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Council Forgoes Public Hearing on Broadway Street Change

Ordinance Passes First Reading, Sign Removed for Now


Having trouble? Watch the full video of the workshop and council meeting HERE.

McKENZIE (May 9) — On Thursday two things happened regarding Broadway Street: the one-way street sign was removed temporarily allowing two-way travel on the street; and during the meeting of the McKenzie City Council, Ordinance 569 to convert Broadway to a one-way street passed its first of two readings.

Broadway Street is not legally a one-way until an ordinance with two readings has been approved by the council.

City Attorney Beau Pemberton advised, “I think it would be prudent to table this until the June meeting. Give everybody a chance to have a meaningful opportunity to digest the information, get input from the public, from the affected business owners, and then make a decision at that point. It's going to go through two readings and I think that giving everyone time to digest it is appropriate.”

Vice Mayor Jessie Townes made the motion to table the ordinance until the June meeting, and Councilperson Charles Pruneau seconded the motion.

On roll call, the motion to table it failed with Councilpersons Bobby Young, Carol Armpriest, Tom Alexander, and Josafina Batton voting no to postponing the vote on the first reading of the ordinance.

After much discussion and ignoring the recommendation of the City Attorney, the ordinance changing Broadway Street to one-way passed its first reading. The street’s fate will be decided at the June 13 meeting.

During the meeting, some members of the City Council spoke on the issue and asked various questions for clarification, while other members discussed their experience canvasing a limited area in a short period of time.

Mayor Ryan Griffin opened the discussion by stating that he overreached on his authority, “I was faced with the contractor being there with the striping crew, I had already approached the engineer questioning them about the length of the space, between how the cars have now shifted out, because of the new islands, and I’ve spoken with Chief White, and Director Mercer and was under the understanding that it was Director Mercer’s call and it was not, and so I publicly state that I made a mistake. So since I have done my research, reached out to MTAS, and so you do have a report in there that states that and so that is my public statement. Any other discussion?”

Councilperson Pruneau asked, “So the one-way signs that had been put up, are they to be removed until [Ordinance 569’s] second voting? I think the sign should be either covered up or removed until this is officially voted on.”

Vice Mayor Jessie Townes asked, “So how would you reverse it? If we don’t vote for it.”

Mayor Griffin, “We’ll get a sander out there and restripe the street.”

Public Works Director Johnny Mercer said, “$4,600 to return it back like it was.”

Mayor Griffin, “I wanted to make a decision I felt that it is from a safety standpoint, if you were to come down from Lee Street towards Super D, and try to pull out there you’re having to look at three different traffic, you’re having to look at traffic coming up from the theater, seeing if anybody is coming across from Super D, and coming from city hall, [...] plus with the new islands, we’ve already had someone run over the islands, so I mean it’s going to take getting used to.”

[Editor’s Clarification: The concrete island that was struck was at the opposite end of Broadway Street, as it connects to Lee Street, in front of McKenzie Station Bar and Grill. With the change of the street, all Broadway traffic is being rerouted to the intersection of the incident mentioned.]

Councilperson Batton said, “I can tell you that I didn’t know that this was going to rub McKenzie so hard to change a street, but I have received more messages and calls regarding this change. I didn’t know there was so much interest.”

Councilperson Alexander stated his concerns about large pickup trucks being able to park downtown. Councilperson Young shared his concerns about Williams Furniture trucks being able to unload downtown.

Councilperson Armpriest said, “I had calls from folks who shared their concerns about the issues that have been brought up here. Also, a lot of 'em that just said, it doesn't really matter to me. [...] I guess part of my thing is because I haven't been driving in this town for my whole 70 years. It's not such a change in my routine.”

Vice Mayor Townes, “It’s a bad situation. But the thing about this is [Mayor Griffin] admitted that it was wrong. I don't know how you go about it. Y'all say it doesn't impact anybody, but it's been a lot of talk either way. The people you went to, the people you didn't go to, I mean, it bothered them. So to make a long story short, it is hard to make [a] wrong right. I don't know where we go from here, but it's something to think about.”

Councilperson Pruneau, “It's been [two-way] since I came in 1965 and tradition is hard to change. But the one thing that concerns me is Williams Furniture. If somebody comes in and wants to put a business there, then how are they going to unload the furniture if they run a furniture store or any other business? At one time there were three or four businesses on that street there. [...] I don't think we need to have a timeline that it just has to be done right away. Let's think this thing out and hear the needs of the people.”

Attorney Pemberton weighed in, “There's well reasoned arguments on both sides. Both of which have merit at this point. I understand that process matters a great deal. [...] I think covering up the signs would be prudent at this point,” and advised the two newspapers in attendance to communicate to the public that the one-way direction of travel on Broadway will not take effect at this time.

The attorney continued, “The mindset this board has to keep is what's gonna be the best change for the city, if there's a change to be had. [...] I think the best course of action would be to table this until the June meeting, give everybody a chance to digest it. And if we need to have a public hearing [...] we can certainly do that to facilitate the discussion.”

Councilperson Batton said, “We obviously know we're gonna make the decision here, but I don't know what other type of consensus from the public we can obtain. [...] Were you thinking surveys or?”

