Board, mayor debate heating unit purchase, road tax money

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, January 4, 2006

WESSON – The recent purchase of a heating and cooling unit forWesson Town Hall sparked some heat of its own during Tuesday’sboard meeting.

Following the unit’s purchase last month without prior approvalby aldermen, the board requested Tuesday that all purchases over$1,500 be pre-approved.

“Let us approve it, because we’re the ones held responsible,”Ward Three alderwoman Lura Greer told Mayor Alton Shaw.

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Shaw and Town Clerk Linda Dykes said the $2,800 heating andcooling unit was considered an emergency purchase when employeesshowed up at the building without any heat on a cold morning.

“It was cold up here and we couldn’t work,” said Dykes. “Theonly other thing we could do was close and go home.”

Aldermen agreed the heating unit going out was an emergencypurchase, but asked they still be given the chance to approve thepurchase.

Most of the aldermen are retired or work in town. Alderman atlarge Van Graham suggested the mayor call him and he will contactthe other aldermen about emergency purchases over $1,500.

Graham told aldermen he did not want the board’s reaction aboutthe purchase to be “overboard” and slow down the progress of thetown.

“This town’s moving faster than it’s ever moved before. That’sgood and that’s scary,” he said.

The board approved last month’s claims dockets, which includedthe $2,800 purchase, with a vote of 4-1. Greer said she would notapprove it since aldermen were not notified ahead of time.

After the meeting, Greer pointed out the purchase amount ofmandatory board approval was $500 at one time, so increasing it to$1,500 was a big step, putting more decisions in the mayor’shands.

Another item on the agenda that received much attention fromaldermen was the town’s use of road and bridge tax money. The boardpreviously agreed to keep the funds, rather than give them to thecounty as in years past.

The exact amount of the funds was not known. The mayor andaldermen quoted figures from $22,000 to $25,000.

Shaw believes it will be more beneficial to the town to keep themoney and directly oversee the work. Some of the aldermen arguedthat giving the money to the county to make repairs in the townwould be a better use of the funds.

During the debate, which was heated at times, aldermen talkedabout the pros and cons of keeping the money.

The main pros were that the town could contract the work out andhave it done how and when wanted, rather than wait on county’sboard of supervisors to approve a job.

Greer repeatedly defended the county, namely Supervisor TerryChannell, saying the county board worked hard to fill the town’srequests in a timely manner.

“If you’ll call him, he will do whatever he can, and that moneybelongs to the county,” said Greer pointing across the table atShaw.

Shaw responded by saying it was not the county’s money, it wasthe town’s money. He said the county already receives money fromresidents taxed on homes and property.

Alderman Bobby Britt made a motion for the town to keep the roadand bridge tax money this year and keep a list of how the money isspent. Britt pointed out that county supervisors have never beenable to provide a list of how they spend the money in Wesson.

Aldermen voted 4-1 to keep the funds. Greer voted against themotion.

“You’re going to see how much it’s going to cost,” said Greer,when Shaw asked aldermen to make a list of areas that need pavingor other repairs.

Aldermen also continued on a similar topic during opendiscussion as they heard about numerous ditches, culverts, waterpipes and property that need to be looked at and possibly repairedor cleaned up by the town. A list was made for employees.