Bill Lancaster, City Councilman, former Mayor
Valley Mills – City Councilman and former Valley Mills Mayor Bill Lancaster arrived in the twilight about the same time as former educator Benny Powers rolled up to City Hall.
They wanted to talk, even though there was no meeting.
They were obviously disappointed that Mayor Ray Bickerstaff had called off a mysterious executive session regarding the proposed acquisition and development of 259 acres of ranch land from the Robert Hall estate for custom housing, extension of the city limits – and other big plans. .
Neither of them are all that impressed with the sanctity of the “sensitive negotiations” Bickerstaff refuses to discuss.
Said Benny Powers, “Our streets are literally falling apart…They budgeted $10,000 for street repair,” in a tone of disbelief. “I believe we have $10,000 worth of potholes alone.”
“And we’ve still got 7 acres remaining at the Dollar General Store,” Bill Lancaster chimed in. They patiently explained to the scribe in attendance that you could put four houses on the vacant lots the City of Valley Mills acquired in order to develop the retail outlet.
“Then they turned around and budgeted $33,000 for utilities in the administrative office (city hall),” said Benny Powers. “How much did we spend on utilities? he asked Lancaster.
“Oh, nothing, probably…”
“Well, we paid for the electricity and the telephone…”
“They won’t talk to any of us,” Powers complained. “All we’re asking for is a little transparency.” One recalled the words of May Bickerstaff coming over the phone, all about his idea of transparency.
“They want transparency, I’ll give them transparency,” he said. “If I know it and I’m not ready to talk about it, I won’t. If I don’t know, and I know it, I can’t say anything anyway. Is that transparent enough for you?”
One could only agree – dubiously – with that which is the big X – the unknown.
Bickerstaff had a message waiting when the scribe arrived home. “This is a whole different thing,” he explained. There is no such thing as acquisition and development, economic development – none of that.
“This is a whole different process,” he insisted, avoiding all talk of finance, bonds, limited partnership consortium.
When questions persisted, he said, “I’m starting to get frustrated because I don’t have all that I can give you. As soon as I do, I can sit down and tell what we went through to get this.”
He sent text messages to City Council members that said “the governing body” did not have the full facts by which to make decisions, and so the meeting in executive session had been cancelled.