Attorney Pemberton, “The most effective way would be to schedule a public hearing before the next meeting or a workshop to let the public come in, give their discussion if they so choose to do so on this issue, in accordance with state law. But that way everybody has an equal opportunity to address the board, to address their concerns so that way the board can make an informed decision.”

The motion to table the ordinance until June failed on roll call and the discussion about changing Broadway to one-way continued.

Councilperson Pruneau, “But if we have a public hearing, the way I see it, that is giving anybody and everybody in this community, if they have any say so, a chance to come before this board and say it, then that's that.”

There was no citizen input during the meeting. To address the council, a citizen has to make a request 24-hours before the meeting time, in this case, by the end of the business day on Wednesday.

Councilperson Armpriest, “But they had that for today as well and no one came.”

Pruneau, “I never saw anything advertised in the paper that there was going to be a public hearing today.”

City Recorder Jennifer Waldrup said, “They could have called.”

[Editor’s Clarification: The agenda for the May 9 meeting was published in The McKenzie Banner on May 7, that edition was available in newsstands Tuesday afternoon and in local mailboxes on Wednesday, May 8. The meeting was May 9 at 6 p.m. Citizens had to call on Wednesday to request to speak on Thursday. Publishing the agenda the week of the meeting provided 1-2 days of prior public notice. Other boards publish meeting agendas at least one week before the meeting date. Also, West Tennessee was under a Tornado Watch for most of Wednesday, May 8 as severe weather moved through the area.]

Councilperson Pruneau continued, “So if we have a public hearing and nobody requests to speak, then this board has done their part, I feel like, and everybody would get a fair opportunity. As it is now, they just didn't have that opportunity. And I think, for the mayor's sake, if nothing else, this is correcting a wrong that the general public as a whole sees was a mistake. And so if they had the opportunity to speak, that puts him in the sunshine, you know, he looks pretty good after this.”

Attorney Pemberton explained, Ordinances have to go through two readings. “If the board approves it tonight, it still has to go through a second reading before it becomes law, before it becomes effective. If it fails tonight, then that's the end of the discussion.”

He continued, “So if it passes tonight, people are for or against it, they certainly have the right to come in at the next meeting, even if there isn't a workshop on it. As we place the agenda and we're making this note with members of press in attendance, so it can be publicized so that way if [citizens] have strong opinions one way or the other, they can still address this board before it votes on second reading.”

Councilperson Armpriest, “And in the interim, [between May and June’s readings of the ordinance] anyone is welcome to bring their concerns to us and arrange to have time at the next council meeting. Is that correct?”

Attorney Pemberton, “That's correct. Until this board approves it on second reading, it's still the same as it was before. It's still considered a two-way street at this point. [...] So if they have concerns they can call to ask to be placed on the agenda to address this board.”

Councilpersons Young, Armpriest, and Alexander voted in favor of making Broadway a one-way street. Vice Mayor Townes and Councilpersons Batton and Pruneau voted no. With a tie vote, Mayor Griffin cast his vote in favor of making it a one-way street. The first reading of the ordinance passed with a vote of 4-3.

The next two items on the agenda were the resignation of Councilperson Pruneau and the appointment of Drew Beeler to finish out the term.

The next meeting of McKenzie’s Mayor and council will be held on Thursday, June 13 at 6 p.m.

[Editor’s Note: If you have an interest in this matter, now is the time to make your voice heard, contact City Hall at 731-352-2292 between now and June 12 to request to speak to the council at the June 13 meeting. If you don't want to speak publicly, please consider lending your voice to the petition The Banner has created to keep Broadway a two-way street. Call The Banner at 731-352-3323 or email banner@mckenziebanner.com. This decision affects more than just Broadway Street, it affects all the surrounding streets and businesses, including Banner Row.]

Having trouble? Watch the full video of the workshop and council meeting HERE.

Video timestamps of interest:
0:58:11 - end of the workshop meeting and beginning of photos of Broadway Street.
0:58:55 - beginning of regular council meeting
0:59:51 - roll call
1:00:31 - second reading ordinance zoning
1:01:00 - Second reading of fireworks ordinance
1:01:40 - ordinance 567 state water waste regulations
1:02:12 - Tim Beeler appointed to planning commission
1:02:48 - Dennis Coleman appointed to housing authority
1:04:05 - November Election
1:04:42 - first reading of 2024-2025 budget
1:05:19 - first reading Broadway one-way ordinance
1:20:19 - City attorney Beau Pemberton addresses council
1:26:22 - Motion to table the ordinance until June
1:27:42 - motion to table fails on roll call
1:37:11 - motion to approve first reading of Broadway street ordinance
1:38:13 - Charles Pruneau resignation
1:46:08 - Appointment of Drew Beeler to finish out Mr. Pruneau’s term
1:46:55 - Mayor explains Beeler appointment
1:48:53 - Drew Beeler sworn in
1:49:52 - Department head reports
mckenzie city council, mayor ryan griffin, broadway street, charles pruneau, drew beeler, fireworks ordinance, budget