Leachville Mayor Ralph Wells presented checks to the 2003 Leachville Christmas residential lighting winners when the Leachville City Council met in regular session Jan. 12. Winners included Marlon and Shirley Davis, $100 first place;
Kenneth and Doris Carmichael, $50 second place; and Bill and Betty Branum, $25 third place.
"Our attorney, Mike Bearden, is here tonight to answer questions concerning our recent audit," Mayor Wells said. "Mike is not my lawyer, and he is not the council's lawyer, but rather, he is the city's lawyer. His responsibility is to the city, not us as individuals."
"I have received a lot of calls concerning the city's general fund," Bearden said. "I have been asked about it not being reconciled as it should be the last couple of years. We have had questions about not doing an audit but rather a reconciliation inquiry. Expenditures for 2003 would be adequate for that.
"Some of the books are probably being done wrong. Instead of using the general fund, some things should have come out of water and sewer funds. CPA Don Ray came over to review and get the books in correct posture, with income and expenses. Leachville is probably hurting for funds like everyone else is hurting.
"Changes for procedures should take from 30 to 90 days, at an estimated cost of $5,500," Bearden continued. "Using a third party to do the work, we can expect the first proposed final around Feb. 15. At that time we should know where we stand."
"If findings are inappropriate, will you prosecute?" asked alderman Rick Hamilton.
"Any criminal conduct would be handed over to the prosecuting attorney's office in Blytheville," said Bearden. "They handle all felony prosecutions."
The council voted 4-1 to hire Ray to complete the job, with alderman Hamilton opposing.
"I don't see the city paying that money, when it may not be necessary," Hamilton said. "I was told that the Arkansas Municipal League would do that for nothing."
"That is not correct," Bearden replied. "They do not audit books. The Legislative Audit Committee does municipal audits but not the Municipal League."
"The Legislative Audit just finished the 2002 records last week, and just found a few things," Mayor Wells said.
"The Legislative Audit just does a sampling," said Bearden. "Ray will do an in-depth study."
"The annual Water Department audit was done by Ray," Wells said.
"Are they not sure about anything yet?" asked alderman Billy Hetler.
"I don't recall that report coming through the council," Hamilton said.
"They started a month ago, doing the 2003," Wells said.
"It would be in the city's best interest, and your best interest, for an independent auditor to be involved," Bearden said.
Leachville Chief of Police Ken Womack reported on work done in the police department during 2003.
"We did 792 citations, 36 DWI arrests, 172 inattentive driving, with 30 felony cases worked in 2003," Womack said. "We paid $9,745 in jail bills. Our 2003 proposed budget, for the police department, was $40,000. We over proposed $15,515.12. There is still $24,110 on the books. We overspent, but took in more than budgeted."
Mayor Wells and several councilmen praised Womack for the good job done by the department.
Womack agreed to complete his 2003 report and pass out to the council at the next meeting. Several councilmen asked for special details on department to be included in the report.
"In the past, when a new policeman was hired, it came before the council for approval," Hamilton said. "That was not done this time."
"It is always cleared with the mayor," Womack said.
"This is done when you adopt a budget," Wells said. "The department heads set their budget. The mayor takes care of the day to day operation of the city, city finances and city properties. The council is over the budget."
The council voted 4-1 that hiring and salaries be brought before the council, even if a special meeting had to be called. Alderman Monte Wells cast the opposing vote. The council will take the recommendation of the department head into their consideration at that time.
"I have been here 20 years and have never seen us operate within our police department, like we do now," said Wells. "They are fair and some of the best policemen we have ever had."
The council passed Resolution 2004-1 allowing the police department to apply for a block grant of $1,192.
"I would like to have monthly department reports, like Ken does,"Wells said.
Aldermen asked if this also included the fire department.
"It would be good to get fire department reports," alderman Karen Wallace said. "Like the fire calls they respond to each month, and all that training that they take. Before, I didn't even know who was on the fire department."
The council reviewed the 2004 budget, and looked for ways to save expenses.
"You need to look at the budget good and then we can have a special meeting if necessary to adopt it," Wells said.
The council voted 4-0 to eliminate the services of Wayne Austin, used for city custodial duties. Alderman Estus Williams abstained from voting.
"Wayne has been used as contract labor in the past," Wells said. "We can clean our own place here at city hall, and the theatre, or with prisoners or people needing to work off community service," Wells said.
The council discussed expenses of street sweeping.
Collection of privilege licenses were not enforced for 2003, even though some businesses paid them after receiving a notice. A loss of $3,000 in these revenues was estimated.
The council voted to eliminate employee uniforms and rugs, at an estimated cost of $9,600.
The council voted to do away with the specialized refurbishing of medical supplies and to do the job themselves.
Monthly random employee drug testing was eliminated, with the city taking care of the testing as needed.
The council voted to bring any expenditures over $150 to the council for approval. In case of emergencies, the council voted that the mayor could approve the expenditures.
The council discussed office hours for water department employees. Hours are staggered with one employee working 8-4 and another working 8:30-4:30.
"We need for them to alternate their lunch hours, so that someone will be here to keep from closing the office at noon," Alderman Karen Wallace said. "I'm not saying that they are not doing a good job, we just need the office open during that time."
The council voted unanimously to keep the office open during the lunch hour.
"I think that if they get paid for eight hours, they should work eight hours," Rick Hamilton said.
"I defend my people on this, as they are often called on after hours to do something, and they are not paid extra for that," Wells said. They do a lot out of the goodness of their hearts, above and beyond the call of duty."
The next regularly schedule council meeting is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 2.