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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Thayer City Council heats up over election campaigning

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Photo by Niki de Soto Circuit Court Judge Bill T. Hass swears in newly re-elected Aldermen Mike Harber and Steve Alford at Thayer's City Council meeting.
The Thayer City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 13 began calmly enough with the swearing in of newly re-elected aldermen, Mike Harber and Steve Alford by Circuit Court Judge Bill T. Hass.

Things began to deteriorate when the issue of who campaigned for who was brought up in the council chambers. The main point of contention seemed to focus on the fact that Alderman Bob Freeman's wife, Colleen, had campaigned for Mary Jane Pounders, who was running for the Alderman - First Ward seat, which was won in the election by Mike Harber. Harber expressed his opinion that it seemed unethical for a fellow alderman's relative to campaign against him.

"I've been here a year, and I really appreciate serving this city," said Alderman Bob Freeman. "We've had a lot of open discussions with a lot of different people, and I appreciate that. One thing that I do struggle with in the city is the fact that some of our men and women are not permitted to say what they want, when they want, where they want. I fought in a war, to give everybody that right. I lost a lot of good friends and a lot of comrades in that war. And that flag right there stands for freedom -- the freedom of speech. And I'm here to say that I'm disappointed when there are individuals who are reprimanded for what they want to say. And when somebody picks out a member of my family and says they don't have the right to say and do what they want, when they want, I will stand up. That's what this country is all about."

"I said that it was unethical, and that it didn't look good for a fellow Alderman to campaign against another one," said Harber. "I didn't say it was illegal, I just said it was unethical. I have my own principals, and I've served on the board with these men and in 28 years with Mr. Rogers and 19 with Mr. Freeman, never have their relatives campaigned against a fellow Alderman."

Local resident Doris Brown brought up the point that Mrs. Freeman is her own person, with her own opinions, apart from her husband's opinions, and that her first amendment right to free speech is protected by law.

"We're women," said Brown. "We have the right --we're not in the 1800s, I'm sorry to tell you that -- and if we don't agree with you, that is our right. Did we go out and slander you? No."

The meeting moved on to other business, including the purchase of a new tanker truck for hauling sludge at the wastewater treatment plant.

"We received one bid for the new tanker truck," said Charles Ray. "I have contacted the Department of Natural Resources and they have given their blessing on the advertisement that has been done, and the price is within our budget and I recommend that we accept the bid for the alternate bid they made, which is for a 2,500 gallon International tank truck instead of a 2,000 gallon tank. There's a $492 difference, and the truck will handle it without any problem. It will allow us to save on trips, thanks to the larger capacity. I have drafted a letter for you from the city of Thayer and it's ready to be sent to DNR requesting that this be approved and allow for the award."

Ray also noted that a mower for the treatment plant, which had initially been included in the grant budget had been disallowed by DNR due to it being classified as maintenance equipment. "We're going to have to take it out of our sales tax fund on the water and sewer, which will not be a problem money wise, but will make a difference on our budget," said Ray.

Ray asked the council to delay a line repair project on Sunset, in order to ensure enough monies in the budget for any contingencies that might come up with the lagoon work or other lines, and the council agreed.

Ray then asked the council for permission to participate in a DNR seminar on the ARRA grant money in Poplar Bluff on April 29. "We need to keep this thing going smoothly and make sure we have everything right," said Ray. "I do not want to get down to the end of this project and find out they didn't tell us something or we didn't do something right and they ask us to pay the money back. We do not want an issue."

Mayor Rogers then asked Ray about the progress on the thoughway being worked on by the railroad. "I talked to the gate master today and told him they are hindering progress," said Rogers. "Our contractors have to stop every time they're bringing equipment through and it's wasting time and they're having to do double work."

Alderman Freeman asked Ray if the city could present the railroad with a bill for any overages caused by the construction delays. "Can we ask him to work up a bill of what this extra cost is, because this is falling back on our tax payers for all this extra cost for what the railroad didn't do, and turn it in to the railroad, because our tax payers shouldn't be paying for this, for their delays," said Freeman.

"I agree that we'll have to talk to the railroad about it, but I don't think we'll get anywhere with them," said Ray. "They're a pretty independent group on everything that is done. They did promise us before that they would have it done, and they have not. The $71,000 that we sent to them they took in real quick order, and they were supposed to do the work, but now something is causing them to delay."

The council then took up the issue of paying for half of a new laptop computer for the rural fire department at the cost of $500 and approved paying for a new transformer for the Town and Country grocery store in the amount of $2,365.

Alderman Harber brought up a concern over how the county has labeled its different funds.

"We used to have three separate funds: Enterprise, General and Special," said Harber. "When Merle was mayor, he combined it into a number system, and to me the number system is very confusing. In Enterprise, what we had was electric, water and sewer. In General was everything except gas, court and cemetary. Now, that money is still there, but finding out where it is, is confusing the way the system is. You can't tell where it came in from and where it was put. My suggestion is to let me do a bit more research and maybe by next meeting I can have a plan on what we need to do."

