Review of November 1, 2011 Board Meeting
Before the meeting started there was a lot of moaning and groaning coming from the members of the audience and once I thumbed through the agenda, I saw the reason for the rumblings of the citizens attending the board meeting. Just when you thought the board members couldn't get dumber they proved me wrong again. On page 5 of the agenda, Kent Crider placed the following item for a vote from the aldermen: "Order to remove and/or arrest anyone makes any comments of disturbances after Citizen Comments are concluded during any board meeting." He later retracted the agenda item because it did not sit well with the citizens in attendance. It is interesting that we have board members that want to establish new laws (ordinances) for the citizens attending the board members but the board members don't want to adhere to the laws governing elected officials.
As soon as citizen's comments started, there were more issues with the water department. Several citizens had issues with leaks and unread meters, but the board said that they will review the water bill issues at a special call meeting on November 8, 2011. When the board voted to stop giving adjustments on the water bills, several members of the audience and one alderman told them that they needed to wait before voting on a new ordinance because of all the problems in the water department, but now the board is looking for a new way to crawfish out of the rush to set the no adjustment ordinance. They are holding fast to the adjustments, but now there looking at a loophole for adjustments; instead of asking for an adjustment for the water bill, citizens can now ask for an adjustment on the sewer rate. The board is working with the group that wants to renovate the old hospital and turn it into an assisted living facility for the elderly. The tentative name of the facility will be Parkview Assisted Care Facility and the owners said they will be able to house 55-80 patients. The board is going with Nicholson and Company again to perform the city's full audit for FYE (fiscal year ending) September 30, 2011. By the way, there was no agenda item to hire an accountant to review the city's finances despite their vote last month to do so. The aldermen voted to proclaim the 3rd Saturday in October as Breast Cancer Awareness Day. The board tabled the motion to renew and pay for employee dental insurance. Many of those in attendance were shocked to find out that the City of Lumberton pays for each of their employee’s dental insurance. Hale suggested that the employees be given the opportunity to pay for their own dental insurance after Mayor Holder reminded the board that they are required to have 25% financial cushion for the next administration. There was only one water billing error adjustment this month.
I was impressed by the actions of our new Public Works Director, Ben Barrett, Jr. He stated that he will make sure that all water meters are checked; he asked the board to re-hire Perry McLemore to assist with the reading of the water meters. Barrett also said that he will be ordering more locks for the water meters because if anyone has a past due bill, their water will be turned off and a lock placed on the meter. This is where his job might be in jeopardy. Barrett said that everyone is going to pay their water bills and every meter will be read. This might be problematic for some of our elected officials who have been getting away with paying partial or no bill at all. Also, when it was brought up about sealing the concrete wall of Paul Ockmond's building on Main Avenue, several of the board members tried to get Barrett to say that the funding for the repair would come from grant money, but Barrett stood his ground and said that the money would come from the general fund. When the buildings on Main Avenue were torn down, Paul Ockmond owned one or more of the dilapidated buildings and received $40,000 for the City of Lumberton for the building. Now, he's not pleased with the way the side of one of his buildings looks and he wants the city to use their workers and resources to pay the $300 needed to seal the wall of one of his buildings. It was noted that the city could not donate services to a private property owner and the board tabled the matter for a later date. More than likely, they will wait until there are fewer people in attendance, and they will go ahead and vote to donate the $300 in services to the property owner that has already received $40,000 from the City of Lumberton. Last but not least, Dennis Hobson was finally successful in getting officer K. Johnson terminated. The board went into executive session and Kent Crider made a motion to vote to terminate K. Johnson at the recommendation of Dennis Hobson. The motion failed for a lack of a second. Kent Crider then made the motion again to terminate Officer K. Johnson and I guess by this time the rest of his followers knew that he was serious so Rebecca Hale seconded the motion and Gibson, Crider, Hale and Johnson voted to terminate K. Johnson and Rogers voted against the termination of Johnson. I thought that once a motion died that the board had to wait until the next meeting to make the motion again, but wait a minute, I forget that this board does not adhere to the laws. In the words of holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel," There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."