Review of the March 3, 2015 Board Meeting: The John Q. Public Edition
The City of Lumberton recieved one of it's major payments from the County; the tax check. The check was over $170,000 but it was $59,000 less than the check the city received last year. Also, there was a question about money owed to the city by Azalea Gardens Apartments, but Mayor Winston did not want the matter discussed and since the alderman that asked the question didn't know his duties as an alderman or knows when to close his mouth when instructed, the matter was never addressed. Last night, the board was spending money like income tax ballers. Keep in mind, there's a shortfall in the amount of money recieved but they're still approving everything they can think of at this time. As a matter of fact, there was a total of $6,825.49 spent on conferences, training, etc. According to Merlene Wall, $15,000 was budgeted for training and traveling, but she didn't have a summary of how much was spent from this allocated amount. The board voted to allow Merlene Wall to attend the 2015 certification program in Hattiesburg, Ms on March 31-April 2, 2015 and pay registration, per diem and milegage at a cost of $406.40. Next, the department heads gave their reports.
Chief Cowart addressed the board about the rise in crime and the need for more police protection. Cowart tried to explain to the board the need to seek a cash bond option so the city would not have unpaid fines accumulating on the record books. The chief also tried to get some clarity on how to proceed with the collections process. The City of Lumberton has hired a collection agency to collect past due fines; something they do every other year because they look at the totatl owed to the city and think it's a win-win situation. However, there's a problem. The list that's sent to the collection agency includes the names of people that already paid their fines and many have their receipts. The collection agency can have the wages of those on the list garnished but if the person already paid their fine and are sent for garnishment, this will be problem for the city. For instance, I have an old fine and it's probably on the list as well but I have my reciept. If the collection agency contact me about an old fine, I'm not responding to their calls or letters because I know that once you respond, that extends the time they can continue to contact you. Let's say the agency gets an order to garnish my wages to pay the old fine, that's when it becomes Lumberton's problem. If my wages are garnished for an old fine that I already paid, I'm filing a lawsuit against the City of Lumberton for actual and punitive damages. Cheif Cowart posed the question to the city attorney serveral times, but the board members would never let him respond. Just the other month, Cora Rogers was addressing a question that was asked and Winston said "we have too many people that think they're attorneys, that why we have an attorney, he will answer the legal questions." Well, last night, several board members were serving as the city attorney and the actualy city attorney was never given the opportuntity to address the concerns Cheif Cowart hadabout this collection processs. Next, Merlene Wall gave her report. She didn't say much other than giving a total of the number of water bills mailed, the date they were mailed and the number of cut-offs. Danny Davis of the Public Works Department thanked the board for allowing him and his crew to attend a seminar on digging. Davis admitted that this was his first time attending a seminar of this type. Davis went on to advise citizens to refrain from shutting off their water using the curbside valve because it could be easily damaged. Davis said they will come out to your home to shut your water off if you would give them a call. Now here's the kicker, Davis did not want to give the citizens the number to the city paidcellphone he has in his possession. Instead, if you have a water emergency and need your water shut off, you should call the Lumberton Police Department and the answering maching will transfer you to the Lamar County Sheriff's office or dispatch and they will then gather your information and have Davis to give you a call. Please keep in mind, you're call in an emeregency situation and there's water spewing at this point, but instead of giving out your number to a cellphone that's paid by the taxpyers of this city, you must go through this labryinth to get some assistance. And he wonder why people don't bother calling andjust go out in their yards and attempt to shut the water off themselves. But Danny loves this city; it just doesn't how in his actions. The Lummberton fire chief was absent again. According to Crider, he was at a training class. It seems that he has something scheduled for every monthly board meeting. It's time to either turn the fire department over to the county or get some volunteer firefighters that are concerned about this city.
The next item on the agenda was to allow Mayor Ben Winston to address the public. Well, I guess I'm John Q. Public because his address was directed towards me. For some reason, Winston has had a change of heart. Now I'm good for Lumberton and I have the skills and talent that could take me places. But just the other month, he said I was destroying this city with my blog and I'm running off business. When he made that statement, he was clearly angry and he showed me who he was and I believed him. Winston called for 40 days of peace. Since I'm always suspicious, I began to wonder what he has planned within the next 40 days. There has to be a reason why he called this truce of sorts and I will keep my ears and eyes open because he's not to be trusted. Maybe he has the mindset of if you can't beat them, join them. I find it intersting that Winston think I should be on one accord with him and help promote the City of Lumberon when everybody knows he's not interested in having the board on one accord. I can't tell you how many times I've attended meetings and Ben's goal is to get his three puppets to vote in his favor. His mantra, since getting into office, has been, "we only need three votes." That's not being on one accord. That just shows that you have three weak-willed men that will blindly support you, despite your intentions. Just the other week, he dismissed an alderperson that questioned the spot zoning request by allegedly saying "it doesn't matter what she says, we have three votes." Now Mr. Winston, before you call me out on the mat, asking me to get on one accord, I think it's time for you to put your money where your mouth is and get your board on one accord. If a vote is not unanimous, then there should be a discussion why everyone is not voting in favor of the matter instead of having idiotic alderpersons suggesting that the board establish an unlawful order to bar an alderman from getting paid if they do not vote in favor of a motion. If the head is in order, the body had no other choice than to follow suit.
