Town Council denies bonuses to Jonesboro Public Works employees

A large throng of interested people filed into the Charles H Garrett Community Center Tuesday evening with high hopes. Most left disgruntled. The reason was after much bantering and even pleas by members of the Town of Jonesboro Public Works Department the Jonesboro Board of Aldermen voted to not give incentive pay bonuses to the town employees.

The action was one of several that drew opposing votes by the five member panel of Devin Flowers, Nia Evans-Johnson, Robbie Siadek, Pete Stringer and James Ginn. Three times prior to Ginn, Stringer and Saidek voting to not give the bonuses, Flowers voting for the incentive pay and Evans-Johnson abstaining, addtional agenda items of approving June bills and financials as well as agreeing to apply for a portion of the downtown areato be considered a Cultural District passed by only a 3-2 margin.

In additional action the tax millage for 2022-23 fiscal year was approved, the fuel bid by Lott Oil Company was ratified and the Ruston Daily Leader was voted to be the official journal for the town for the upcoming 12 months of the fiscal year. It was also agreed to re-advertise for bids to be accepted for surplus items with no minimum amount set but giving the Board the right to refuse any and all bids.

The meeting began with Wilda Smith of the Jackson Parish Chamber of Commerce informing the panel of the upcoming Chamber banquet set for August 4th and of two ribbon cuttings that will take place. The first being on Thursday, July 14th where the Chatham Branch of the Jackson Parish Library will celebrate the grand opening of the Storywalk located on the Chatham Branch campus. The second ribbon cutting will be on Friday for the new business Magnetic Fishing that is located across from the Jackson Parish Bank parking lot on South Polk Avenue. Smith also reminded the panel that Chamber of Commerce dues for the upcoming year are now due.

This was followed by Nathan Martin, asking the board to vote for the bonuses.

“If we are not going to be allowed to work overtime, I ask that you vote to give us the pay incentive,” said Martin, who is a Public Works employee.

Fellow Public Works employees Clinton Caleb, Leon Burks Jr. and John Johnson echoed Martin’s request.

Tim Wyatt was next to speak, announcing to the Board that he was going to run for the office of Police Chief for the Town of Jonesboro in the upcoming elections.

The first area of disaccord came when it was asked of the board to approve the June bills to be paid and the June financials.

“Before I give approval to this, I want to know where $103,000.00 of money spent went,” stated Councilman Ginn. “Nothing in these statements show that.”

This was immediately met with Mayor Leslie Thompson stating that the Board meeting wasn’t the correct forum that such a question should be raised.

“At every meeting we go through this and I have repeated over and again that if someone has a question about anything on these reports they should contact City Hall ahead of time to get the answers.”

Ginn then replied that according to the print out that he was seeing that there were items being listed in certain categories that shouldn’t be there.

“I am looking at $23,000.00 being spent at Car Town twice, and $8,900.00 being paid to the Jackson Parish Police Jury for dumping that is supposed to be spend for road repair,” said Ginn. “I don’t understand how you can ask us to approve a statement that has incorrect listings in it.”

In the end it was voted by a 3-2 margin that the bills and financials would be approved providing changes were made to show correct coding of the expenditures.

When Mayor Thompson then requested the Board to allow the attorney representing the town on the Stringer lawsuit to enter into a settlement conference it led to the heated discussion over the proposed pay incentive to town employees.

“Until this lawsuit is settled, everything else regarding money is a mute point,” said Ginn. “This is Federal and has to be taken care of and according to our attorney’s we are in a potentially bad position.”

Counciperson Nia Evans-Johnson followed by saying that she wasn’t against giving a bonus to the employees but thought that a pay increase would be better suited.

“I am looking at the long term picture for the employees. Two or three years down the road a one time bonus is not going to be doing them any good. An increase in pay thought helps them not only now but in the future as well,” said Evans-Johnson.

Mayor Thompson then stated that the current proposal was not an either or issue.

“The only issue we should be discussing at this point is whether or not bonuses should be give from the ARPA money,” stated Thompson.

Upon a motion by Stringer and seconded by Siadek a vote was then held.

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