Aldermen rehire city employees

By Russell Hood

The Webster Progress-Times


The newly installed Eupora Board of Aldermen, during a marathon meeting last week, voted to rehire all city employees.

Aldermen voted to go into executive session to discuss personnel when they reached the agenda item 3½ hours into the five-hour meeting. Department heads were called into the boardroom separately to meet with the mayor and board during that time.

The board then voted unanimously in open session to rehire all city employees at the current rate of pay until the first board meeting in October, according to City Clerk Gail Newton.

The new board’s first meeting included election of mayor pro tempore from among its members. Alderman-at-large Jerry Gary was elected by acclamation.

Aldermen also had to select a board attorney, city prosecutor, municipal judge and public defenders. Ward 3 Alderman Hugh Gibson previously served as board attorney and city prosecutor.

Upon the recommendations of Mayor Dan Burchfield, the board voted to appoint Jan Butler as city prosecutor, reappoint Buchanan Meek Jr. as municipal judge, and Austin Vollor and Jay Howard Hurdle as public defenders.

Burchfield said the city had two applicants for board attorney: Jacqueline Meek and Henry Ross. Ross was not present but Meek briefly addressed the board, pointing out that she previously served as board attorney for one year and expressing her interest in the position.

The board then spent about 15 minutes in executive session to discuss the board attorney’s hiring. After coming back into open session, aldermen unanimously voted to hire Meek at $300 a month with additional research at $65 an hour.

HOME bids

The board, upon the recommendation of Program Coordinator Spencer Broocks with the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, accepted the low bid for demolition and reconstruction of a house that is part of the city’s Homeowner Rehabilitation (HOME) Grant.

The bid from Carter’s Construction of Indianola was $99,794. Gladney Construction of Eupora submitted the only other bid, which was for $103,953.61 and over the HUD budget limit, according to Broocks.

Alma Ford of 278 Dunlap is the homeowner. Bids for demolition and construction of two other HOME houses were accepted June 3. All contractor bids for Ford’s house were rejected then because they were over the HUD limit, and that project was readvertised. The new bids were opened 30 minutes before last week’s meeting.

The board also approved related motions to reaffirm the construction contracts through the HOME Grant and to designate the mayor as contracting agent.

Street Paving

Hank Flowers, former Ward 4 alderman, appeared before the board to comment on the previous board’s decision concerning street paving. That board discussed applying for a 100 percent Small Municipalities Limited Population Grant for street improvement on June 3, 11 and 12.

It initially passed a resolution from the GTPDD authorizing then-mayor Tommy Lott, on behalf of the city, to enter into a grant agreement with the Mississippi Development Authority and authorize GTPDD to submit the grant application. The board also approved a motion by Flowers to authorize Calvert-Spradling Engineers to report to the board as soon as possible its best recommendation and budget of Westwood Park, South Allen Street and Waterworks Road.

John Freeman of Calvert-Spradling and GTPDD District Planner George Crawford met with the board June 12. According to the minutes, Crawford stated the city must specify which streets it would like repaired and how much monies the city is willing to spend, if any. Freeman presented cost estimates.

Records of the June 12 meeting show the board approved a motion by Burchfield for engineers to see how far the $150,000 grant will go on Waterworks Road from Walnut Avenue going south. The motion also authorized the GTPDD to make the grant application with Waterworks Road, which is in Ward 3, being the designated street. Flowers voted nay.

Flowers, in his opening remarks to the new aldermen last week, referred to the proposed paving of Waterworks Road and then said, “You need to drive through Westwood Park and South Allen.”

He noted that the city had previously paved four streets in the Whites Creek Lake area, Joliff Street and East Fox Avenue, while no paving was done in a minority community.

“That could be a problem for you in the future,” he said. “I’m not saying Waterworks doesn’t need to be paved, but so do the other two (South Allen in Ward 4 and Westwood Park in Ward 1).”

Regarding the previous street-paving projects, he added, “Not one piece of pavement was thrown in a minority community. … You’re gonna have to live with that.”

