Marijuana ordinance discussion continues

By Jim McCabe on April 15 at 8:25am

Discussion on a proposed marijuana decriminalization ordinance continued prior to last night’s Jacksonville City Council meeting.

Aldermen gathered for a Public Protection Committee meeting to give city attorney Dan Beard clarification on the direction they want him to take.

According to Beard, aldermen want him to make it an ordinance violation for a one-time possession of two-and-a-half grams or less of cannabis, then a state violation after that, plus order community service as well as a fine for a penalty.

Beard says the key word in the ordinance may be “discretion.”

“Directions I’ve received, while we still certainly want to allow discretion to the hearing officer as far as what the fines or penalties would be, and we also want to give the officer discretion to charge under the state statute or as an ordinance violation, the discretion ends as far as being charged only one time as an ordinance violation,” says Beard.

“After that, you’re not eligible to be charged with an ordinance violation on your second possession of cannabis.”

The ordinance could be voted upon at the next city council meeting on April 28th.

Aldermen did approve the low bid of about $212,000 to Rouland Trucking for a flood protection project for the city’s current water treatment plant. There were three other bidders. Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard says the EPA recommended that the city construct a wall as a temporary fix.

“The state, they’re not mandating us to do [this], but they’re suggesting that we need to do something temporarily until we build our water plant, and we’re taking that extra step because we do not want the current water plant to flood again and have everybody go through that,” says Ezard.

“So yeah, is a lot of money to spend on a few-year project? Yes, but we, at the end, think it’s very important that we keep it in line and not have it go through a flood situation, and this barrier wall will help us not encounter a flood again.”

Ezard says the new water plant is still in the design phase with Benton and Associates, and is still two to four years away from reality. The flood protection wall should be in place by the summer.

“If we have a major rain event as we did a few years back- anything may flood that plant- but this will be more remedial for the rains that come close,” he says. “So, we just wanted to take that extra step.”

Other action in last night’s meeting included an update on the Lake Mauvaisterre dredging project. Reggie Benton of Benton and Associates told aldermen a harsh fall and winter prevented progress, but that things are under way now. He says about 150,000 cubic yards of sediment needs to be removed from the lake.

In somewhat of a connection, City Council also got an update from Jeff Boeckler with American Farmland Trust regarding the Lake Mauvaisterre Watershed Project.

Boeckler explained that based on his discussion with farmers impacted by the program, there’s a combined commitment of over $300,000 of work. The city previously committed $60-thousand, and Boeckler indicated they may need to contribute a slightly-higher amount.

A resolution to make Jacksonville an applicant for grant funding from the EPA, which would foot 60 percent of any watershed project, is tentatively scheduled for the April 28th City Council meeting.

Also last night, there was a first reading of an amended alcohol sales ordinance that would allow Aldi Market to sell beer.

The name “Kiwanis” was taken off of the park in the northeast section of the  city. Aldermen scrapped the original plan to name it “East Park” as a temporary name until a future meeting, but instead voted to leave it unnamed until then.