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Four major issues that had been moved from meeting to meeting as questions were asked and oppositions voiced were all approved at the Granite Shoals City Council meeting Tuesday, April 12.  

A controversial new hire request that was tabled at the previous meeting was met with unanimous support several weeks later. The change of heart came after a private but unnamed entity offered to pay the salary of what was listed as a part-time city planning and development coordinator.

“Someone interested in wastewater along RR 1431 and in doing a comprehensive study on sewer service will fund this position for three months,” City Manager Jeff Looney told the council. “He will be reporting to us every month on his progress.” 

The city of Granite Shoals does not have a wastewater treatment plant, which is a concern for developers. 

Councilor Steve Hougen asked if it was legal for an outside entity to remain anonymous if they gave the city about $16,000 for a part-time contractor for three months. 

“This is an investment they are making in getting wastewater to 1431,” he said. “Is there a potential conflict of interest?” 

Councilor Eddie McCoy said the entity “understood we did not want to fund it right now, so they stepped up to keep their project moving.” 

Looney assured the council it was legal as long as the city was involved in overseeing the position. 

Once the motion was made to hire the part-time temporary consultant, Derrick Klotz, a resident and City Council candidate for Place 4, voiced his opposition. Klotz faces incumbent Steve Hougen in the May 7 city election. 

“If these individuals can fund and buy any position in City Hall, what’s next?” he asked. “I don’t think any outside entity that’s not named should be able to buy a position in City Hall.” 

“They are not buying a position,” Councilor Samatha Ortis answered. Ortis was the lone vote at the previous meeting to not table the issue. She told DailyTrib.com at the time that she was against hiring the position, period, and didn’t want it back on the agenda. 

“This person will be supporting the staff we need,” she continued at the April 12 meeting in response to Klotz. “Any decisions to be made will be made by the council, not this person.” 

The vote was unanimous to hire the assistant for three months and reconsider that at two months. 

Two other items making a reappearance after causing a fallout between Parks and Recreation Committee members and the city manager were also approved unanimously. 

Michele Landfield and Shirley King came before the council on March 8 to ask for $60,000 for new playground equipment and a council liaison to serve on the committee. At the time, they were told it would be on the next meeting’s agenda, but it was not

The $60,000 request for equipment went head to head with the $70,000 requested for an assistant city manager at the previous meeting. All that was settled April 12, when Granite Shoals Chief Financial Officer Russell Martin said the city found money for the equipment. 

“We have $60,000 in salary savings and $30,000 in bond money that can be used,” he said. “That’s the sources of funding for that.” 

“It represents a change in priorities, but it’s a great change,” Looney added. 

Committee members King and Landfield said they would plan a volunteer workday at the city’s parks to help with all but equipment installation. 

The council also appointed Hougen as the parks liaison. 

And finally, after months of back-and-forth, a mining ordinance was approved on a 5-2 vote. Ortis and Councilor Bruce Jones voted against it, as they had previously. At the last meeting, the ordinance failed 3-3. Hougen was not at that meeting, so councilors decided to put it back on the agenda for a vote when all seven members would be present. On Tuesday, Hougen voted for the ordinance, as did McCoy. 

“I voted to table it last time because part of it I didn’t understand,” McCoy said. “I’ve since done some research.” 

The new ordinance replaces the old ordinance, which was approved in March 2021.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

  • The council accepted a $3.1 million bid for water treatment plant upgrades, despite it being the only bid and coming in $1 million over the expected cost. The rising cost of materials was cited as the reason. The council was told the price will only get higher the longer it waits to sign contracts necessary to begin purchasing materials.
  • The council approved an intent to issue certificates of obligation not to exceed $1.75 million to replace water meters in the city after the current meter reading software became obsolete. Currently, the city is having to read meters by hand, increasing labor costs. The council also decided to hold a public hearing on the matter, even though it is not required by law. 
  • The council gave the nod to Fire Chief Tim Campbell to pursue three major purchases for the fire department, including a new squad truck, air packs, and a new fire engine. 

suzanne@thepicayune.com