Welcome to Lumberton: The City Where Dumb S%#! Happens: Review of the October 5, 2015 Board Meeting
There was an order to approve the Engineering Estimate No. 1 in the amount of $16,000 for the 2015 FAA-AIP Grant Project. There was also a discussion about moving funds from the U.S>A.C.E. Section 592 Grant Program. Alderman Quincy Rogers want the project to include providing water to the residents that are looking to build on the property across from the airport but Alderman Kent Crider felt it would be a waste of money since it would only generate about $50/month per household. Alderwoman at Large Cora Rogers wanted to discuss reinstating the planning and zoning committee but she failed to get a second. The city clerk was approved to attend the Fall Conference in Hattiesburg on October 7-9, 2015 at a cost of $406.40. The department heads gave their reports. Nothing really changed. There was some boasting that the hiring of the third clerk, Melissa, has helped tremendously. It was noted that she was able to reconcile some old or delinquent accounts. Somehow, the board seems to marvel at the fact that a person can accomplish more in 32 hours versus 20 hours. Maybe that's the Common Core logic. Danny Davis explained that there was a lot of speeding going on and he is concerned about the safety of his workers. Davis suggested that the city purchase some speeding signs that say fines will be doubled when city workers are present. Cora Rogers also gave her input about the speeding and the failure to stop at stop signs. Everyone was talking about the speeding but the board, for some reason, could not connect the wreck less driving to the fact that we have one police officer per shift. The police can't be everywhere. So they can purchase a truck load of signs but if they don't get more police officers on the streets, laws are going to continue to be violated. Plain and simple.
Mayor Ben Winston addressed the public. Well, once again, the start date of the $2.5 million dollar Army Corp of Engineer Grant has been pushed back again. Winston finally admitted, on tape, that they are behind on the DEQ loan repayment and that the DEQ has already placed a lien on the City of Lumberton's sales taxes that will be coming in next year. Interesting!?! Didn't I say that was going to happen but my blog is full of lies and falsehoods. So they say. Now Winston wants the citizens to believe that the DEQ will release the lien if Lumberton makes two payments and then start paying the loan every other month. Winston also wants the citizens of Lumberton to believe that they are going to be able to use other grants to pay the matching portion of the $2.5 million dollar grant. Where they do that at? According to Winston, we are now in line to get over $3,000,000 and it's going to be a win fall for Lumberton. Keep in mind, the only persons privy to these conversations are Jay McGraw and Ben Winston. Even in this age of technology, there's no fax or email to present to confirm the details he's sharing. Winston also said that the City of Lumberton was approved for a $150,000 grant to provide water to the new industrial park...you know the one that's just as vacant as the original industrial park... Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought that land belonged to Lamar County. Also, why are they investing $150,000 on a vacant lot when there are people wanting to build houses across from the airport but they're not willing to use that money to provide them with water services? Interesting.
There was an order to approve unpaid claims for the month of September, 2015 in the amount of $38,812.97 for general fund and $52,647.60 for WSOM. There was a $2,765 charge that was hidden in the payment but Alderman Quincy Rogers asked for an explanation. It seems that Richard Rose, you remember the embattled city manager from Diamondhead that was hired last year to prepare the budget, has finagled more money from the City of Lumberton. Somehow, he got Winston to sign a contract for him to write a grant for the fire department. Well, most grant writers are paid from the grant but Rose had a contract and it specified he would be paid for his services. The grant did not come through but rose has added to the thousands he already took from Lumberton because he managed to get a contact that wasn't seen by all the board members. Hummmmmmmm! There was an order to approve the paid claims for the month of September, 2015 in the amount of $13,241.57 for general fund and $14,626.75 for WSOM. The payroll for the month of September, 2015 was $46,463.51. The board voted on an order to require an audit every three months and to advertise for bids. I thought Willie Sims, CPA was hired to do that but it was said that Sims only audited the payroll. Was this additional expense included in the 2016 budget?
The order to open a clearing account for cash bond appearance bond fees collected in advance until a determination of guilty, not guilty, dismissed or nolle prosequi, in accordance with the municipal audit and accounting guide code was approved because the city attorney shouted that it was the law. Now the police department can have some control of their own money but that was the only order approved regarding the police department. The order to install a controlled access to the main door entering the police department with one camera and two monitors never received a second after Alderman Quincy Rogers made the motion. Cora Rogers cocked her twisted mouth and asked the chief why she needed the camera because she refused to have one installed when they were putting cameras in city hall. Chief Cowart explained that it wasn't about the cameras, it was about safety. The police department needed a way to control the entry into their department because officers leave all the time to answer calls and their response time is affected because they have to check to make sure the door to their department is locked before they leave. With the remote access, the doors are always locked and the people would have to get buzzed in to get into the police station. Apparently, the board is concerned about the safety of everyone at city hall except the police officers and court clerk. The order to reinstate Betty Speights to full time deputy court clerk failed to get a second after Alderman Quincy Rogers made the motion. Just earlier in the meeting, they were gushing about how much work Melissa was accomplishing but somehow they can't connect the fact that Melissa work 32 hours a week and is probably getting comp time while Betty Speights is required to process current cases, collect old fines and maintain court schedules while working 20 hours a week. All of the following items failed to get a second after Alderman Quincy Rogers made a motion: hire Ms. Tiffany McClure as part-time, part-time certified police officer, hire Delando Watts as part-time, full-time certified officer, and hire Victor Da Villa as a part-time, full-time certified officer. They wonder why laws are being broken but they're not willing to hire any additional police officers. I guess they think one officer per shift is sufficient.
The board meeting was about to end and then there were citizen comments. The board voted to allow one citizen permission to put a trailer on her property while she makes provisions to build her home. Before the meeting was dismissed, Alderman Kent Crider asked to have the agenda amended to take another vote on the $500 bid that was submitted for the Lumberton Hospital. The last time they took a vote on the matter, it was a tie. I said in a previous post that if Jay McGraw was there, he would have voted yes to giving the hospital away for $500. Since the vote was a tie, I felt that the matter needed to be advertised again and new bids submitted but Crider thought differently. Well, they took the vote and true to my prediction, Jay McGraw voted with Crider to give away the Lumberton Hospital for $500. Surprisingly, Tommy Dukes didn't vote with Crider this time. Quincy Rogers, Tommy Dukes and Cora Rogers voted no and now the building will have to be advertised again and a new bidding process. I will monitor the activity because I know there are some citizens that are interested in the building and I know the next bids will be more than $500. The board closed the meeting but they didn't set any hours for trick or treating on Halloween. Since I'm considered a trouble maker, I didn't bother to mention it to the board members. I guess they will read it on the blog, since they follow it so closely, and set hours at another meeting. Hopefully, it will be before Halloween.