Club President Nettie Holt spoke to the council first.
“Since January of this year the Kingston Women’s History Club has been a topic of discussion at the council meetings. Unfortunately, the Kingston Women’s History Club has been vilified and characterized as an irresponsible group of individuals who do not pay their bills and refuse to cooperate with the mayor,” Holt said as she read from a prepared statement.
Holt continued, saying the club paid its electric and gas bills and also maintains the museum’s upkeep. The club has never received a water bill, she said, and the club has never been approached about any form of lack of payment. Holt also described the history of how the museum building came to be in the city’s possession and how the club added a new part of the museum in the 1990s.
“There has never been an issue with past administrations in regard to the possession of a key to the museum. Since we [the Kingston Women’s History Club], pledge to those who loan items to us that we will do our best to preserve and protect their donations, we do not think that we can do that with keys available to people outside the club,” Holt said. “When the building flooded in January, even though the mayor was aware of it, she failed to call any member of the club even though our names are posted on the door. As a result, we do not think the city is as interested in preserving the museum as we are. We have notified her that we are willing to come at any time we are called.”
Council member Louise Howell is a member of the club, Holt added, and she has a key.
As she continued her remarks, Holt described a burst water line inside the Civil War Museum section of the building that damaged floors, walls and led to water damage and mildew on some exhibits. The burst line had previously been turned off for approximately four years, Holt later said, and she was unsure of who may have turned the water line back on.
“Since January, it seems the focus has been on the Kingston Women’s History Club and its failure to pay non-existent water bills,” Holt said in her remarks to the council. “Shouldn’t it be of more concern to focus on who turned on the water supply located outside the Civil War Museum which resulted in a devastating and costly flood that no only damaged artifacts donated or loaned by Kingston residents, but seriously damaged the building as well — damages that will be costly to repair?”
Council member Chuck Wise responded first to Holt’s remarks, saying Mayor Wanda Penson’s meaning about a water meter being required at the museum may have been misinterpreted.
“I don’t think it was ever meant — and she might want to speak and may not — but I never got that out of her that she wanted to do anything to take away any privilege you have from the museum,” Wise said. “It’s just that, as she said, everybody was going to be held accountable and for whatever comes in and comes out of this office, meaning water main breaks or water line breaks, it’s undetected.”
Penson herself reiterated her point about the water meter not being a billing issue.
“I told you when I met with you in February that it was not about the water bill,” she said. “It’s just like what [Wise] said, I need to know what comes in and what goes out. That was all that. We don’t have a meter here, but we’re going to, because I want to know ... where it’s going. That’s all that was about. It never was about the water bill.”
History club member Marty Mulinix then took the floor and spoke to the council on the issue of the city having a spare key to the museum in case of an emergency. After talking with area museum directors, she said, it was clear no city had a key to a museum.
“Of the people that I’ve spoken with all have said that it’s the organization itself that should maintain the keys, that the cities do not have keys to the facilities, that it’s for them to maintain and take care of and have the responsibility for,” she said.
The council took no action on either the water meter or key issues.
In other business the Kingston City Council:
• Approved a contract with a new payroll company.
• Heard an update on the water audit, which Penson believed would resume within the next two weeks.
• Approved the removal of former City Clerk Michelle Jones, with council members Harold Posey, Mike Abernathy and Howell voting in favor. Wise abstained from voting, citing his family ties to Jones.
• Approved a 10-year natural gas franchise fee agreement with Cartersville.
• Discussed the cost of liquor license fees, fee costs in general and how the city should update its codes.
The next Kingston City Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 7, at 7 p.m. at city hall.