Carbon Hill Mayor James “PeeWee” Richardson called upon Ronnie O’Rear, who volunteered and helped organize Hillfest over the past three years, for an update.
O’Rear then suggested that the mayor and council explain how they wanted things run since they put it in the newspaper that they were in charge.
“I need you to explain to me how you want things run, so I can decide whether I’m going to volunteer again this year or not,” O’Rear said.
Richardson told O’Rear the council would not be in charge of the event but was planning to set up a committee to oversee things.
“We asked you before, Ronnie, to help and you said you would,” Richardson said.
“I said I would run it. I will take it just like it’s been going. There’s nobody going to help, because you don’t get help,” O’Rear said. “You can have all the volunteers, PeeWee. I’ve done this for three years. We have our volunteers and we had a great show lined up until you ran that ad in the paper, and I called and cancelled that part of the show.”
District 5 Council member James Pendley then spoke up and said he had seen the event had been cancelled on Facebook before the work session had even been scheduled.
O’Rear replied, “I don’t know.”
“You don’t read the Facebook page?” Pendley asked.
“I might and I might not. We’re not talking about Facebook,” O’Rear stated before being interrupted by Pendley.
The two then exchanged a few more words regarding the post on the Hillfest Facebook page.
Richardson added, “Well, what was posted on Facebook was that we, the city council, closed down the Hillfest account and took all the money.” Richardson later denied the allegation and stated that the current city council has not received any money from Hillfest.
“You told me the account was going to be closed, PeeWee,” O’Rear interrupted. “You were in your office and they were there (pointing to council member Jimbo Bray), and you said you were going take over the account. You said you were going to leave me on the account and put her (pointing to Kim Sides) on it and you on it. You said you were going to run the booths and take care of all the business work in the office, and that’s not the way it’s going to run. I’m going to run it just like it’s been run and you’re going to get the same results. Or I’m walking out the door and let y’all have it.”
“Well, it’s not going to be run like it has been,” Richardson replied just before District 3 Council member Terry Mason pointed toward the door and told O’Rear, “And don’t let it hit you where the Good Lord split you.”
At that point, O’Rear asked Mason whether or not he had ever volunteered to help at Hillfest.
Things became heated and Richardson had O’Rear escorted from the council chambers.
“It’s a pitiful thing when all you people can do is sit back and complain. Nobody wants to put in and cooperate, and try to work things out. What good is having a community if you’re going to be that way,” Mason said as the chamber doors closed behind O’Rear. “That was totally unresponsible and unadultlike and definitely not a citizen of this city, somebody who is proud to say they’re from Carbon Hill.”
Mason informed everyone at the work shop that the current Carbon Hill City Council has done everything within its power to move the city forward, but it has come up against a wall at every turn since taking office.
“We swore to uphold the rules of this community and the state of Alabama, and do the things this city needs to do to get it back to growing again. To get it from the deficit it was under before we took over,” Mason said. “Do any of y’all realize that before we took office the city could not even meet payroll three months out of the year? Now the people employed by the city are getting paid, and things are being done by the book. All we’re asking for is just a little help and support.”
At that point, one of the citizens, Margaret “Nan” Butler, raised her hand and asked if Hillfest was a non-profit organization or was organized through the businesses in Carbon Hill.
“It is supposed to be a nonprofit organization, but it was illegally started in this city under the former mayor and council,” Mason informed her. “Money was given by the city to start Hillfest which is totally against the law in the state of Alabama.”
Mason said the event was originally supposed to be set up for the city.
“But you have those people who have to have control and recognition that they have done some great and wonderful thing,” Mason said. “Well, it was not great and it was not wonderful. It was supposed to be a function for the city, by the city. The city, not a person.”
Mason said the council was going to put an event together under a different name.
“It will be just as good and for the citizens of Carbon Hill, not a particular person,” Mason said.
Other council members also weighed on the Hillfest issue before the council finally came to a decision to continue moving forward with an event, which would still be held Sept. 20-21.
The event will be organized by a committee of volunteers who will be responsible for reporting on the progress of the event to the city council.
“We’re going to do this, but we’re not going to set back and let folks trash this council like they have been,” Richardson said. “Our goal is to make this city better, and we work hard everyday to do that. This is a city affair, not mine and not the city council’s. It’s for everyone.”
Richardson said anyone living in Carbon Hill who would like to volunteer to help with the event may call Janice at Carbon Hill City Hall at 205-924-9411, and leave their name and number.