Gambles question mayor at Council meeting
Manila businessmen Chris Gamble and Dan Gamble addressed Manila Mayor Wayne Wagner and the city council about water meters and other issues they wanted to discuss with city officials.
Chris Gamble read a letter he had submitted to the local newspapers for publication and to all council members accusing Mayor Wagner and Wes Wagner, city attorney, of not paying trash and sewer on a meter the Gambles claim was used at the apartment/shop at Wes Wagner's apartment located behind Mayor Wagner's home.
Chris Gamble filed a lawsuit in August challenging the residency of Wes Wagner, candidate for Arkansas District 54. Wagner ran unopposed for the District seat. In a hearing at Little Rock, the judge ruled Wagner's residence did meet the requirements and he was eligible to seek the House Representative District 54 seat.
Mayor Wagner answered the water meter question saying he had three water meters on the property. Wes Wagner's apartment is behind Mayor Wagner's residence. He said the sewer is charged by the amount of water used and the meter which is connected to both the house and apartment would cover the sewer charges.
Mayor Wagner said there are over 40 instances in Manila where residents have more than one water meter. The second meter is used to water yards, fill swimming pools, sprinkler systems, etc.
Mayor Wagner presented several bills on commercial property owned by the Gambles that indicate they are not paying commercial trash rates (but residential trash rates which are less) on some of their businesses. Mayor Wagner said he has known about these since July but did not bring it out until after the election. (Dan Gamble lost the city council election to incumbent Whiz Davis in the November election). Wagner said he was going to give Mr. Gamble the bills and let him do what he thinks is right.
Chris Gamble responded later in the meeting saying he has the option to have the city pick up his trash or not.
Referring to the billing and meters, Mayor Wagner said the meters were set up before he was elected mayor.
"These meters were not placed there by me or this council," Mayor Wagner said. "The rates were set before I took office."
Jeremy Gamble (brother to Chris Gamble) said the point is the meter with account number 850 was used to establish Wes Wagner's residence and it shows no charges for sewer or trash pick-up.
Mayor Wagner again commented there are three meters on the property. One of the meters was once connected to his mother-in-law's mobile home.
"You are trying to retry a residency case about meters," Mayor Wagner said. "Water meters have nothing to do with residency. We have paid every service former mayors have billed us for, just like you all have. We have never had late charges and you have never had late charges."
Councilman Jason Baltimore said he had no problems with residents having a second water meter.
"I don't think they should have to pay for sewer or trash pick-up on a second meter used for a sprinkler system," Baltimore said. "We may need to pass an ordinance and keep a record of the extra meters so if there is ever a shortage of water, those would be the first to turn off."
Councilman Dale Murphy asked what the major issue is, sewer bills or city equipment. The letter also questioned Mayor Wagner's use of city equipment.
Chris Gamble's answer was both issues.
"As a city councilman, let's take now and go forward," Murphy said. "We can't go back 10 years what was done by other mayors or council. My suggestion is to start here and get it right. I want something I know about when I vote."
The conversation got heated and Mayor Wagner asked if the Gambles were trying to make it look like he was stealing services from Manila.
Mayor Wagner said not because he is guilty of anything or had to, he had the meters on his property changed to full service even the ones used for just water.
Dan Gamble took the floor congratulating the council members on being re-elected.
"Do any of you know what malfeasance means?" Dan Gamble asked the council. "It is the wrongdoing by a person holding a public office. As elected officials do you know the definition of personal gain? Mr. Wagner said he has never used city equipment. Mayor Wagner did you use city property for personal gain?"
"I said I have never been on a city tractor," Mayor Wagner said.
"Have you ever used city equipment?" Gamble asked.
"I used a drag to hook to my tractor on my driveway, same as we have used for other residents in the city," Mayor Wagner said.
"Did you use city employees or city equipment to tear down the car wash bought by Wes Wagner?" Gamble asked Mayor Wagner. "I have a video of your crew there."
Mayor Wagner said the city employees tore down the building given to the city, they did not tear down the car wash.
Dan Gamble quoted Arkansas law: "city does not have the power to use equipment, supplies, to perform work on private sector."
"Has that been going on in the city of Manila?" Gamble asked.
"We have a lot of good things going on in Manila," Mayor Wagner said.
Dan Gamble also questioned if city funds are being used to buy food to cook in the back of city hall. He quoted the Arkansas Attorney General's opinion that parties furnishings, etc., not for the public should not be purchased.
"We feed city council on meeting days and on those days police officers are welcome in and eat," Mayor Wagner said.
"Mayor Wagner, in this last election did you or did you not call a city employee in your office and tell him if he did not vote for Whiz Davis and politic for him, he would lose his job?" Gamble asked.
"I absolutely did not," Mayor Wagner said.
Mayor Wagner said a city employee would be over 18 and he could talk for himself.
"I want this in the minutes," Gamble said.
Gamble then asked Mayor Wagner if he called a federal employee into his office and told him not to vote for Gamble, but to vote for Whiz Davis.
Mayor Wagner said he did not call a federal employee into his office.
"Did you call someone from the Manila Housing Authority and tell him to tell the executive director to be sure to get her bids in and it would be in her best interest to not use Gamble Home Furnishings even though I have serviced them for years?" Gamble asked.
Mayor Wagner said he did not.
Again, Gamble said he wanted a copy of the minutes.
The City Council went into executive session to discuss bonuses. The council voted unanimously to give full time employees $800 Christmas bonus; pat-time employees $300; and department heads $1,000. Brenda Watson, who serves in several areas, will receive $500.
Mayor Wagner recommended giving the 20 firemen a $50 Christmas bonus and the fire chief $100. The board voted unanimously in favor of the recommendation.
In other business:
* Mayor Wagner introduced Manila's new employee Carla Brewer.
* Mayor Wagner announced the insurance premiums are going up again. He said they will have more information in December.
* Mayor Wagner said the council will have the 2013 budget to act on and they will make any adjustments to the 2012 budget in January.
* Mayor Wagner talked about purchasing plastic Easter eggs for a community egg hunt. He said the committee has found a reasonable price if they order now.
* Mayor Wagner said work has begun on the swimming pool. The architect called and plans to meet after Thanksgiving with the final plans for the therapeutic facility.
* Mayor Wagner said they are working on a grant for a walking trail. He checked on a master plan for the park. Wagner discussed using a local master gardner to work with park committee members Larry Miller and Sherry Pratt.
* Mayor Wagner said the 10-15 acres near Southworth the city has mowed and kept it up and this year Adams farmed it and they have they donated $3,500 to the park.
* Mayor Wagner said the airport rent is coming in and will go over $100,000 again this year.
* The Christmas parade, "Veterans Home for the Holidays" theme, will be held Saturday, Dec. 1. Joe Chipman is lining up people to sing Christmas carols from 5-6 p.m. in front of the bank near where the bleachers have been placed. The grand marshals are World War II veterans. Mayor Wagner encouraged everyone to display the American Flag with their Christmas decorations. There will be three bands in the Christmas parade this year.
* Manila Chief of Police Jackie Hill said Captain James Skinner has contacted a company and vests will be in by the first of the year.
* Fred Burks said the new highway will benefit from new culverts and ditches which will help the community with drainage.
* Larry Miller said he had talked to Dana Chipman at Groomingdales about distributing information to her customers on purchasing trees for the park to be placed in memory of their pets. He said he plans to purchase one in memory of his dog. He said this will be a good way to get trees in the park.