The board approved unpaid claims for February, 2015 in the amount of $18,334.85 and general fund expenditures in the amount of $34,240.41. The board approved paid claims for February, 2015 in the following amounts: $12,334.30 general fund, $22,179.25 WSOM. Payroll for the month of February, 2015 was $34,450.84 The board approved to allow Chief Cowart to host a Day in the Park on Sunday, April 5, 2015. The board approved the motion to allow John Corley to cut grass for hay at the Lumberton airport. The board approved reservations for the upcoming MML Conference that will be held at the Mississippi Cost Coliseum on June 22-June 24, 2015 at an estimated cost of $3,508.04. The board voted to allow Chief Cowart to attend the Chief of Police Conference on June 15-June 19, 2015 at the Golden Nugget Casino at a cost of $869.39. This is a mandatory meeting. The board voted to allow Chief Cowart and Ms. Betty Speights to attend the MS Municipal Court Clerk's Association Conference at the IP Casino on June 22, - June 24, 2015 at a cost of $1,041.66. This is also a mandator meeting. The board voted to hire two part time police officers at a rate of $11.50/hour: Glenn Todd Wilson and Joe Parkman. The board voted to allow the city clerk to place an ad in the newspaper for a part time clerk at city hall at a rate of $8.50/hour. Personally, I think the court clerk should hold that position. It's clear that Merlene Wall does not want to work with Betty Speights but that's not her call. If she claim she need help, then she shouldn't reject a person that's already on payroll. One thing for certain, Merlene is a very slithery individual and she probably already have an application on file from one of her friends or church members. For now she's saying she need part-time help, but I'm sure it's going to grow and before we know it, if the right person is hired, the part-time clerk will have all sorts of overtime and comp time. I say, use what we have and go from there. Stop wasting the taxpayers money to appease an inept clerk. Either work with Betty or go home. As a matter of fact, Betty can still work from her location. Years ago, a clerk had to work across the hall because she didn't like the language being used in the police department. It's not necessary for the clerks to work in the same office; it's just a matter of delegating the work that needs to be processed.
Next there were cititzen's comments. The comments were mainly directed towards the rude nature of the city clerk. A very polite citizen recounted how rudely she was treated by Merlene and the fact that she was put on hold for an excessive number of minutes. If I was not familiar with her unprofessional behaviour, I would have been shocked but since I can see a thing for what it is, I wasn't shocked at all. Merlene is very rude and unprofessional. As a matter of fact, during the time this person was addressing the board, Merelene had her face all twisted like she was having a stroke. There's not a day that goes by that I don't receive a call or message about the lack of professionalism that's exhibited in the city clerk's office. If they don't know the answer, they immediately get an attitude. A major part of the job of the the city clerk is customer service. There are over 700 water bills that go out every month and each water bill is connected to a different attitude. One thing I've learned, is you don't mess with a person's money. If a person think they're getting robbed, they're not going to be polite. I never liked the pharse you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar because either way you look at it, you're stuck with flies. If you can't be polite, cordial and/or respectful, then this job is not for you. If you don't know the answer, say you don't know and you will try to find out. If you say you're going to call back, call back. These are not complicated procedures and one would think that a person her age would know these simple rules but we also must realize that everyone wasn't raised the same. It's possible that respect for the individual wasn't something instilled into Merlene because it definately shows. I guess the old saying, you can't teach an old dog new tricks is true but if you continue to back people into a corner, don't look shocked when they bite back. Your position does not give you the right to dismiss anyone. You can present your web of lies to the mayor, board of alderpersons and even an attorney, but the twenty people that I've talked to can't all be telling a lie. I know you love to play the victim and think that I'm bashing you but I'm not; I'm holding you accountable. It is my hope that someday, we will get a city clerk that get's it right. Until then, tread lightly when dealing with our current clerk because she lies as effortlessly as she breathes.