Town Crier News Staff
Leachville aldermen held an intense discussion during the council meeting last Monday evening as they researched records from a variety of city departments in an effort to finalize the 2007 city budget.
Mayor Ralph Wells wished the council well as he made a short farewell address at the beginning of the business meeting, then he left.
"I wish the council and new mayor good luck," Wells said. "I still maintain the city is not in as dire need as portrayed."
He listed the many businesses that have opened in Leachville during his 24 years in office.
"When you get to the end of your rope you just tie a knot and hold on until the Lord comes to get you, and that's what I plan to do," Wells said. "I have another meeting to attend."
Wells turned the meeting over to the council.
Alderman Anna Beth Thomas asked, "Do we need to make a motion for someone to lead?"
"Someone has got to be the mayor," said Alderman Bruce Wilson.
"I move that we choose Bruce, as he does a good job," Thomas said.
The council voted unanimously for Wilson to serve as acting mayor.
The council reviewed balances in the different departments of the city.
"Can I close the theatre account and put it as a line item in the general fund?" asked clerk Ruth Ann Keith.
"No," said councilman Bill Hetler.
"Can I put the the Police Department Donation Fund in as a line item?" asked Keith.
The response from the council was "yes."
Wilson requested a report on a summary of all donations and asked Keith to list them.
"I don't know them," Keith said. "I gave you all the information before."
"I don't want to hear I don't know and I told you before," Wilson said. "I want to know the information. You work for us.
"You don't know what we are going to budget," he said. "You don't have to get huffy about it."
"You weren't here in the beginning," Keith said. "The council was told each month about expenses.
"You hit me with something new every time. Instead of asking me before the meeting, so I can have time to get it, you come to the meeting and ask. I cannot give you that information off the top of my head."
"Or I could ask you tonight and you could tell me now, or tell me you will get it for me," Wilson said. "But not say you don't know or have told me before."
"I've tried it different ways and I can't please you," Keith said. "We need budget meetings and details to ledgers, expenses and income. I am only required to give reports quarterly."
"We are the council and we make the broadband reports," Wilson said. "You are asking us not telling us. If you can't do that then we can get someone who will. You are asking me not to ask. If I have a question to ask, I'll do it whenever."
"I know you can't give me all the information off the top of your head, but you can try," Wilson said, "or get it when you can and get back to us."
Wilson inquired about what to do with the $4,000 over budget expenses for police car lights.
"We need to know what has been donated and what has been spent," Wilson said.
A Police Department report lists $63,000 in private and city donations and $67,000 in expenses.
"There were no donations for the $4,000 spent on lights for the Dodge Charger," Wilson said. "This should not come from the General Fund.
"What do we owe to the Mississippi County jail?" asked Alderman Bill Hetler.
"I don't know," said Keith. "I can't open that mail. I am not allowed to open anything but the phone bill."
"That's another thing we have to change," said Wilson.
The council unanimously agreed.
Police Chief Ken Womack agreed to check and see what is owed.
The council discussed losses in the water department of $13,000, mostly due to overdue or uncollected water bills.
"After 60 days past due they are over their deposit," said Alderman Bob Crites. "They are defaulting on their agreements. There is a grey area somewhere. We have to come up with a policy. This has been a problem for a good while."
"This is one problem among many that we have to work on," said Wilson.
"I'm for helping someone if they try to help themselves," said Crites, "but not help if they are not."
"The Water Department lost money," said Wilson.
"Is there a Water Department budget?" asked alderman Tommy Stone.
"No," said Hetler. "We asked Mayor (Wells) for it once and he said it was none of our business."
Questions were asked about expenses for clothing for new firemen, who are also policemen.
Policemen work as hard as other firemen," said Teresa Johnson.
"They respond to fires when they are off duty also, in their personal clothes," said Mark Johnson. "They need uniforms."
"As long as they are there fighting fires," said Wilson. "We as a council can decide how many firemen we have and how many we pay."
A city volunteer coach noted that the coaches did not get donations or money when they were in service.
"You probably don't get killed at the ball field," said Teresa Johnson. "Everyone works full time jobs and still volunteers."
Alderman and audience members made complimentary statements as to work done by First Responders and firemen.
As a council this is what has been needed for the last 10 years, reviewing this budget," said Marilyn Looney. "You are all to be commended for this."
"We have to complete our 2007 budget by Jan. 1," said alderman Mark Wheeler. "It has to be adopted by 1-1-07 and amended by 1-31-07. The city can't work without one."
"The Water Department works without one," said Stone.
A special called meeting to discuss the 2007 budget was set for Dec. 28, at 6 p.m. at city hall.
In other business:
* After a lengthy discussion the council authorized Wilson to contact the Attorney General about the decision of what amount of retirement to pay outgoing Mayor Ralph Wells. Questions arose as to lack of clarity from response from David Shoane of the Municipal League.
*The council agreed to not give Christmas raises to employees or raises this year.
"When we don't have any money, we can't give any money," said Hetler.
*Outgoing aldermen Hetler, Thomas and Crites expressed their support for the new council and mayor, and an appreciation for time and support while in office.