Meeting in their first session of the new year, the newly elected members of the Helena-West Helena City Council quickly took the reigns of the agenda. New council officials, John Huff, Vivian Holder and Wanda Crockett listened intently and voiced their positions as the discussions at the table unfolded.
The council scheduled department budget presentations but several of the department heads were not present.
“We're playing Russian Roulette if we try to make any financial decisions for the departments when we have no idea of what or who is being paid what,” commented Council member Christopher Franklin. Franklin stated that all department heads should present their financial information before the council in order to decide what figures will follow in the new budget.
Following a review of the budgeted items, the only concern as stated by councilman Jay Hollowell, is the salary line items.
“This is strictly an issue with the salary numbers at this time, because this is the only thing that seems to have to be addressed in order for a budget to pass,” commented Hollowell.
Hollowell asked if the district court could be broken down into its own category just like police, fire etc.
According to City Clerk Sandi Ramsey there is a court fund called the Municipal Court Costs Fund that is a restricted account and details things that are not absorbed in the general fund for the district court such as utilities, supplies, copier, newspaper and other necessities derived from fines and bonds of which the city gets a part.
“Presently, I am currently paying for some of their office supplies, their training, their dues, fees, as well as prisoner care,” commented Ramsey. Ramsey added that the district court is currently looking at $200,000 jail bill that will hopefully be paid off in payments of maybe $5,000 to $10,000 a month depending on “whatever is left over.“
Ramsey said a thorough break down of the district courts finances will be presented at the next council meeting as well as the salaries being paid.
The council addressed the current budget detailing the finances, including salary for the Parks and Recreation Department. Don Etherly questioned the lack of revenue that is reflected in the budget for the Parks and Recreation Department, a total of zero gained.
“The revenue section within the department reflects no funds collected. If any money is collected at all it should be reflected in the budget,” said Etherly.
According to Etherly if there is a charge for admittance for league games it should be reflected. Mayor Arnell Willis stated that the Center is not a moneymaking business. However, the council requested that the financial reports be presented as well as all reports from every other city department.
Chief of Staff Allen Martin presented information detailing the day-to-day operations and the current structured programs being offered at the center. “We just want to know who is currently supervising these programs,” commented new councilman Wanda Crockett.
Page 2 of 2 - Martin maintained that he is currently in day-to-day contact with members that maintain the community center as well as the few employees.
The council also addressed budget issues that detailed contracts that have been active with the city, in particular a janitorial service that was not approved by the council according to Huff.
“I motion that we cease all operation with CAD Janitorial Services until the proper bids are made and approved by the council, the right way,” commented Huff.
According to Huff, the council had no knowledge of the services that were enacted just after Willis took office.
The council agreed to discontinue the contract bid with CAD. Other contracts in question that were brought up by the council included the South Helena Community Center, Boys & Girls Club, Crystal Clear Computers, Helena-West Helena Webmaster and Terminex.
Before closing, Etherly requested that the council agree to the scheduled council meetings to fall on the first and third Tuesday of each month and the council agreed. Franklin asked that the council allow members from the audience to be able to ask questions or offer comment after each council session.