The Monticello City Council met last night with a long list of topics to tackle, including the city pool issue. After much discussion, the Council voted unanimously to continue the repairs and replacement of the liner with contractor Kenny Johnson for a new contract price of $268,083. The original contract was for $242,585 but Mr. Johnson reported that once the project began it was discovered that “the pool is sub-standard construction-wise”. His concern is having to warranty the job for a year, wanting to be confident in the work he’s done. At $268,083 Mitch Rose, the engineer representing the city from McClellan Engineering, projects 5-10 more years use with the current restoration. At this cost, the liner will be replaced with upgraded material, some pipes will be replaced, the diving board will be repaired, a working drainage system will be installed, and the pool lights will be checked and replaced if needed. Alderwoman Sherrie Gillespie asked why the city keeps pumping so much money into the upkeep and maintenance of the old city pool, but was told that this is the first major renovation in the life of the pool, since 1993.
Another major decision reached on the initiation of new Mayor Joe Rogers was his proposal to abolish the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission. Extensive discussion followed this proposal. Rogers responded to Tim Chase’s statement that the city office was taking on more responsibility than they’ve ever had before by saying, “I take full responsibility, 100%”.
As part of this responsibility, Rogers proposed that the city’s Parks and Recreations Commission be done away with, leaving him in control of this area with an advisory board. The Parks Commission has been in place since 1998, serving the community by completing projects such as park improvements, a new baseball complex, a sports complex, among other things. Nevertheless, the Council voted 6-1 with Tim Chase opposing, to grant the disbanding of the Commission.
Just before the meeting adjourned, Parks and Recreation Commission chairman Steve Hartness was given the opportunity to speak. He wanted to voice his concern over the issue and let it be known that the Commission had worked diligently within the boundaries established for them, and that he didn’t understand the decision.
Hartness stated, “Everything we have done has been upfront. I have come to you for two years with budgets and laid it on the line for the city council to approve or disapprove. We’ve accomplished a lot in the past five years. I’m proud of what we’ve done. I’m a little disappointed tonight. I wasn’t considered important enough to even know about this except through the grapevine.”
The mayor argued that he had left a message with Hartness’s wife but Hartness reiterated that he had been contacted at work and on his cell phone on other occasions but wasn’t about the meeting and what was proposed to happen to the commission.
Hartness continued, “There were things in the paper that skirted right on the verge of us being irresponsible with tax money. I hope you don’t think that. I’m not understanding what the difference is in a 15-member advisory board and a parks commission. I’m not understanding how it’s different, other than you’ve got eight more voices or opinions. If something needed done, it’s gotten done.”
He concluded, “I wish ya’ll the best and I’ve enjoyed working with you guys.”
Appreciation for the commission was expressed by Alderwoman Beverly Hudson who said, “I’d like to say they’ve done a tremendous job, and I think that we should thank them for the many hours. I certainly have had no complaints. I think the mayor just wants to take us in a different direction, and we should give him the opportunity.”
Another issue that stirred discussion was the proposal to grant Rogers the ability to approve up to $20,000 in city expenditures without engaging in a competitive bidding process. The previous limit was $10,000. The council also approved that initiative, by a vote of 6-1, with Chase voting against.
Rogers gave his first State of the City address, reading from a prepared manuscript. In it, he stated, “…where others have found persistent problems; let us discover new opportunities.”
Listen to the full meeting on the MonticelloLive-provided podcast here.