Leachville Council fills vacancies

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Leachville City Council accepted the resignation of a councilman and made four appointments to fill vacancies for council, fire chief, and the Public Housing Authority Board at the council meeting May 2.

The council approved the resignation of councilman Sheila Spurlock, who has moved out of Ward 1 and will be residing in Ward 2.

"We have had a lot of people that have showed interest in serving on the council in that position," Mayor Ralph Wells said. "Before we make a decision to appoint someone to fill that vacancy, I want to give them time to speak to the council and tell why they want the position."

Candidates Carolyn Oliver, Harold Posey and Mark Wheeler were given three minutes each to address the council.

The council went into executive session to discuss the appointment. After reconvening the council voted 3-0 to ask Wheeler to assume the Ward 1, Position 2, seat on the council. Councilmen Anna Beth Thomas and Tommy Stone abstained from voting.

Mayor Wells reported on a fire department meeting held April 27.

"Current fire chief Jessie Johnson did not attend the meeting but resigned following the meeting," Wells said. "The firemen met again on Saturday (April 30) and selected Richie Pace to serve as their new chief. This is not my job to select a fire chief, but Richie is the one they chose. Mark Johnson has been off the fire department and has agreed to come back on, if that is the council's wish."

The council approved the two appointments, of Pace and Johnson, unanimously.

"The First Responders do a great job and I want the fire department and police department to work with them," Wells said. "Firemen are ready to work together and are pleased with Richie as their new chief.

"This is the way democracy works," Wells said.

Peggy Mathis and Stan Whitlow were appointed to serve as commissioners of the Public Housing Authority board, following the resignations of C.B. Mathis and Robert Pierce. Their terms will run from May 2005 to November 2010.

In other business:

*Roger Davis was awarded the bid for three pieces of property, two on Sixth and Nelson, and one on Seventh and Lange, totaling $3,500.

*The council voted 4-1 not to grant a request by Nell Whithead to close a city street near her home. Alderman Bill Hetler cast the descending vote.

"If we close one street, then we should close all, or leave them all open, " said Councilman Thomas.

*Lt. Keith Evans gave the monthly report on work done by the Leachville Police Department, and information on the city's Waste Disposal Committee, for consideration of the city operating its own garbage pick up and disposal service.

"We can save some money with our own pickup," Wells said. "We were told it would take two workers on the truck, one on the truck and one picking up trash."

*Evans also reported on two dog attack incidents during the recent month, one where a dog killed a family pet and one where a dog bit a child.

"We need tighter restrictions on dogs, involving vicious dogs," Evans said. "Chaining dogs does not appear to be effective, and we may need to looking at requiring fencing. We need to change our ordinance."

"There was an incident today, where a dog was trying to get at a baby in a stroller," Wells said.

Wells appointed Tommy Stone, Bill Hetler, and Anna Beth Thomas to a committee to study the revision of the current ordinance, with Hetler serving as chairman.

*Mayor Wells announced a city tour for city councilmen, May 7, at 8 a.m., to tour departments of the city, which will include police, city shop, water system and treatment plant. Councilmen agreed to attend.

*Alderman Thomas inquired about the status of the city's IRS tax situation.

"We sent letters to IRS," Wells said.

The letter, prepared by city attorney, Mike Bearden, Frank Heath, of Tax Resolutions in Georgetown, Texas, the City of Leachville, was sent to the IRS Penalty Abatement, Section, in Austin, Texas, on April 19, and signed by Mayor Wells. The letter stated, "I am writing you this letter as Mayor of the City of Leachville in connection with a request for abatement of civil penalties for failure to file W-2s/W-3s for the years 1998-1999."

Wells went on to outline the responsibilities of the former city clerk/recorder, Teresa Austin, to prepare payroll and to do all filings with the IRS and State of Arkansas in regard to withholding taxes for city employees and any other taxes which might have been applicable.

"She (Austin) repeatedly gave her assurance to the City Council that the tax returns were filed and taxes paid," Wells wrote. "The new clerk (Ruth Ann Keith) reviewed all records and determined that tax returns, including the W-2s/W-3s for 1998 and 1999, were prepared, but not filed.

"The new city clerk has filed all required tax returns and prepared all required W-2s/W-3s, and the city is current with the exception of the dates set forth above," Wells wrote. "An undue hardship will be created if payment must be made. You are requested to consider the circumstances described in this letter as a reasonable cause to abate the penalty and interest that has been assessed for 1998 and 1999."

Following the meeting Wells was asked to comment on the status of the six employees that the council has voted for him to layoff or cut back hours.

"The council does not supervise, and they don't tell me what to do," Wells said. "I run the day to day operations of the city, and they are responsible for the finances. One employee has chosen to resign, but the other five are as they were. I will fight this and do not intend to let the others go, as we need them."

The next regularly scheduled council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 6 at city hall.

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