"Penny For Your Thoughts?" Tenaha Councilman Seeks Pay; Employees Feel Jobs At Risk

November 9, 2017 - The Tenaha City Council met on October 23, 2017 to discuss a long list of items and one that caused a great deal of debate was that of compensation for council members, which at its highest amount suggested was $15,000 a year.

Cliff Lloyd, Alderman, sought to have the subject on the agenda for discussion and commented he thought the members of the council should be paid for their thoughts.

"I think it was last week when I spoke on after dinner with a lot of this going on with the city, that people are not having a clue of what we have to go through as councils that you know we should be compensated for our thoughts," said Lloyd.

He sought feedback before making a motion and it was suggested by Stephanie Marie Glenn, Alderwoman, he should mention a figure. To assist in coming to a figure, Clark provided a list of area cities and what compensation they offer their council members as a point of reference for the council in making their decision.

City of Timpson $10 to every council member per meeting with $100 per month to the mayor and $10 per meeting; City of Center $20 per month for council members; City of Carthage council members and mayor are not paid; City of Joaquin $100 per meeting with $500 per month to the mayor; City of Garrison $10 per month with $60 per month to the mayor and they all pay the money back into two scholarships; City of Marshal council members are each permitted a $3,000 allowance for travel and an iPad for use.  

Lloyd proposed $250 per month for each council member. A member of the audience asked Lloyd didn't he know the position was an unpaid job when he ran for election? He responded it isn't an unpaid job. Lloyd said that's what a lot of people may assume, and she reiterated in Tenaha it was an unpaid job.

Natalie Harris, Mayor Pro Tem, tried to be the voice of reason with the council when seeking financial gain at this juncture contradicts a lot of the direction the city has been taking recently in trying to be frugal as possible, "Here's my issue, okay. It would be great you know to be paid, but I do know that we didn't budget and I know this doesn't go into effect. Number one it's not in the budget, number two y'all we really can't afford to be paid. You know what I'm saying, and I know you're saying 'bust them CDs open' but I mean the CDs are only going to last so long. And then three, we have harped and harped and harped and said no overtime, no overtime because we're trying to cut. Then we're gonna turn around and pay ourselves?"

"That's where I'm at," said Lloyd.

"I gotta give it to him, he's being honest," said Stephanie Marie Glenn, Alderwoman.

Harris said if it hypothetically were approved, it won't go into effect until the next election in May; however, there still won't be money with which to pay people since it isn't in the budget.

"Well, you know you gotta do some amending and stuff like that," said Lloyd.

Lloyd made a motion for council to start receiving pay by next election. The motion sat for several minutes with no one seconding the motion. Discussion continued about possibly adopting Joaquin's policy and Glenn said she declined Lloyd's original motion. Lloyd then stated he rescinded his original motion and then he made a new motion for each of the council members to receive $100 per month starting next year in June. Harris cautioned to keep in mind it is not in the budget. Finding no second motion again, Lloyd rescinded his motion again and made a motion to table the item until the next month's meeting and the motion carried.

During the meeting another item on the agenda Lloyd sought to have attention was for the city to pay for memberships for council members.

A particular membership Lloyd was interested in was for the Texas Association of Black City Council (TABCC) Members. He said he was informed by the organization he should present his application to the city and the city would pay for the membership.

"But when I brought it to them, because again no picking on Sheryl because Sheryl [said], 'why do they have a Black city council deal.' It doesn't matter about whether it's a Black city council deal or what, it's like you know, it's knowledge. You know, and they said the city would take care of the deal," said Lloyd.

He said the organization provides scholarships for students and he said the group has Caucasian and Hispanic members as well.

Lloyd suggested the membership application was ignored and put in a back file somewhere, and he assumed membership was a one time payment.

Harris told him the membership was annual. She also said the agenda item was not directed at one particular organization and that it has a broader reach in that there are other organization out there to which they could have membership.

Harris asked, "If people want to be able to become a member of whatever organization, do we want to pay for these memberships?"

Lloyd then responded, "As long as it's sensible you know it's not no KKK membership and all of that kinda stuff."

Council members then started suggesting the TABCC gives scholarships to the children of members for joining and Harris clarified those students have to write essays and they are then graded on those essays. Those that qualify might receive a scholarship.

Harris mentioned once again, memberships are an item that is not budgeted.

