting started to resemble an out-of-control roller coaster ride. A much more calm exchange between city officials and residents took place Sept. 11.

The asbestos question early in the meeting turned out to be a bit of a hot potato. Residents at the meeting insisted there must be some spillage around town in wake of the Yum Yum's collapse.

City officials cautioned residents about making sweeping generalities based on guesswork and presenting it as fact. At least two residents were reproached about doing this at the meeting.

The much-coveted topic of the proposed clean up up and resurrection of the former Yum Yum's building  — which burned and took surrounding buildings with it April 28 — was addressed fairly quickly.

Jacksonville resident Emily Griffin, who owns the two buildings adjacent to the former Yum Yum's and holds the note on the Yum Yum's building itself, was there again Thursday, visible frustrated with the way the city is enforcing code.

Raissi said he would let residents know about a followup meeting at some point in the near future.