Sparks fly at Jonesboro Board of Aldermen meeting

Things got heated toward the end of the Jonesboro Board of Aldermen meeting held on Tuesday at the Jonesboro City Hall. Anyone who regularly attends these monthly session knows that this isn’t an unusual occurance. It is almost accepted that the town council (Devin Flowers, Pete Stringer, Robbie Siadek, James Ginn, Nia Evans-Johnson) and Mayor Leslie Thompson are going to have differences of opinions. What makes this altercation different was who was involved.

The meeting had actually been rather tranquil other than the discussion involving the Town of Jonesboro being woefully behind in payments of bills. (more on that below) Then duriing department reports, Jonesboro Police Chief James “Spike” Harris took exception to a statement made just a few moments earlier when Mayor Thompson said he “operated within the boundaries of the law.”

“Mr. Mayor, I just heard you say that you operate within the boundaries of the law,” said Harris. “I told you a month ago that according to the Attorney General’s opinion you were out of compliance by having magnetic decals on your car that can be removed instead of the required permanent posting. I asked you to get that resolved and you still have not done so. I am now giving you until next Tuesday to get this taken care of.”

This led to squabbling back and forth between the two where both indicated that each had vendettas against each other and had launched unwarranted investigations before Chief Harris said “I am not discussing this anymore. You have one week to get in compliance.”

The meeting that was heavily attended by the public, most being public works employees, began with Mayor Thompson being questioned about the outstanding bill owed to vendors by the town of Jonesboro. 

“From what I understand the town owes around $163,000.00 in unpaid bills to vendors and only around $13,000.00 in the bank,” said Councilman James Ginn. “I also know that we have a $12,000.00 bond payment and around $30,000.00 in payroll that will come due next week with no income to amount to anything expected to come in. My question is how are we going to handle this and are we going to be able to make payroll next week.” 

In response Thompson didn’t really provide an answer but indicated that this situation was nothing new.

“This is the same question we have had to worry about answering every week for the last three years,” said Thompson. “I can’t answer your question right now but between now and then we have to find a way to make it work.” 

Resolution 2021-016 was then introduced and ratified to correct an error in the prior 2021 Millage Resolution that indicated a wrong millage amount. Nuisance Ordinance 2021-10, regarding when grass, weeds and other growths should be taken care of was then passed with the stipulation being that if unwarranted growth was over 12″ high it was considered out of compliance. 

Engineer Brad Graf then asked the town council to approve the application to the Water Sector Grant Progam for 3.3 million dollar in water and sewer projects that the Town of Jonesboro would have to provide 25% matching funds to if approved to receive the money. 

Graf stated that he had to make a $130,000.00 increase in the cost of the projects after further investigation as to how the new planned, senior living development on Industrial Drive and the buidling of the new Jail by the Jackson Parish Sherrif’s Office on Gansville Road would affect the projects. After much discussion the board voted to approve the application and to pay the required matching funds through money recieved from the ARPA. 

The introduction of the Tax Collector’s pay Ordinance and a recommendation to hire a permanent Town Clerk was tabled by the Council who desired to gain more clarification from Attorney Doug Stokes before moving forward. Councilman Devin Flowers voted against the move. 

Mayor Thompson then requested that the board move on his recommendatioin of Janice Simmons to be named Town Clerk. Simmons had been appointed by Thompson as Deputy Clerk to handle the town’s business following the abrupt resignation of former Town Clerk Amanda Womack last week. Councilman Flowers made a motion to hire Simmons but no second was received, killing the motion.

In further action the board agreed to move forward with the lease/purchase agreement of a new grapple truck provided certain language be added to the contract. The surplus property that was advertised was approved to be sold to the successful bidder and appointments were made to the Zoning Commission and Sales Tax Board. 

Chief James Harris was voted to be on the Sales Tax Board with board member Nia Evans-Johnson abstaining from the vote, while David Hammock was reappointed and Henry Bradley was appointed to the Zoning Commission. 

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