Berea City Council Reaffirms Opposition to Discrimination, Violence

The Berea City Council adopted a resolution Tuesday denouncing acts of discrimination, violence and harassment in city limits and greater Madison County. Council member Billy Wooten stated the measure was partly in response to a recent incident in which a county resident’s property was vandalized with homophobic graffiti.

The resolution states the City of Berea “supports the protection of all Bereans, condemns physical and psychological violence toward anyone, upholds civil discourse, and urges Bereans to stand in solidarity with all people for peace, justice and prosperity.” The measure further states the council is “disheartened by recent acts of hatred and vandalism” aimed at area residents. The concluding paragraph of the act vows that individuals targeted “can turn to their local government without fear and be treated with the courtesy, dignity and respect everyone deserves.”

Before the vote was cast on the resolution, Councilman Billy Wooten, who drafted the resolution, noted that some citizens wondered why a new version of the resolution was necessarily when a previous council had adopted very similar legislation in 2015. That resolution was sponsored by Diane Kerby. Wooten stated that because it is a new council, he felt it was appropriate for the body to re-affirm its commitment to oppose discrimination and violence.

Wooten also addressed concerns brought to his attention in the days leading up to Tuesday’s council meeting. “There is no hidden agenda with this resolution,” said Wooten. “The [Whitney] Preston incident was just a catalyst for this. It’s not meant to be a fairness ordinance. I know that the community is not ready for a fairness ordinance. This is simply a resolution saying that we, as a council, do not accept harassment or violence against anybody, whether it is because of race, disability, age, sexual discrimination, religion discrimination, and yes, sexual orientation is included. But we have a lot of different communities that need our support. It’s not meant to be the “gay” resolution. This is meant to be a resolution for all Bereans, and if we can’t stand firm with that as a council, I do worry about the City of Berea,” Wooten said.

The resolution was unanimously adopted by the full council. Later during council comments, Wooten thanked city leaders for their vote. Councilman Tom Schultz, meanwhile, expressed regret that the resolution was necessary.

“It grieves me that the City of Berea, which was founded on tolerance and compassion, must now state the obvious, and emphasize our opposition to evil and criminal acts against our citizens,” Schultz said. “I hope that tonight’s resolution will bring Bereans into closer harmony and let those who commit crimes against our people know that such behavior will be punished under the law.”

In other news, the council:

Unanimously adopted a resolution for the establishment of a hazard mitigation plan. The plan is updated every five years with the assistance of the Madison County Emergency Management Agency, and identifies areas at risk, and contingency plans for emergencies.

Eddie and Norma Kennedy accepted a proclamation recognizing SaraCare, an organization founded to honor their late daughter, Sara Kennedy. The annual celebration and fundraising event for SaraCare occurs this Friday.

Nick Carpenter addressed the council and accepted a proclamation recognizing April as Autism Awareness Month. Carpenter and his mother, Virginia Bland, were recognized in the proclamation for their advocacy on behalf of those who live with autism.

Judy Halstead and Nancy Melton accepted a proclamation recognizing Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month.

The council accepted bids from several prospective general contractors and referred them to committee for further review.
City council unanimously adopted an ordinance revising the city’s Code of Ordinances. The new measures provide for stricter regulation of the Code Enforcement Board, including specifying fees, the process for appeal, and contingencies in the event of issues impacting public safety and health.

Council members unanimously adopted revisions to the Code of Ordinances revising rates and tariffs for net metering.

Officials heard the first reading of an ordinance that would place designate several city vehicles as surplus property in anticipation of selling the items in an online auction.

The city awarded bids to Bluegrass Fire Equipment for $28,000 for carbon cylinders for self-breathing apparatus, and the Allen Company was awarded a bid for street resurfacing for $109,000.

Officials said plans for a dog park in Berea are still in progress and that council members are meeting with at least one prospective vendor this week.

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