Spectators and the media at Tuesday night's Helena-West Helena City Council session were left in a proverbial information blackout for over 45 minutes as discussions led the council to vote to go into executive session to discuss personnel issues dealing with the hiring of a maintenance person to repair the aging fleet of police cars. The city had only one maintenance man on staff, but according to the H-WHPD, the fleet is in dire need of repairs faster than one man could fix them.
Spectators and the media at Tuesday night’s Helena-West Helena City Council session were left in a proverbial information blackout for over 45 minutes as discussions led the council to vote to go into executive session to discuss personnel issues dealing with the hiring of a maintenance person to repair the aging fleet of police cars. The city had only one maintenance man on staff, but according to the H-WHPD, the fleet is in dire need of repairs faster than one man could fix them.
The budget allotted for two maintenance personnel, and following nearly an hour of deliberations and debates, the city council came to a compromise to allow the newly-hired maintenance person three months of work and the impact on the overtime paid to the maintenance of police cars and the cost of repairs and maintenance would then be re-examined.
Mayor Arnell Willis stated after the executive session, "We are hoping to alleviate two things – first, the $12,000 year to date overtime pay for one mechanic, which has been overburdened by the workload and the second thing we are trying to do is that we have got to improve the efficiency of the department in terms of turnaround time."
Willis concluded, "Those were the factors that helped me make a decision to bring a new mechanic onboard. We are spending entirely too much money – $12,000 over a 4-month period for overtime for one person."
Assistant Chief Ronald Scott and councilman John Huff noted they would work in the meantime to find funding to replace some of the older police cars with new ones.
Next on the agenda included a heated discussion with the Civil Service Commissioner Billy McMillan addressed his concerns over the high percentage of police candidates failing the Civil Service examination. Councilman Eddie Clark asked, "Why can't we just lower the score? You only have to make a 30 to get into the military on the ASVAB test."
McMillan told the council, "The only thing I am asking is to look at the recommendation that we made two years ago, where if a candidate does not pass the exam then they cannot be hired full-time nor part-time."
The Civil Service thus far has changed the test three times and a passing score of 70 is required to pass the exam. Scott reminded the council that the department does not have anyone on staff full-time that has not passed the test.
"The Civil Service's stance is this: If a candidate cannot pass the test for full-time, do we want them on the streets as an officer part-time out there carrying a pistol?" concluded McMillan.
City Treasurer Patrick Roberson presented his quarterly report. Roberson began with a summary of the landfill fund. He noted that the total income was $242,605 and expenses amounted to $162,902 plus $62,000 loan to the fund giving the landfill a net gain of $141,702 from January 1 to March 31.
The Street Fund chalked up a total income of $197,102 with $133,641 in expenses plus $67,058 in FEMA funds leaving a net gain this quarter of $130,519.
The discussion on the general fund included a total income of $1,890,331 with expenses amounting to $1,855,556 giving the city general fund a net loss of $34,775. With the addition of $67,906 from FEMA and reimbursements from the landfill, total transfers out to other expenses amounted to $129,058, leaving the general fund $26,376 in the red over the first quarter.
Another topic of discussion included the passing of an ordinance to authorize up to $30,000 "for the engineering/architectural/construction fees local match for the Helena-West Helena Community Programs Grant at the Helena Community Center." The ordinance allows "space for community programs under the management of the Helena-West Helena Police Department."
Other topics of discussion and debate included the concrete blockhouses in Ward 4 and Councilman Donald Etherly led discussions on the police committee report and the base pay ordinance.