The Columbus City Council had voted 4-2 Tuesday evening to ask Board of Supervisors President Harry Sanders to apologize for making a statement during a Commercial Dispatch interview last week. Contacted Wednesday, Sanders told me that the Dispatch interview had lasted about 45 minutes, and out of that, “their main focus was on that statement”.
Sanders said he had been asked questions about the possibility of the city expanding to the county lines and one government running the entire county. The questioner asked about residents moving out of the city and into the county. Out of context, the line was taken, he said. He said he told the interviewer that the city made nearly all of their appointments to various boards based on politics, not because the appointee’s knew anything about what they were being appointed too. “Some can’t even tie their shoes” he was quoted as saying.
Sanders told me he had no intentions of apologizing. “Of all the problems the city has, and they take up valuable time to pass a resolution asking me to make an apology for an opinion I offered. Can’t they take some constructive criticism?”
I’m with Harry on this one. If an individual councilman wants to disagree with Sanders on this, let them do an interview with a local publication and do so. These guys are supposed to have tough skin. You can bet Sanders does. One thing I can say for Sanders is he doesn’t back down and he speaks his mind. That doesn’t mean I will always agree with him on things. I’ve disagreed with him plenty. But there’s something to be said for a hard-head who says what he feels and sticks by it. That describes Harry Sanders to the ‘t’.
– Starkville Aldermen Conduct 4 Hour Meeting –
– Lowndes Supervisors Implement Direct Deposit for Employees –
I covered my first Starkville Aldermen board meeting Tuesday evening and was treated to a 4-hour marathon of political wrangling. Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman is impressive the way he handles meetings, but I was also impressed with Ward 6 Alderman Roy Perkins, who is a well-versed, prolific speaker. As in any county or municipality, politics runs abrupt in Starkville as it does anywhere. The mayor and aldermen conduct their usual business but the political wrangling that I mentioned earlier trumps common sense many times when it comes to specific items on an agenda. For example, when it came time to name a deputy city clerk responsible for payroll, the lone applicant was Stephanie Halbert, who was already employed in the clerk’s office in record-keeping. Starkville City Clerk Markeeta Outlaw recommended she be hired at the top pay scale that the board had advertised and authorized, an amount of $32,000 annually.
Halbert was making $25,289.79 annually in her record-keeping position. The outgoing payroll clerk had been making $32,000. When Outlaw suggested Halbert be paid the $32,000 amount, Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, who also serves as the Mayor Pro Tempore, opposed and suggested Halbert be hired at her current rate of $25,289.79. She cited the fact that the city just didn’t have the money to be giving raises (though the out-going payroll clerk had been making the same $32,000. RW). Ward 6 Alderman Roy Perkins suggested a double-standard in hiring and promotion in filling positions. Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn agreed. Outlaw cited a situation earlier in the day where advertised candidates for a position at Starkville Electric Department were all denied, so she said the board filled the position with someone within the department that hadn’t even applied for the position. That claim was disputed by the department head, though.
After a lengthy discussion, a vote was taken on Sistrunk’s amendment to hire Halbert at her current rate of pay. The vote was 3 in favor, 3 against and 1 abstention, leaving Mayor Wiseman an opportunity to break the tie. He voted against the amendment. A vote was then taken on the orginal motion to hire Halbert at the $32,000 annual salary. A 4-2-1 vote in favor of was recorded and Halbert was hired at that salary for the position. It ended a long evening of politics and most of the aldermen and crowd were ready to get the heck outta there.
Earlier in the meeting, interviews were conducted for a position on the Starkville School Board. There were 4 applicants and the process was made even more lengthy because Alderman Perkins had 17 questions prepared for each candidate after other alderman finished their questions.
The candidates were: Doug Bedsaul, Sylvia Byrd, Jonita Thompson and Jenny Turner.
At first, City Attorney Chris Latimer disqualified Thompson because, during the interview process, she revealed that she didn’t live in the Starkville city limits but only in the school district. Latimer said the board already had a board member who would fill the position as a member living in the district but outside the city. Later, after research and concern from Alderman Perkins, Latimer said there was an opinion saying there could be 2 members of the school board not living inside the city limits, but residing in the school district. Although Thompson was qualified, the board voted in favor of Jenny Turner for the position. Turner, an attorney who works as a part-time administrative hearing officer for the city of Starkville, will have to resign that position to take the seat on the school board, which she said she intended to do. The term of the school board position will run for 5 years.
The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors met Monday morning. I was unable to attend but received a copy of the meeting. Some of the highlights of that meeting are as follows:
United Way Director Jan Ballard was seeking funding for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014 from the county. The board voted to ask the Mississippi Legislature to pass a local/private bill authorizing the funding of up to $125,000 at the discretion of the board.
Tax Assessor/Collector Greg Andrews was seeking a “late tax sale” covering 09′ land parcels that had been tied up in bankruptcy. A judge had ruled it was legal and Andrews asked the supes to set the tax sale for March 26th. Andrews said the sale would cover 6 parcels with an amount totaling $236,000. The supervisors approved and the tax sale will be advertised.
The supervisors reopened Co-op Road because of a dispute between landowners and the railroad. The county will remove itself from the dipute by taking this action.
Re-appointed Bart Wise to the Columbus Conventions and Visitors Board (CVB) representing business & industry. The vote was 4-1 in favor of re-appointing with District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks opposing the move.
Voted to pay county employees through direct deposit. County Administrator Ralph Billingsley said that county employees who didn’t have a checking account will be offered a debit card with their wages loaded on it. He also mentioned that Trustmark Bank was offering potential new checking account customers $25 to open a new account. Leroy Brooks asked Billingsley to offer other area banks the opportunity to lure new customers with incentives so that the public wouldn’t perceive an advantage to Trustmark by the county.