The main topics of the Dec. 16 Cherokee Village City Council meeting included passage of a 2011 operating budget and discussion of enacting a hiring freeze for the city. Another hot topic was the resignation of a member of the Cherokee Village Police Department.
Passing of the budget was met with much discussion and a close 5-3 vote.
Discussion began with Councilman Peter Martin's comment that, "Passing this budget is a right to spend." Martin's main concern was many things should be cut back due to economic uncertainty. Martin said the budget would be better passed in January, when the two new council members could also consider the budget under which they would be working in the upcoming year. Opposing Martin's opinion was Alderman Lynn Maxedon who explained, "The budget committee has worked hard and made a lot of adjustments to this budget. The proposed budget is the best we can do at the time."
Maxedon was referring to the city not having knowledge of the amount of money the city will receive from state sales tax turnbacks or census numbers. He said the budget can always be reviewed and adjusted later. Alderman Russ Stokes added, "I agree this is not the ideal budget," but the city always has the right to amend after the first of the year. "The operating budget can be amended; it is not a blank check. In order for the city to operate in the new year, I suggest we approve it," said Stokes. With that, a roll call vote was taken and the budget was passed.
Council also passed a resolution setting a stipend of twenty dollars per meeting, not to exceed 40 dollars a month for elected officials who attend city council meetings. The vote was unanimous with the exception of Alderman Martin, who abstained from the vote.
Alderman Maxedon presented council with a consideration of enacting a hiring freeze through a resolution, one which would prevent the city from hiring or terminating any new employees, except by the mayor in the case of an emergency.
The proposal was met by a lot of discussion and opposition from council.
Alderman Verna Mae Newman said she would like to wait for the new council members and allow them to vote. Alderman Tom Thone countered her intentions by questioning the reason it was agreeable with Newman to vote for the new budget without the new council's consideration, but not the hiring freeze.
Martin said he felt the consideration would hold no weight if were simply a resolution rather than an ordinance. City council then sought the advice of city attorney Jon Abele who assured them it would be legal even if the freeze was to be recorded in the form of a resolution.
The discussion was tabled until the next meeting.
It was with great regret that Cherokee Village Police Chief Rick Crook announced the resignation of sergeant Richy Thatcher effective Dec. 21. Crook told council Thatcher, who currently resides in Walnut Ridge would be taking a job near his home. The city will advertise for the position. Council and Crook discussed filling the position in a timely manner and before the city considers the impending hiring freeze.
Prior to adjournment, Mayor Hefley presented plaques to outgoing council members Angela Peterson and Peter Martin, as well as the city's long time clerk/recorder Phyllis Endrih's. The mayor also recognized Ruth Reynolds for her service to the Tri-County Solid Waste Authority. The mayor thanked them for their service to the city.