A related item was on the agenda later in the meeting: review of the Region IV housing contract. The matter was tabled until August so that Burchfield, and any other aldermen who wish to, can talk to officials with Mississippi Regional Housing Authority IV.

Crawford, at the June 12 meeting, suggested that city officials contact Region IV housing for possible federal grants for monies to overlay Westwood Park, which runs through public housing units in Westwood Subdivision. The MRHA is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

C&G Railroad

The final item of business was approval of the claims docket. As the previous board did on June 3, aldermen voted to pay the bills with the exception of C&G Railroad invoices in the amount of $2,900. Last month’s motion to pay all other bills included tabling the C&G bill until July 1 to follow up on questions about the invoices

Although C&G has abandoned its section of railroad in Webster County, it is still billing the city for right-of-way easements across railway property. However, city officials have pointed out that C&G is not keeping its tracks clear of grass and weeds. Gibson said the undergrowth on railroad property could cause health and safety problems.

According to the discussions, the Street Department has been mowing/trimming grass and weeds at railroad intersections in the city. Last month, aldermen suggested that Street Supervisor Will Gary keep a log of all work done on railway property.

“We are doing their job and we haven’t billed them (for it,)” Burchfield said.

Last week’s motion regarding the claims docket also included tabling the C&G bill for another month, at Burchfield’s recommendation, until he could find out what the city can and cannot do regarding its payment.

Department Heads

Department head reports were also given July 1. Park Director John Prather said the city had just finished its regular season of baseball and softball, and was preparing for peewee football. He said the city hosted 23 teams during the Dizzy Dean Warm-up Tournament the previous weekend. Burchfield said the Parks and Recreation Department serves many county youths.

Fire Chief Richard Love said the city has submitted a grant for a new fire truck, and plans to pursue grants for turnouts and self-contained breathing apparatus. Newton reported that Water Department employees Dwayne Dodd and Jimmy Hester have passed tests certifying them as water operators.

Also on July 1, the mayor and board received written notification from Lott that he gave authorization to and elected to negotiate with officials for fireworks sales and a July 25-27 carnival on Highway 9 South. He said proof of insurance is on file, and that donations to the city will be forthcoming and presented after each event rather than rental.

Approval of last month’s minutes included a correction to those of June 3 for the amount of a market feasibility grant being sought for the former Garan property. The previous board voted then to authorize Stone Adams Financial Partners to apply on behalf of the city for the grant, which is for $75,000.

Other Business

Also on July 1, the Board of Aldermen voted to:

• record oaths of new board members, who were sworn in that afternoon.

• affirm signatures on all bank accounts and affirm all bonds.

* approve Calvert-Spradling as city engineer.

* table until August acceptance of bank bids for official depositories.

• approve a final resolution granting an ad valorem tax exemption to Plymouth Tube Co.

• name Burchfield as city grant administrator for five pending grants (TVA lighting grant, FAA hangar grant, USDA sidehog and police car grant/loan program, Small Municipalities street paving grant and marketing grant with Stone-Adams).

• reaffirm the ordinance setting the salaries (with no increases) for city elected officials and disavow any supplements. The salaries are $300 a month for each alderman and $18,000 a year for the mayor.

• table selection of a representative to the Golden Triangle Solid Waste Management Authority advisory committee.

* reappoint Steve Wells as city Civil Defense director.

• recognize Municipal Court Clerk Milinda Norwood’s certificate of court clerk class attendance.

• name the mayor as an economic development contact person for the city.

• accept the resignation of police dispatcher Veronica West.

• approve assignment/supervision of duties for travel, petty cash, purchasing law, contracting, leave and overtime.

• authorize travel expenses to the Mississippi Municipal League Annual Conference for all aldermen and the mayor, with any budget excess coming out of reserves because the item was not budgeted. The conference is Monday-Wednesday in Biloxi. Burchfield said this is the first time that all five aldermen have agreed to attend the conference, which includes training and education sessions.

Additionally, Chris Turnipseed of Watkins, Ward and Stafford presented a final report to the board concerning financial training. The city has engaged the accounting firm to provide financial training to the city clerk in performing monthly procedures. Turnipseed said all appears to be running smoothly in the transition since the resignation of the former city clerk.