Macon County Chronicle

'It's Like Nobody Cares' - Only Two RBS Council Members Attend Work Session

Red Boiling Springs Mayor Kenneth Hollis scheduled a special called meeting for last Tuesday, April 20th, to adopt Ordinance #10-2, proposing the amendment of the City’s Title 17 guidelines by adding that “There shall be no collection of garbage, rubbish or refuge from dumpsters of any size,” to take effect June 1, 2010, on second and final reading.

During the city council’s last regular meeting, from which Hollis was absent, a work session was scheduled by members for Thursday, April 22nd, to discuss the financial status of the sanitation department and look into other cost-cutting options before voting to discontinue the dumpster service provided to 12 Red Boiling Springs businesses and residences.

Hollis explained during the special called meeting that he would be unable to attend the work session, and in turn, called the special meeting, which raised questions from council member John Cook.

“I’d like to note on the record please, that no video camera is set up tonight,” he stated, “and I’d also like to note, on the record, that I object to this meeting as a council member, due to the last regular meeting when the council unanimously voted to have a work session on this.”

“We’ve talked about garbage and that’s all we’ve talked about lately,” said Mayor Hollis. “I mean we’re in audit.”

“I realize everyone’s been real busy,” Cook responded. “But you appointed a committee to look at all this and then we set up a work study. I’m not for sure why you called this (meeting) tonight except for what you just said, that you’re worried about it. But I have jumped through some hoops and put some stuff together . . . I’d like to discuss it.”

Hollis reasoned that the meeting was necessary because the sanitation department “is broke.”

Two council members, Bobby Etheridge and Willie Brown, were absent from the special called meeting, leaving two council members (Cook and Terry Newberry) who previously voted against passing the ordinance, and two (S. Newberry and Billy Joe Carver) who voted in favor of the ordinance during the first reading. 

“In the past, Billy Joe and Stevie voted to pass it and Terry and I voted against it,” Cook remarked. “We do have a quorum, and it takes four votes to pass all this, so I don’t know with Bobby and Willie not here, if it’s going to go anywhere tonight or not.”

“I mean the only thing is . . it’s broke,” Hollis reiterated. “There’ll probably have to be some money put in the account to pay some bills . . . pretty quick there’s going to have to be something done. We’re either going to have to do away with the garbage, or we’re going to have to put some money into the account.”

Council member Billy Joe Carver made the motion to table the ordinance’s final reading until after the work session at the next regular meeting in May, which was unanimously approved.

The second and only other topic on the agenda for the special meeting was procedure discussion for the collection of delinquent property tax dating back from 2007. The motion was made to turn the names of those property owners over to City Attorney Jon Wells, to file and submit to the clerk and master’s office. Council members voted unanimously to approve the motion.

Two days later, at the scheduled work session, only two city council members, Cook and Terry Newberry, attended to discuss the financial situation of the city sanitation department.

“I can’t believe that all six council members voted unanimously to have this tonight, and there’s only two here,” Cook stated at the start of the session.

Discussion began with Cook presenting that in the City’s last audit, the sanitation department showed a loss of $6,087 and questioned why the audit report was never distributed to council members.

“I know I heard Kenneth say that the account is broke, and I don’t know what his definition of broke meant but it appears to me from the research I’ve done, that the department just hasn’t had attention,” Cook said.

He went on to say that based on the financial reports, the city will be approximately $742 in the red a month and mentioned the option of increasing property taxes for those that live outside the city limits, evaluating possibly excessive insurance policies for city vehicles, saving on tonnage and fuel costs for solid waste disposal, evaluating garbage routes and defining garbage categories and rates more clearly for in-city and out-of-city-limits customers as ways to make up for the debt.

Cook also brought up the City’s garbage truck situation, saying that from September of 2009 until March of 2010, $5,779.10 was spent on repairs to one of the City’s old garbage trucks, which was said to only be used during holidays after the city’s new truck was purchased. The option of selling the older truck was discussed.

“Living inside the City limits, this should be a privilege for these businesses and instead of cutting out dumpster pick-up, why don’t we jumpstart our brains and creatively fix the mix so it will work for everybody. It hasn’t been brought at these council meetings that just a few years ago, the City forced these people to buy new dumpsters. They’ve made a big investment in these new dumpsters. What I’m trying to say is that, it’s a privilege to live inside the City limits, we pay property taxes that people outside the City don’t pay, these businesses bring us sales tax revenue that keeps us going and it looks like to me instead of getting rid of dumpsters that we asked them to buy, why don’t we give this department some attention because I think with what we’ve talked about, we’ve demonstrated a way to fix it. It really bothers me that the council unanimously said to have this meeting tonight, and then the Mayor jumped up and called a special called meeting and now here we are tonight with just two of us . . . It’s like nobody cares.”

It was discussed that the findings, notes and suggestions worked up by Cook and Newberry during the session may be given to City Attorney Jon Wells to create an ordinance brought up to be voted on at the next regular city council meeting.

Recommendations from the work session, to be presented to the council are as follows:

1. Re-write the description of pick up for the sanitation department in 17-110 of code and ordinance. This is the area of G1 through G9. In the re-write, separate the dumpster pick up from other pick up. For example, currently in G3 pick up, it simply states, “two pick ups a week”. It is suggested a line item of two times pick up per week for dumpsters at a cost and then a line item for other twice a week pick up, non-dumpster. Add to line items, as to “per dumpster”, because some locations may have more than one dumpster. Also, in re-write of descriptions, list by line item for inside city limits and outside city limits cost. If any other areas of this code and ordinance need adjusting, do it too. Most importantly, make sure these rules are being followed by these codes and ordinances. It appears the rules are not being followed. Since a price increase has not taken place in this department, it’s time one takes place across the board with inside the city limits with favored cost. Outside the city limits have two categories, like one price for 3 or 4 miles out, and another cost past 3 or 4 miles out.

2. At each regular council meeting, detailed reports are to be given to the council as to the sanitation department. An employee will give detailed presentation to council. Allow council to ask hard and tough questions to keep this department on track.

3. Sell the red truck to generate proper operating funds in the sanitation department, or ask the state comptroller to borrow money from another department in the city or from a local bank to provide operating funds. The above price increase can service this debt service for the next fiscal year. The current budget year would need to be amended to prevent another reported deficiency.

The next regular Red Boiling Springs City Council meeting will be held at City Hall on Thursday, May 13, 2010.