"I agree with Mike," said Alderman Freeman. "The seven months that I was treasurer, it was a very confusing system. The amount of years that I've been in business and everything, I've never seen anything like it. It was difficult to get the facts and figures of how we're doing, and we have an ordinance on the books that says certain monies are to be put into the Enterprise fund, and the city is allowed 10 percent a month out of that fund to be placed into the General fund. So basically, this ordinance has been broken by the implementation of the new number system and we need to get this rectified before we get into trouble over this."

The council agreed to let Harber look into the issue and moved on to other business.

The council approved treatment chemicals in the amount of $5,316.50 for the city pool for the entire season, and agreed to allow Van Garrison to further investigate a new saltwater system which would cost a mere $500 in chemicals for the season, but would require some upfront costs for a pump system.

The council then discussed the purchase of a 2001 Ford truck for the Parks Department in the amount of $7,000.

"Right now I'm using my own truck," said Garrison. "We split up two or three times going separate ways. This truck is capable of hauling our trailers and all. We had a truck last summer, but the cemetary has that now, which is why we're down to one truck again."

After discussing city finances, the council approved the truck purchase.

Other purchases approved by the council were two Echo weedeaters for $660 and weed poison in the amount of $240; the purchase of water products for the electrical department and bottles of chlorine and sulphuric dioxide for the wastewater treatment plant, and approved a bid by Atkins for a new Stihl saw.

Council then opened bids on two city trucks that were for sale and accepted the high bids for both at $105 for the 1985 Ford and $275 for the Chevy S-10.

Van Garrison then gave an update on the city's new generators. "All but one of our new generators will be in on May 17," said Garrison. "The switches for them will be in anywhere from seven to 10 days, and we'll have them installed ahead of time. We have a start up date of June 30 that we have to have them installed and operational by. We will have to buy a trailer for the portable generator, and we need to pour pads for the other three. We also need to find a place to put the portable behind lock and key. They all run on propane except for the portable, which runs on diesel."

A local resident brought up a concern over sewer line repairs on his property, saying he thought the repair was on the city's side and not his side. The mayor agreed to further investigate the situation and see who is responsible for the line repairs.

The council then moved on to new business concerning the Mo-Ark Pullers track in town.

"I am the president of the non-profit organization, the Mo-Ark Pullers," said Alderman Freeman. "We appreciate the city for everything they've done for us over the years in helping us get this started, and we hope that it's brought some entertainment to the city for both the adults and the kids. There was some scuttlebutt out about the track being closed, but here's what I'm proposing. It's a lease agreement between the Mo-Ark Pullers and the city of Thayer for a five year lease."

The lease has an option to extend for an additional five years, at the cost of $1per year, and both the Pullers and the city can cancel the lease with a 30 day written notice.

"It's been so successful, that I don't think there's a business in town that says they don't gain out of this," said Freeman. "We're wanting to maintain this and hold it together for a good amount of time because we have committments to bring folks to town, and they want to know if we're going to be here a few years down the road. We really have something good going here, with folks calling from Oklahoma and Kentucky wanting to come out here."

Council approved the lease and then opened the session up to the public for input.

Doris Brown brought up the $17,000 that the council approved for the police department and asked what the money would be spent on.

Police Chief David Bailey said the department did its due diligence in locating the best costs on equipment and weapons to better equip the officers.

"We have not spent the funds yet, but we are purchasing weapons and additional equipment for the officers," said Bailey. "We are so fortunate that the sales tax was passed for us, because we aren't facing the budget shortfalls that the Sheriff's department and other departments are. I wanted to build a new police station with the sales tax money, but that's been tabled for now by the council, so we're moving on to other things."

With that, the council adjourned into closed session.

Upon return from closed session, it was announced that all city employees had been re-hired except for city clerk Jane Yancey. In a 3 to 1 vote, she had been replaced as city clerk by Donna Martin.

The ordinance for the position of city clerk states that city aldermen will appoint a city clerk at their first meeting after each annual election, typically the first Tuesday in April, and that person will serve for one year and until his/her successor is appointed and qualified.

Speaking to Yancey after the council session, she expressed concerns about the city's grant money for the wastewater treatment plant.

"The one thing that really bothers me, is this stimulus money and the ARRA money we got; we're in jeopardy of losing that if the city clerk doesn't correctly distribute that money, and nobody else knows how to do it," said Yancey. "Somebody would have to show them, and the man that's wanting his money at the end of the month isn't going to wait for whomever to figure it all out."

Mayor Rogers stated that Yancey was not re-instated due to poor job performance, and that he has confidence in Martin's abilities and feels there will be no issues with the grant funding.

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