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BMA members can now be paid

With three people running unopposed for the trio of available spots on the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen, there’s not likely to be a surprise when it comes to who wins. But who takes those seats isn’t the only thing decided in this year’s town election. How much the town will be doling out to those BMA members is also up for debate.
With changes passed last year to Jonesborough’s charter, then-members of the BMA agreed to offer compensation to the mayor and aldermen for their service to the town.
The monthly stipend — $100 for attending the BMA meeting and one committee meeting and $200 for taking part in the BMA meeting and more than one committee meeting — is optional and goes into effect after this week’s election.
Town leaders wanted to give residents the opportunity to vote for a candidate based, or at least partially based, on the candidates’ decisions as to whether or not to accept the compensation.
With a lack of opposition for standing Mayor Kelly Wolfe in the mayoral race, and current Vice Mayor Terry Countermine and newcomer Adam Dickson for the two open aldermen seats, the issue won’t affect who gets elected this go around.
But it does mean the BMA members can now begin accepting their pay. Though by the sound of things, the town won’t be cutting too many checks between now and the next round of BMA elections in 2014. “I plan on declining the compensation. I didn’t run for office to be compensated. I ran to get things done,” Wolfe said. “I do, however, think the cost of campaigns could prevent someone from seeking office in Jonesborough, and this could be a way of helping defray that cost. I certainly think $200 per month is entirely justified.”
Countermine will also decline the stipend.
“I said from the beginning that I won’t be taking it,” Countermine said. “I believe in public service. It’s not like the money is why I do the job.”
Countermine initially voted against the changes to the charter that would allow for BMA compensation. He later voted in favor of it, citing compromises made in the plan that would allow voters to determine any future increases in stipend amounts.
Dickson wasn’t aware he could decline the stipend, but said he doesn’t intend to keep the money for himself either way.
“I didn’t realize it was an option to decline it. So my thought was in line with taking it, but donating it to groups such as the Civitans and Kiwianis clubs. Philosophically speaking, why have (stipends) if you’re not going to take them? What one does with it becomes the issue,” he said. “My focus is to serve. I ran to serve and serving is the most important thing. Service, on its own, is just that.”
Alderman Chuck Vest, who is not up for re-election this year, said he will decline the pay.
“I just don’t need it, personally,” Vest said. “But I have no qualms if someone chooses to take it. If a small little stipend will help them, I am OK with that.”
Homer G’Fellers, who recently was appointed to serve the remaining two years of Mary Gearhart’s alderman term when she fell ill, said he, too, isn’t interested in being compensated for his service.
“I do not, at this time, intend to accept any pay,” he said. “No. 1, I don’t need it. The good Lord has provided and I am able to make ends meet. No. 2, it could be used for other things within the town budget for the benefit of Jonesborough citizens.”
Like his counterparts, G’Fellers said he understood if others on the board did accept the compensation.
“Serving on the town board does take a pretty good amount of time and you do burn up some gas going here and there,” he said. “There are expenses involved.”
Gearhart was a staunch supporter of the compensation plan and had said she would gladly accept it for her service if she were still in office when it was instituted.
The new BMA will get down to business for the first time at the Monday, Nov. 12 meeting.
Outgoing alderman Jerome Fitzgerald, who decided not to run again after 16 years on the board, voted against the compensation plan. He has not attended a BMA meeting since August.