Glenn then stated council members should have to pay for their own memberships. Clark said that is why she had a written a letter to former mayor Carl Jernigan and Harris stating there is no stipulation that says the city has to pay for memberships. That is something the council could decide and put in writing and it is not her decision.

A motion carried to disapprove the city funding memberships for applications of city council members.  

City Secretary Sheryl R. Clark addressed the council toward the end of the meeting regarding something that came to her attention during the week before the meeting. It was her understanding the council wants to advertise all of the currently filled city positions and have everyone reapply for their positions.

Glenn said "no" that wasn't true and asked who told her that.

"But this is what we're hearing, so this is something that's coming from different areas and I'm just asking the council what is this about, because this is a very time consuming process and what is the purpose?" said Clark.

"We really shouldn't even discuss this because, I had it to go on the agenda but it didn't go on the agenda so we really don't have nothing to say about it," said Cliff Lloyd.

Glenn said she needed to reply because she wanted to clear things up.

"I personally, and I haven't heard anybody else disclose about the council wanting y'all to reapply for your positions, so that is false information. The only thing or whatever is that the reason for the positions, I mean every position being advertised for it's not to say or whatever that the council have any intention to replace you, you, you and so forth. 

"The thing of it is, is that we're trying to get away from always being in the position that we're in. We don't have applications on file and that's not to say that anybody is going to get replaced, but just in case or whatever somebody do get a better job offer we do have applications that we have on file. So, you know it'll speed up the process in hiring someone if someone is to leave," said Glenn.

Glenn said Center ISD takes applications for bus drivers all of the time. Clark said the city takes applications for jobs all the time as well, but they don't advertise them. Glenn said the council has been told people don't apply when positions are advertised and then recent positions have been advertised for and applications were received.  

"You are going to advertise for the positions, for all our positions but they're not available, and then we're gonna keep them on file. I'm just reiterating this to make sure I understand this so I know the direction here. You're going to keep all the applications on file so if somebody leaves then you have them, so these people you think will wait around for somebody to leave?" said Clark.

In response a motion carried to adjourn the meeting at 8:22pm.

Earlier in the meeting, James Guest with Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson, LLP gave a presentation to be the collections representation for the City of Tenaha. The council was left to consider the possibility until a future meeting.

An Aerator System Presentation was scheduled for the meeting; however, the representative who was to describe the project was not able to attend. Instead Stacy Cranford and Matt Barton explained the need for having an aerator system to help reduce the trihalomethanes in the city's water system.

The city still is in need of a second roll off dumpster and so to be in compliance and to pay for both the aerator system and the dumpster a motion carried to accept money of CDs at over $150,000 each for the aerator and the dumpster.  

The aerator has a possible cost of $100,000 and the dumpster at a total cost of around $16,000 with modifications done by Willey Holley.

Discussion was had regarding Resolution #2017-10-23-1R to authorize a change of signatures on all City accounts at First National Bank of Hugh Springs. To remove former mayor Carl Jernigan and add new authorized parties. 

Sheryl R. Clark asked not to be included in the signatories on the accounts and Lloyd asked why she didn't want to be on the accounts now. She stated it isn't something that is in her best interest, "Because it gives you opportunity to make accusations, so I'm removing myself. I will continue to do my job but nowhere in there does it say I have to sign the checks."

To which Lloyd responded, "Amen."

Following lengthy discussion a motion carried to name Craig Gray, Cliff Lloyd, and Natalie Harris the signatories on the accounts.

The council discussed moving two maturing CDs to a Savings Account at First National Bank of Hughes Springs. A motion carried to approve moving the two accounts to a savings account.

The council discussed the possibility of insuring the personal vehicle of Matt Barton for use in the water department, the utility clerk's personal vehicle, or purchasing a vehicle for the water department.

A motion carried to purchase a vehicle for the water department at a cost of $13,900.

A very long discussion was had over the policy on water deposits. If someone has their water shut off, and if they're original deposit did not match the current deposit amount a customer would have to bring their deposit up to the current amount of $250.

Following a 30-minute discussion over the policy which traveled a rather circuitous route, Harris suggested a motion to develop a policy concerning water deposits which will stay at $250 and bring it before the council at a future meeting for approval. The motion carried to approve revising the guidelines of the policy.

