Unlike last year where it took several months of meetings for the Board of Aldermen of the Town of Jonesboro to finally approve the yearly general, water and sewer budgets, this time around it took only a matter of hours. It was not without heated moments though.
The main crux of the issues discussed on the general budget ended up being where $100,000.00 in funds the town received earlier in the year from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) would be allocated. In the budget submitted this money had been allocated to the general fund so that according to Mayor Leslie Thompson it could be used as needed. One suggestion had been to use at least some of the money to pay bonuses to Public Works employees.
Councilman James Ginn stated that he wanted the money moved to the water department for use in the water sector program citing that the money would be put to better use by fixing the many problems the water department has. While it really wasn’t a decision to pay a bonus to the public works employees or not, the discussion shifted in that direction and became heated. At one point Councilperson Nia Evan Johnson left the meeting and Councilman Devin Flowers got up to leave before being talked into staying after Mayor Thompson told him if he left a quorum would not be established meaning the water and sewer budget would not be able to be adopted.
In the end all three budgets were adopted with the following amendments:
(1) $100,000.00 would be moved from the General budget and placed in the Water Department budget with the designationi that the money would be used solely for water sector programs.
(2) $33,250.00 would be added to the General Budget from money that originally had been dedicated to pay for a change order in the Talbot Street Project. Money to pay for the project was then voted to come out the Street Department funds..
(3) $8,000.00 added to the Police Department Budget as an added stipend to pay for fuel costs.
As result of the adoption of Ordinances 2022-04, 2022-05, 2022-06 the town will be able to fully operate at full financial capacity for the fiscal year 2022-23, which begins on July 1st. Last year, due to the budget not being passed in a timely fashion as designated by the state, each department of the town was forced to operate on half the budget that had been submitted until final ratification took place.
In further action, the panel of Devin Flowers, Robbie Siadek, Pete Stringer, James Ginn and Nia Evans-Johnson ratified Mayor Leslie Thompson’s declaration of emergency in regard to Water Well #5 and agreed to pay $82,463.00 in repairs with the money coming from ARPA. This came after Town Engineer Brad Graff explained that new pumps, motors and wiring had to be installed at the well as well as having 400 feet of six inch drop pipe pulled and replaced.
In additional action, the Ruston Daily Leader was voted to be the official journal for a one year period and Mayor Thompson was given authority to accept the low bid for fuel and associated equipment when the advertisement date comes to an end.
A Resolution to advertise for bid on surplus property was agreed on as was the new lines for the Aldermans district that brings the town into accordance with state and federal regulations regarding district population and ethnicity percentage requiirements.
Dr. Herbert Simmons spoke to the Council about creating a downtown arts district and Randy Layfield gave an update on recent Chamber of Commerce activities and requested that the Council take measures to repair the many non working street lights in the downtown area.