Under the new administration of Mayor J. “Spike” Harris, the Town of Jonesboro has made significant and progressive strides over the past eight months through increased police protection and civic improvements.
Now Mayor Harris and the Jonesboro Board of Aldermen are getting set to tackle the “elephant in the room” which is the financial shortcomings the town has faced for nearly a decade.
This was made evident at the regularly scheduled Jonesboro Board of Aldermen meeting that was held on September 12th where discussion centered on possible changes in the ways utilities and public works are handled.
“We have done a lot in a short period of time to improve the quality of life in our community,” said Harris. “Now we are turning our focus on ways to improve the town’s financial footing.”
This was an area that Harris and the Board of Aldermen wanted to address earlier in the year but was forced to put on hold until the final tabulations were received from the 2022 financial audit, which recently was released.
“We formulated a plan to improve our financial situation early on but before we were able to implement it we had to first correct problems associated with the last two audit’s on the town,” said Harris. “Now that we have addressed those items we are ready to move forward in getting our town stable financially.”
Remedies to two major issues involving public works that have been major contributors to the financial shortcomings were presented to Aldermen members by Mayor Harris that should have an immediate impact.
The first involves the charge the town of Jonesboro was paying to dispose of solid waste. After several meetings with the Jackson Parish Police Jury it has now been agreed to reduce disposal costs by nearly half.
“We have been paying $45.00 per ton to dispose of our waste in the Jackson Parish Landfill,” explained Harris. “Through the cooperation of the Police Jury that will now be reduced to $23.85 per ton which provides a great relief to us.”
Harris went on to express his gratitude to the JPPJ for working with the town.
“It was a good gesture by the Police Jury to work with us on this expenditure,” said Harris. “I am very appreciative for their assistance in this and the way they continue to work with us to help make our community the best we can be.”
This marks the second time this calendar year the JPPJ has stepped up to help the Town of Jonesboro. Earlier in the year, the JPPJ agreed to pay the portion of “up front” money required for the Town of Jonesboro to receive a grant that led to the town being awarded the funding for the upcoming Sidewalk project that is slated to begin soon.
The second improvement discussed involved a transition to a new utility billing system that will allow for an accurate measure of water being used by residents and businesses.
“Utility payments for water usage is supposed to be a positive financial resource for the town,” detailed Harris. “Over the past several years the town has been losing a tremendous amount of money because the system didn’t work correctly.”
Harris further explained how the new system would work.
“We are moving away from the computerized system that never worked properly to hire personnel who will read meters on site,” detailed Harris. “This will give us accurate readings on the usage.”
In other business three additions to the Jonesboro Police Department were made that is an example where “addition means subtraction.”
Jonesboro Assistant Police Chief Warren Johnson explained.
“By adding Tyra White and Lugenia Anderson as Dispatchers and Anthony Dill as a Patrol Officer to part time positions this will reduce the amount of overtime that is being paid currently.” said Johnson.
In final action, Louisiana government consultant Nnamdi Thompson addressed the panel of Robbie Siadek, Nia Evans-Johnson and Devin Flowers.
“We are here to offer help with securing money from the state through grants and assistance with issues involving municipal bonds,” said Thompson.
Thompson gave an example of how they were already working for the town.
“In 2008 the town of Jonesboro was awarded 2.3 million dollars to fix water issues that had a pay back date of 2049” said Thompson. “We are working to get that term shortened for the town.”