CARYVILLE – Caryville councilman Henry Chambers has never seen a law that couldn’t be broken. And he made it explicitly clear to his fellow council members at a Caryville Town Council meeting Tuesday.
"I've never seen a law that couldn't be broken," Chambers said.
The council was discussing how to move forward with handling Chambers and former councilman Ransom Works' refusal to connect to the town’s water system. During last month’s meeting Chambers had refused to connect, although he made the motion to pass the ordinance requiring residents to do so.
Town Attorney Jerry Miller said he re-checked the ordinance for a grandfather clause but one was not written in.
"I provided for a criminal remedy in the backflow ordinance, but I did not provide for that in the compulsory water connection," Miller said. "I can tell you that I did this because it never crossed my mind that we wouldn’t have compliance from every citizen in the town."
Miller recommended the council to authorize the town clerk to make available - at each required structure under the ordinance - a water meter for the property owner to connect to the water system and a recommendation to establish a civil enforcement procedure for the town’s structure for Code Enforcement in the future.
Councilman Larry Palmer said it wasn’t right for Chambers not be in compliance.
"I know he doesn’t want to connect," said Palmer. "But we aren’t in compliance with everyone else and it is no more right for him, or me to not be on it like everyone else."
Palmer made the motion for the clerk to provide water service and to charge a monthly flat rate utility bill to each structure in non-compliance until the property owner connects to the system. Councilman Bill Pate seconded the motion.
Miller advised Chambers that he abstain from the vote because he was one of the two residents affected by the vote.
"Mr. Chambers, I would suggest to you that you abstain from this vote as you are apparently one of the only two citizens that this action would affect," Miller said.
Before the vote was taken Chambers, spoke to the council and the attorney.
"I own 27 or 28 properties in this town, that pays somebody’s paycheck in this town," he said. "Now y’all gonna (sic) jeopardize me like that? Lets go with it."
Councilwoman Becky Pate said she didn’t think it was fair.
"I don’t think it's fair that if someone has been here that long shouldn’t be forced to connect," she said.
Miller again spoke of a grandfather clause.
"I will report to you that technically there was no grandfather clause in the regulation when it was prepared and adopted," he said.
Chambers went on to say the town couldn’t afford what he was going to do and what the role of the attorney was.
"I will be back," he fired off. "The town cannot afford what y’all are about to do to me. It is going to cost you money to put that water line to my house. It is going to cost you the money to do what I am going to do. It is just that simple, take it or leave it."
"The lawyer is here to advise us, he cant tell us how to vote, people, isn’t that right, Mr. Miller?" Chambers said, rhetorically.
Miller responded, "That is correct."
"But your suggestion regarding the sentiment that I might have said someone should be able to violate the law is directly incorrect," he added.
"Mr. Miller has to get paid," Chambers said. "And if no one in this town is producing, then Mr. Miller cant get paid."
In a 3-1 vote, with Chambers abstaining, the motion was approved. Council members’ Larry Palmer, Bill Pate and Chairman Millard French all voted to approve the measure while Becky Pate voted against the issue.
Caryville Town Council will meet again in regular session at 6 p.m. on May 8.