Before Mayor Jay Hollowell could give his closing remarks at the conclusion of the Tuesday, December 11, 2018, Helena-West Helena City Council meeting, Council member John Huff made a motion to amend the agenda, enabling the Council to have a discussion about incentive bonuses for all city employees, which includes Council members themselves.
The motion to amend the agenda was seconded by Wanda Crockett and approved by roll call vote.
Council member Larry Brown made a motion to pay full-time city employees a $650 end of the year (Christmas) incentive bonus, $325 for part time employees. No second was made and the motion died.
After discussion, a motion was made by Huff, seconded by Crockett, to pay an $850 incentive bonus for full time city employees, which includes the council members themselves, with over 90 days on the job, and $425 for part time workers who meet the work time requirements, despite being informed that the city is over $250,000 in debt and putting bills off as it is, on a six yes, three abstain, with one absent vote Tuesday, December 11, 2018.
Mayor Jay Hollowell and City Treasurer Derrick Turner explained to the Council members, before the role call vote on the incentive motion, the financial position the city is in. Explaining as day to day emergencies and expenditures arise, some bills have had to be put back to meet those expenditures. Sometimes as long as five or six months. Mayor Hollowell stated the city had come close to getting their city cell phones and land lines shut off, due to this financial condition. The Mayor informed the Council of multiple police car units being down, requiring mechanical repaired. These repairs caused other city bills to be put back.
Turner repeatedly told the members an incentive bonus for employees, including the Council members themselves, is not in the budget. The same conversation that has come up every year since 2015.
Ignoring this information, City Council members approved the motion with six yes votes.
In other business, Mayor Hollowell asked the Council to extend the current 2018 operating budget to January 31, 2019 allowing the 2019 budget to be put in place at that time. A motion to that effect was made by St. Columbia, second by Messina. The motion passed by role called.
The council approved the purchase of a Ford Taurus Sedan, for Court Officer Mr. John Thomas, at a cost of $20,515.00.
The council also approved raising the rate of pay for the Interim Water and Sewer Director to that of the previous director.
Mayor Hollowell, in his final closing remarks, spoke about his time in office as Mayor of Helena-West Helena. He thanked his department heads, and the city council as well as all the city employees for working with him during his administration.
Council member Huff asked Mayor Hollowell if he had a position in Mayor elect Kevin Smith’s incoming administration. Mayor Hollowell stated he does not have any position in the new administration, that he would continue to operate his insurance business. He further stated that he and Kevin Smith had met multiple times, working on this administration transition, something that was not available to him when he began his administration.
After the Mayors emotional comments, Council member St. Columbia moved that the meeting adjourn.