The council discussed placing all churches on a minimum billing rate of $28.50 without sewer and $46.50 with sewer for applicable services. This was met with a great deal of derision from the council members. Several separate conversations among the council members were triggered. 

"If they have sewer, they have to pay the sewer, just like they do the water. But with the sewer a lot of times it's based on the water usage, it goes up, it goes down. This way nothing ever changes it's the same bill every month. The churches with sewer will be charged a set rate every month regardless if they go over 10,000 gallons over the minimum they're going to be charged the minimum. The same thing with churches without sewer, they're gonna get the same rate every month," said Barton.

A motion carried for the council to continue to study the possibility.

The council discussed future plans for the cement tables from McKniel Park. Alderman Durand Steadman stated the city has the receipt showing those tables were purchased by the city for $3,100. He stated until someone from the Beautification Committee can bring a receipt to the city showing the committee purchased the tables, and how many were purchased, they can have however many tables they purchased. As of this time he stated the tables belong to the city.

Steadman stated the Beautification Committee was started under the city and the city gave $19,000 to the committee to get started.

A motion carried the city will keep the tables unless receipts are brought proving someone else purchased the tables.

The council went into executive session at 7:29pm and returned to open session at 8:07pm. 

When the council returned to open session a motion carried to accept the announcement that five applicants for the position of police chief would interview before the council on November 6, 2017.

Tenaha City Marshal Darren Gray gave the activity report for September that there were 60 stops resulting in 63 citations, 54 for speed, three for no insurance, four for no driver's license, two for illegal left turns, two expired registrations, one expired driver's license, one stop sign violation, and one dog at large which is a city ordinance. Nine calls for service, six calls for disturbance, one agency assist, one motorist assist and one dog at large which is a city ordinance.

Following his report, Alderman Steadman informed Marshal Gray a house belonging to Fran Partin was burglarized of a television and guns. Marshal Gray asked for her to contact him and give a report.

Elizabeth Swint gave the Municipal Court report for September. Collections were $20,588.80 with the city's portion being $12,965.95 and $7,622.85 going to the state. She reported signing up for yearly schooling and she would be attending the class for 16 hours. Beginning November the council room would be set up for court.

Matt Barton gave the Public Works Report for September. He reported 21 work orders in the water department. The baseball park is being maintained as best as possible until it's decided what to do with the park. Booker T. Washington has been cleaned up three times by the city employees, and usually in large quantities. The Travis Street/Circle Drive project is complete and looks good. 

The water department passed tests by TCEQ on lead and copper. The fourth quarter trihalomethane test; however, failed but the new aerator is expected to fix that problem. Barton spoke with a TxDOT representative and repairs to a manhole in the middle of Highway 59 in Tenaha can be made by City of Tenaha.

Grease is going to start being a problem in the sewer lines and they are trying to address that.

Sheryl R. Clark reported she is starting to get notifications for the May 2018 election. The available positions will be one mayor position and two council member seats of Cliff Lloyd and Stephanie Marie Glenn. In 2016 there were four applications for the mayor position and only two for the council seats. Starting January 2 applications for the May ballot will be available at the city office. The first day for filing applications should be around January 18 and the last day to file will be around February 16.

Agenda items approved during the meeting include:
1. Minutes of the September 25, 2017 meeting minutes with changes to be made.
2. September 2017 Financials.
3. Nomination of Natalie Harris Chief Appraiser for Tenaha.
4. Accept money of CDs at over $150,000 each for the aerator and the dumpster.
5. Appoint Banks Finley, White and Company Firm to Conduct the FYE 2015-2016 and FYE 2016-2017 City Audits.
6. Name Craig Gray, Cliff Lloyd, and Natalie Harris the signatories on city bank accounts.
7. Move the Two Maturing CD’s to a Savings Account at the First National Bank of Hughes Springs.
8. Purchase a vehicle for the water department at a cost of $13,900.
9. Revise guidelines of the water deposit policy.
10. Council to continue to study the possibility of placing all churches on a minimum billing rate for applicable services.
11. The city will keep the tables unless receipts are brought proving someone else purchased the McKniel Park tables.
12. Disapprove the city funding memberships for applications of city council members. 
13. Accept the announcement that five applicants for the position of police chief would interview before the council on November 6, 2017.

Agenda items tabled during the meeting:
1. Compensation for Council Members.