By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – City employees will receive a three-percent raise effective Feb. 1 after a vote by aldermen at a rescheduled meeting of a rescheduled meeting of the city board last Friday.
The meeting began with Mayor Bill Norris announcing that Alderman Sherry Martin could not attend due to illness in her family. The Mayor added that Alderman Tommy Swearengen also would not be attending due to health problems.
Board members seated at the 2:01 p.m. start time were Lance Clement, Fred White, and Charlie Harris.
The pay raise discussion began with a comment from Mayor Norris who said, “This goes back to our December meeting. We talked about pay raises for the employees. Or, was it November.”
The Mayor continued, “We’ve got two ways we can do it; either percentage or a certain amount per hour for full-time employees.”
“Didn’t they say they wanted to do the percentage,” Alderman Harris said. “Isn’t that what y’all wanted? Isn’t that what we discussed last.”
Harris then turned to board attorney David Burns and said, “I think you came up with problems.”
Burns responded, “I think y’all decided that you were just going to go with something across the board.”
Mayor Norris said, “Across the board is either three percent or a certain amount per hour. We do have up to 50 cents…20, 30, 40 or 50 cents per hour for each employee or we can do a three-percent pay raise for all the employees.”
After a few more minutes of discussion, Alderman Clement made a motion for the three-percent across the board raise. It passed unanimously.
“Maybe if we can hold things down this year we might can give them a little better one next year,” commented Alderman White following the vote.
“With the economy like it is if we can just keep everybody on the payroll it would be great,” Mayor Norris added.
There was no public discussion of an employee pay raise during either the November or December meetings nor was a pay raise listed on the agenda for either meeting. A source told the Herald that the pay raise issue was discussed in executive session in December. An across-the-board pay raise discussion is not considered appropriate for executive according to the Mississippi Open Meeting Law.
In other action:
• The board voted to wait until the February meeting to take action on an ordinance covering building permit forms and fees.
• Aldermen heard from Barron Caulfield, Executive Director of the Water Housing Authority, who is requesting that the authority’s old office be rezoned from R-3 (multi-family residential) to CBD (central business district).
Caulfield explained that the authority’s board had heard a preliminary proposal from an individual who would like to rent the office portion of the building that also houses two apartments.
Caulfield was told that the next step would be to hold a public hearing before the board can take any action.
• Aldermen paid two invoices totaling $18004.02 for equipment purchased under the Baker Street Park grant.
• The board paid Attorney Burns $2,241.31.
• Aldermen accepted a bid from Mechanics Bank to become the city’s depository. Mechanics bid 2.68 percent, compared to Renasant Bank’s 1.675 percent of interest paid on money banked by the city.
• The board voted to hold off until the next meeting any action on culvert bids.
• Alderman agreed to take under advisement until February the rental policy for the city auditorium. During discussion, Mayor Norris noted that the facility was used 22 times last year with an income of $3,125 while it cost $4,293.67 to operate. “We’re losing money on it,” he said
Alderman White countered that it wasn’t fair to make those who use the auditorium pay the ongoing costs for utilities or maintenance. He suggested that users be charged the current rate of $150 per day, but add $75 for each additional day.
• The board voted to wait until the next meeting before making donation to the Red Cross requested by Joe Black at the last meeting.
• Aldermen approved a request by Mayor Norris to attend the Mississippi Municipal League midwinter conference in Jackson Jan. 26-27.
• Board members asked Attorney Burns to examine the legalities surrounding a landfill on property owned by Willie Fox. Fox had requested an increase in the fees paid by the city from $1000 to $2000 per year.
• Aldermen voted to pour a concrete floor at the main city barn building on Blount Street.
• The board voted to close the public portion of the meeting at 3:19 p.m. to determine if an executive session would be needed. They returned from the closed session at 3:25 p.m., just under six minutes later. Aldermen then voted to go into executive session that lasted just over two minutes.
• After returning to open session, alderman voted to hire Attorney Andy Arant of Oxford as public defender to replace Tom Levidiotis who resigned as of Dec. 31. Arant had been appointed by the mayor to temporarily handle the public defender’s post during two court sessions earlier this month.
The meeting adjourned at 3:28 p.m. The next regular meeting of the city board is scheduled for Tuesday, February 2, in the boardroom at city hall.