Jonesboro Board of Aldermen takes steps to address a myriad of problems

At their regularly scheduled monthly meeting that was held on Tuesday, February 14th, the Jonesboro Board of Aldermen took steps to address a myriad of problems the town is facing including issues with finances, water billing, water distribution, animal control and the towns fleet of vehicles. 

Jonesboro Mayor James “Spike” Harris opened by stating that he wanted residents to know that during the first 44 days of his administration that he and the department heads have been working to get things turned around but they need to know that there are a lot of problems that need to be resolved. 

“I promised not to place blame and I am not but in all transparency there are a lot of things that we inherited that have to be fixed,” said Harris. “Our residents need to know that we are back on the Louisiana Auditors non-compliance list. We currently have an F rating with the Department of Health and EPA and we are behind in our payment of bills. We also have a major problem with the towns fleet of vehicles. With that said we are getting things resolved as quickly as we can but it is going to take time to get Jonesboro to where we need to be”|

The situation regarding water distribution was improved when the board agreed to award the contract for the Patterson Street Pump Station Improvement Project to Skylan Construction Inc. in the amount of $213,000.00. The award, designated as Resolution 2023-007 was approved by members Nia Evan-Johnson, James Ginn, Robbie Siadek, Robert Hunter and Devin Flowers after town engineer explained that the project was being paid for by DRA Grant funds and that Skylan’s bid was the lowest of two received, which came in at $8,000.00 under the budget in place.

The session began with Mr. Patel, owner and operator of the Budget Inn in Jonesboro requesting that the town assist him with the problem of homeless people sleeping in the stairwells and hallways and stray dogs constantly overturning garbage cans and being a threat to hotel patrons. 

Jonesboro Mayor James “Spke” Harris replied by saying that the town would do all they could to help but the problem relates to the lack of funding provided to the police department over the past several years that doesn’t allow for 24 hour patrols. Harris also said the same funding problem has caused animal control to suffer.

“This administration has been in office for only 44 days and we have inherited a lot of situations that we are working to get resolved including getting the police force back on 24 hours patrols and getting the problem of stray dogs under control,” said Harris. “Hopefully soon we will have the situations resolved.”

Wilda Smith of the Jackson Parish Chamber of Commerce was next promising the Chambers support for the present administration and asking for the town’s continued assistance for the Downtown Beautification Project that the Chamber has spearheaded over the past several years. A resident that lives on 346 Beech Springs Road then followed asking when the ditch that is backed up at that location will be cleaned out. 

Harris consulted with Interim Public Works Director Carl Johnson then replied that work is in progress now to get that resolved. 

DarLisa Richie of Enterprise Fleet Management (EFM) then gave a presentation in regard to the towns fleet of cars and trucks and how it would be a financial benefit for the town to move to a lease program instead of their current program of buying vehicles. Before Richie spoke, Harris informed the board and large audience in attendance the reason this was being considered was due to the situation the town’s fleet is currently in.

“Our entire fleet of vehicles that is being used by the Police, Fire and Public Works Departments are dilapidated. Eighteen of the vehicles are over 10 years old and none are equipped with equipment that is required by new standards in effect,” said Harris. “We are looking at partnering with EFM to replenish the fleet and move to a program that currently is being used by other local agencies such as the Jackson Parish Sheriff’s Dept., Jackson Parish Police Jury and Winn Parish Sheriff’s Office.”

Richie explained that the lease program being proposed utilizes open ended equity, minimizes front end and monthly maintenance cost and is back loaded that would allow for private sales that would reduce financial obligations when units are rotated. 

Following the presentation much discussion was had ending with Board Member Johnson asking the representative from Kenneth Folden and Company, who is handling the towns finances, if the plan was feasible given the towns current financial woes to which the reply was that it was. The board decided to table any action on the proposal until more exact figures for certain designated vehicles were received. 

Former town of Jonesboro employee Charlotte Bradford then took the podium stating that she hasn’t gotten paid for the two weeks she worked in December and asked when she could expect payment. Mayor Harris replied that no payment would be received until the current investigation regarding her employment was concluded. 

Compliance Officer Wayne Anderson followed with his report regarding the effort to update back water usage payments owed by residents and businesses. Anderson stated that identifying who owes what has been a slow process adding that 590 addresses that have meters had no residents names attached to it. He also said that for those who have received bills that are unable to pay can contact the Pine Belt Agency for assistance, noting that there are parameters in place that have to be met. 

In his report, Public Works Director Johnson added that board members should let their constituents know that they need to take care of any past due water bills as after it reaches 30 days in delinquency the water meters would be pulled according to regulations. He also stated that 52 pot holes had been filled on the towns streets and that the long list of water leaks are being worked on as fast as they can. 

The session concluded with council members and the Mayor giving final comments summed up by acknowledging that there are many problems that need to be resolved  but assuring residents that they are being attended to as quickly as possible and asking residents to give this new administration the time to get things corrected. 



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