Leachville Council sets raises, bonuses

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Town Crier News Staff

Leachville aldermen met in regular session on Dec. 10, and reviewed salaries, and plans for year end bonuses.

Leachville Mayor Sheila Spurlock said new Police Chief Keith Evans would be on the job after fulfilling his contract with Mississippi County Sheriff's Department on Dec. 13.

A lengthy discussion ensued about Chief Evan's salary package. Clerk Ruth Ann Keith noted his salary was set at $30,000 a year base pay. All council members related that it was $30,000 a year plus vacation and holidays and benefits.

Keith did not present special meeting minutes of Nov. 26 where the actual decision was made.

Mrs. Keith recalled recording the decision at the Nov. 26 special meeting was a motion and vote on salary to be set at $30,000 per year to include paid holidays and vacation.

"This would be $2,500 less than Brian Crites made," Wilson said. "Using the same formula we used for Crites, the salary would be $30,000 plus FICA and insurance would be a total of $38,396.52. That is what the council agreed upon."

When completed, the clerk's Nov. 26 minutes will be reviewed at the next meeting and clarified if necessary.

Year end bonuses were set at $150 plus tax for full-time employees and $50 for part-time, which includes new employees, First Responders, Fire Department and Police Department. There will be no double bonuses for people who fill more than one position. Green Thumb employees will also receive bonuses if it does not interfere with any prior agreements.

Aldermen discussed differences in employees being salaried and hourly. Those salaried do not receive overtime, but hourly employees do. Most employees are paid hourly. Comp-time in lieu of overtime was discussed, and also consideration for department heads being salaried. Employees working 32 hours a week or more are considered full time.

"Accountability is going to be a problem here," said Councilman Bruce Wilson. "Being paid for hourly work will be an incentive to work, salaried will be an incentive not to work. We will have to have a clock if we go hourly. If they don't work then it is the department head or Mayor's job to see that they do. We need employee input, as this is who will be affected."

The decision on salaries was tabled until the January meeting.

The council reviewed the financial reports in depth.

"I think we did very good to pay IRS $237,000 and still have over $80,000 left over at the end of the year," Wilson said. "Until this year we were in the dark about city expenditures and the water department report. We are definitely making progress."

"We need Rebecca (Clowers) here, every month, as we always seem to have questions that we can't answer," he said.

"If you want Rebecca here, that can be arranged," Spurlock said.

"I'm sure she knows the answers, but we want to know also," Wilson said.

"We are working to separate water and waste water expenses into two accounts," Clerk Ruth Ann Keith said. "This is something we need to know, when we are trying to follow two departments.

There were no monthly reports given by street, water or police department heads.

Fire Chief Richie Pace gave the fire department report.

"We have lost quite a few people on the fire department," Pace said. "We are looking for more firemen. About 11 of our 21 firemen participate and are actively going to meetings. We also lost three First Responder EMTs."

Pace recommended the addition of two new First Responders, Todd Thompson and Amy Lambert. These two are certified and would make a total of seven First Responders.

"We also need a tool set to work on our trucks with," Pace said. "I priced one at Sears for $400. It will be kept at the fire department and secured."

The council approved the two new First Responders and the purchase of tools.

Pace discussed requirements that firemen come to at least two meetings a month, out of the four. Warnings will be given. Checks could be pulled or firemen could be voted off if they do not comply.

"I have a list as long as my arm of the people who want to be firemen," Pace said. "We have a policy and procedure. We are slotted for 25 firemen and want to make sure they are going to show up if we put them on the force."

Decision on Theatre insurance was tabled until a copy of the contract could be reviewed.

Ruth Ann Keith announced that Winter Municipal League Conference would be held at the Peabody in Little Rock Jan. 9-11. The due date for $100 registration fee is Dec. 14. Late registration will be $150 per person.

Keith explained a request from Rebecca Clowers for a new software and billing computer system for the water department. This is to be an upgrades system with a new hand-held meter reader, and bank draft payment capability. The current hand-held meter can also be updated to work with the new system, allowing two people to read meters.

"With as many people as we have working, there should be no reason that our readings should be late," Wilson said. "I would like to see us have unified departments and multi-training for employees."

"We need to read meters," Spurlock said. "We can do cross-training for two readers."

The council voted to pay $7,949 for new upgraded system and to use two meter readers in the future.

In other business:

The council passed a new resolution on profiling.

The council tabled replacement on wiring in city hall building, until more information on roofing repairs or replacement is obtained.

"We need to fix the roof before the wiring is worked on," Spurlock said. "Moving of heat and air system will need to be discussed also. Jessie Johnson is willing to replace all the wiring in the building, and do it in stages or work during our off-hours."

The current flat-topped city hall structure was built in 1972, and it has experienced several problems with leakage.

Holiday trash pick up is scheduled for Dec. 26 and January 2.

A potluck employee dinner is scheduled for noon Dec. 13, at city hall.

The council discussed payment for collection of electric and cable bills in the water department at city hall.

"I don't think we should bother Rebecca's (Clowers) salary, for collecting these bills," Councilman Johnny Hawkins said.

"There is nothing in the minutes confirming payments for this," Mayor Spurlock said.

"She should be paid an X amount to do the job, but not a commission," Wilson said.

"She does it on city time," Alderman John Stone said.

"The city pays Social Security on the payment," Alderman Tommy Stone said.

"The payment was originally divided three ways," said Keith.

"The cable payment is a set amount, with 20 cents on each electric bill," Hawkins said.

"I have asked to be notified when payment checks come in, but have not been," Keith said.

Keith reviewed payments received with Ritter paying $200 on Nov. 14, and Entergy paying $202.80 on the same day, for a total of $402.80 for the month."

"With that amount we could give all of our employees a bigger Christmas bonus," John Stone said. "She does this on city time and the city should get the money."

"Former mayors and people in the office made this decision," Keith said. "Rebecca received $200 from Entergy and $150 from Ritter with the other $50 to cover her taxes. The city is not getting anything from this."

"The money belongs to the city," John Stone said.

"I recall that Rebecca said she was given this money in lieu of a raise one year," Alderman Teresa Johnson said.

"This percentage is not legal," Bruce Wilson said. "It needs to be a set fee. It goes against everything else we do. We don't pay a meter reader extra for reading meters. If the council approves the payment it is legal, if there is no record of council approval, then it is not legal."

"It is extra pay but another job with more responsibility," Spurlock said. "Should it be more responsibility and no more pay? She should be compensated. We need to look at this and decide."

"Look at the total salary and see if her salary is in line," Wilson said.

"This is like scrap iron gathered up and sold for personal gain, using city equipment and city time," said Tommy Stone. "We need to see if this is legal."

The council agreed that it needed to do some housekeeping and agreed to get more facts before making a decision.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be 7 p.m. Jan.14 at city hall.

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