The Highland police chief has turned in his resignation, but he is still on the job.
After a lengthy discussion about Fred Waser's resignation, the Highland City Council voted April 9 to table the discussion until the next meeting.
Councilman David Harris suggested waiting to either accept or reject the resignation until a date could be set for Waser's last day and pending legal ramifications of the COPS grant, including whether Highland is complying with the grant stipulations.
City Attorney Kevin King said when Highland applied for the COPS grant it applied for two police officers.
"The questions is whether the chief is one of those officers that can be covered with the grant," he said.
He added that most of the time the grant covers regular patrol officers.
After Waser read his resignation letter (published in last week's Villager Journal) to the council, he told the council that although he had decided to resign from his position several months ago, citing working 70-80 hours per week as his reason, a specially called council meeting in executive session April 2 sealed the deal.
"Yes, I was going to quit before the meeting, but when I was told untruths and my credibility was questioned, folks we're done," he said.
Harris said he and Councilmen Danny Taylor and Bob Frolow called the meeting at the Highland Water Department to ask the mayor four or five questions about how he was doing his job. He said it was held in executive session to save the mayor embarrassment.
In an interview April 12 Harris ex-plained that council members were instructed by Mayor David Shackelford to go to him with any questions it had about specific departments and not to go to the department heads. Harris said the council asked the mayor one question concerning the police department.
"The police chief part of it was brought up because we needed to know what we needed to do if and when he quit," Harris said.
He added, "The council has no desire and has never had any desire to dissolve the police department."
In his department report to the city Waser answered the questions posed to him by Shackelford. Waser said Shackelford told him the questions were brought up in the specially called meeting.
Waser insisted he had not hired anyone for his department.
He said the paperwork for four auxiliary officers was almost complete, but no one was hired. He gave the list of names to the Personnel Committee so it could review the papers. The council recessed for 15 minutes for the committee to review the papers.
The council approved allowing Braden Ables, Sharon Stevens and Mike Heitman to take a class for auxiliary officers April 23 in Cherokee Village. James Estes, who also applied for an auxiliary position, is already certified. The council stipulated that Waser must inform the Personnel Committee before the class begins if one of the students doesn't pass or meet standards for the position.
The four candidates have agreed to pay for all expenses related to their job. The city will pay $15 per person per year for worker's compensation insurance.
In other business, the council tabled an agenda item to amend the ordinance for the upcoming sales tax election. The election will be June 25 instead of April 30 as previously decided, but the polling place has yet to be determined.
The city is looking into changing the polling place from the VFW to Highland City Hall.
"Before the election commission can approve changing the building (for the polling place) the building has to be inspected to make sure it complies with the American Disabilities Act," said King.
King said the polling place should be determined by the next council meeting.
The council approved of the mayor writing a letter with Sharp County Judge Harold Crawford to the mayors and fire chiefs of the surrounding cities stating Highland Fire Department would assist at fires located outside its district, specifically an area on Dry Bone Road south of Ash Flat that no fire department has jurisdiction over.
State law says a municipality can, with the council's approval, legally fight fires beyond its city limits, said Shackelford. However, the assisting fire departments cannot send its best equipment to help nor assist if its own district needs its services. Also, the assisting fire department must be pulled off if a fire occurs at the same time in its district.
The assisting cities have 90 days to obtain compensation for their work, either from the homeowner or the county, the mayor said.
Highland has another option for helping the residents of Dry Bone Road. Highland Fire Chief Tim Eash told the council Pete Reilly, Sharp County coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management, said he didn't see any problem with Highland putting a substation on Dry Bone Road. Highland Fire Department has already trained four residents of that area to fight fires.
The council tabled the discussion on the substation and decided to reevaluate in six months its decision to lend assistance to the unprotected zone.
In other action, the council set April 29-May 17 for spring cleanup and agreed to join the Spring River Area Chamber of Commerce at a cost of $200 per year.
The council approved a resolution supporting a Northeast Arkansas Regional Airport in Walnut Ridge and approved the second reading of an ordinance establishing policy for a drug-free workplace.
Other action taken at the meeting included approving $150 for the street department to purchase a trailer hitch for the dump truck and deleting the $7.76 energy expenditure for street lights from the street department's budget and adding it to the general fund.
Shackelford reported that he and Recorder/treasurer Carol Frolow will meet with the department heads as a group to keep the communication lines open. This meeting will be every Monday.
Frolow informed the council that she would spend $113 on a bond application for a title to a 1962 Chevrolet firetruck Hidden Valley Volunteer Fire Department bought Jan. 29, 1990, from Cherokee Village Fire Department. A bill of sale, but no title, was obtained from CVFD at the time of purchase. Frolow also will spend $150 on a battery backup/surge protector for her computer.
Frolow reminded the council that Waser had been employed by the city for one year on April 2 and was entitled to a $1,000 raise as stipulated in the COPS grant.
Items not on the agenda but approved at the meeting were spending $240 for Internet access to City Hall and setting Aug. 1 as the deadline for GASB-34 reports from department heads.