ABERDEEN – Following a lengthy executive session Oct. 20, the board of aldermen addressed vehicle purchases and a personnel issue, but an attempt to take action on a long-term contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority fell shy when Robert’s Rules of Order was called into play by Ward 1 Alderman Nicholas Holliday.
For the final matter before the meeting adjourned, Ward 5 Alderman John Allen motioned for the city to reinstate the TVA contract. He introduced the matter during his input, but Mayor Maurice Howard said it would be discussed in executive session, adding the city was ready to deal with it.
“You can’t reinstate something that’s been suspended,” Howard said after executive session.
Allen amended his motion for the city to sign a new contract with TVA, but Howard said there’s no new contract to sign. Holliday moved for adjournment, and Howard said the motion died.
After discussion with Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Randle, aldermen approved to pursue a lease-purchase for a Chevy Tahoe on state contract price for the police department. The lease payment is $7,000 per year, and the Aberdeen Police Department’s lease budget for the year is $20,000.
Earlier in the meeting, the board approved to accept $131,444.21 in CARES Act funds for the city. Howard thanked city clerk Melissa Moore and Barbara Vasser, who works in her office, for helping in the process.
“This is a grant. It’s not a match grant, and we don’t have to pay a dime back. We’re asking that the board puts this money in a separate account,” Howard said. “This money can be spent for any expenditure. We can earmark or allocate it for any need we see necessary in the city, so that will be board discretion,” he said.
Howard said after executive session that funds could be used for vehicle purchases.
Following the vote on the APD’s Tahoe, Howard requested a $27,000 SUV under state contract for his office. At its previous meeting, the board voted 3-2 against purchasing a budgeted Ford F150 for the mayor.
“The car’s actually $36,000. If we get it tonight, before the 27th, we save $10,000. At some point, the mayor’s going to have to have a city vehicle. It’s in the budget,” Howard said. “I don’t have to ask you mileage for when I go to Jackson this week. I’ve got to go to Pontotoc tomorrow to Three Rivers to get all this [CAP Loan] paperwork finished. I don’t want to have to give you all these receipts for me to pay me back.”
Just after Allen cast his vote against the matter, Howard pleaded for the board to approve.
“Do you not acknowledge that the mayor and these great women right here got the city almost $200K? That can buy my car,” he said.
Ward 3 Alderman Edward Haynes took his time before deciding to vote against the vehicle purchase.
“It’s just sticking to me over, over and over again,” he said, adding spending is still out of control. “I’m very appreciative of the $131,444.21, and that does show me there is some progress being made somewhere but at the same time we’re in a hole right now and we need to come out of that hole.”
Also after executive session, Ward 2 Alderwoman Lady B. Garth motioned for accounting department employee Karen McMillian’s seat be vacated. Employees of the department appeared before the board during executive session.
“I don’t have anything personal. She lied in that letter. I asked these two ladies over here – they were sitting front and center, and they acknowledged. There wouldn’t have been any reason to bring up anything about something you did with her. I was not at City Hall when she did what she did. I got word of her screaming and cursing,” Garth said.
Howard said if any alderman or alderwoman opted to be recused from the vote, he had no problem voting on the personnel item.
Holliday was the only other board member voting with Garth on the matter. After Haynes voted against the termination, Garth referenced an attorney general’s opinion regarding votes pertaining to fellow church members, as the two attend the same church.
“Attorney [Walter] Zinn, can I vote for my church member,” she asked the city attorney.
He said it is a conflict of interest, adding the opinion states due to the nature of a church relationship, it could pose a conflict of interest.
“Think about how many of my church members work for the City of Aberdeen. Everytime you have an issue with them, what you’re telling me is I can’t vote?,” Haynes asked.
The matter was defered until Zinn presents documentation to the board.
Aldermen voted 3-2 to approve the final resolution for a $250,000 CAP Loan for renovations at General Young Park and Newberger Park.
“For a very long time since I first sat in this seat, I wanted to make sure we were able to renovate both parks. I think a lot of people probably missed what took place tonight. That CAP Loan approval of $250,000 was approved tonight for us to do so. Next year, spring of 2021, we’ll be having a ribbon cutting on both General Young Park and Newberger Park. I definitely want to shout out wards 3, 2 and 1 for making that possible. I really appreciate you guys and I’m sure the city does as well,” Howard said later in the meeting.
The board approved a resolution letter giving approval for James Bell to build a new subdivision, with the condition there is a $500,000 surety bond to offer the city security.
Before approving claims, a $3,700 bill for washing the Aberdeen Park and Recreation Building and High Street Community Center prompted discussion about the process of approved purchase orders. Haynes raised issues with the matter and asked for board help in curtailing excessive expenditures, especially those that aren’t emergencies.
Howard asked board members if they wanted to change the process of purchase orders. As it stands, department heads give purchase orders to Howard, and the board approves the docket of claims after the fact.
It was decided to keep the existing procedure in place, and Allen asked for Howard to show constraint on any purchases that may create any questions.
The condition of Morgan’s Landing was discussed following the city receiving a letter about it from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After executive session, the board voted 5-0 to void a contract with the current caretaker and give him 30 days to vacate the property. All of the board members agreed they weren’t happy with the condition of the area.
In open session, Howard asked if maintenance work needed to be folded in with a city department for the recreational area.
Holliday motioned for the city to file a complaint with the attorney general’s office regarding former city clerk Jackie Benson. There was no further discussion in open session. The matter passed 3-2, with Allen and Ward 4 Alderwoman Carolyn Odom voting against it.
During citizen’s input, Brenda Harrington and Barbara Harrison of Healing Waters Christian Fellowship asked for the city’s support for a coat drive it has planned for Aberdeen’s schools. Howard suggested meeting with district superintendent Jeff Clay to discuss a plan to best serve students in need.
Odom asked for a city ordinance pertaining to rescue dogs to be considered, citing a location alongside High Street. After discussion, Howard said he would talk to Zinn and city building inspector Roy Haynes to further explore the matter.
During their input, Haynes, Garth and Holliday thanked the public works department for work in their wards.