The Mansfield City Council met in a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, December 19 at 6 p.m. Present were Aldermen Julie Thomas, Dave Johnson, Jan Carlton, Sheri Hopkins, Rick McDaniel and Beverly Lyons. Also present, Mayor Buddy Black and City Recorder/Treasurer Becky Walker.
After approving the November minutes and financials, the council heard the city services reports.
Public Works Director Joe Manes reported that things were going well within his department. Black shared that the city was in need of new water meters, and Manes had found a “good savings” on new meters. The council voted to approve that purchase.
Police Chief Wayne Robb reported that it was a busy month. He also presented a pay proposal for the officers within his department. The salaries will be under consideration as the council attends a study session on the 2020 budget on January 6 at 5 p.m.
“At 123 calls, that’s the most I’ve seen since I’ve been here…,” stated Robb. In total, Robb reported 20 agency assists, three in Scott County, and 17 in Sebastian County. Officers worked five accidents, 100 traffic stops and issued 62 warnings. The department also recovered stolen property, and made one DWI arrest. Lastly, the police department had a total of 17 hours of training for the month.
Next, Fire Chief Michael Smith reported that his department has responded to 12 fire calls and 19 EMS calls. Also, that they had purchased a new brush truck from Greenwood rural. On December 12, Smith and eight other firefighters underwent training at Northwest Scott for certification in CPR. Lastly, he reported that the department has participated in two parades. Smith informed the council that the department is still in need of four new pagers to equip new volunteers.
City Attorney Matt Ketcham was not present for the meeting.
In matters of new business, the council voted to go into executive session to discuss the hiring of a new employee for the recycle program. After reconvening, a motion was made to hire two part-time positions. The council unanimously approved Alderman Dave Johnson and Sue Chapman for those positions.
Next, Black stated that the city is going to have to make a change in the way water bills are being paid. “We have been paying a fee involved when people use a credit card or debit card, and the city has been paying that fee. It averages over $400 a month. Legally, we cannot pay that…so, we’re having to change the way we take money.” According to Black, the credit/debit machines will be removed from the water department, but customers can still pay by check, cash, over the phone, and the automatic withdrawals. More information and details will be forthcoming on the change.
Alderman McDaniel addressed the next item on the agenda by making a motion to increase the bad check fee to $30 for the city. That motion carried unanimously.
Sebastian County Sheriff Runion was next to address the council on the proposed fee to the city of $2,257 per year to pay for non-emergency services. He reviewed the list of non-emergency services that the fee will cover. “We are under a constitutional obligation to answer 9-1-1 emergency calls. We’re not talking about that,” stressed Runion.
Those non-emergency services include answering city phone lines, dispatching non-emergency calls, entering property in NCIC/ACIC, validating property in NCIC/ACIC, driver’s license and license plate queries and arrest warrant queries.
Runion explained the costs for queries, and the secured line it requires. Alderman Carlton responded, “we can do without some of these (referencing the answering of city phone lines, dispatching non-emergency calls, entering property in NCIC/ACIC, validating property in NCIC/ACIC.)…but the last one seems like your putting our officers in danger.” Runion responded that “this is where we get into the contention…I would not do anything on purpose that would put any officer in danger, I’ve been on both sides of it. But, I will say…at what point as a sheriff’s office, does our responsibility start and stop and where does the elected officials of the City of Mansfield and incorporated cities start and stop. We’ve always provided these services free of charge, always have, not required by any law but we’ve always done it…” Lastly, Carlton questioned the new cell phone 9-1-1 legislation that will provide some funding. “Why not hire one dispatcher, and charge us half until you see how much you’re gonna get. You may not have to charge us this full amount.” Runion responded that “we’ve gotten so far behind, that the reality is that I should have four dispatchers.” Runion went on to add that if, in the event they receive enough funds to pay for the additional services, that he has “no issue with going to the county judge and letting him know.”
Alderman Thomas added that she too feels the move puts their officers in danger. McDaniel asked about the responsibility of the Quorum Court, and the JP’s response to the request. Runion shared that the court approved the proposition for the cities to pay for non-emergency services. “So, they voted not to give you the funds,” questioned McDaniel. “But then they turn around and put $133,000.00 in a fund to study whether or not we need a new jail?” Runion responded that the court approved a part-time position for the dispatch center and that the money was allocated over a year ago for the jail. “It comes back to the JP’s wanting to put this money back and you say that it’s mandated they do that. Could they not take that $133,000 and hire two or three (dispatchers),” McDaniel inquired. Runion responded that there are two different pools of money, and that salaries and operational expenses are allocated differently. Carlton summed that citizens are going to be taxed twice if a resident has a land line and a cell phone. “Is there room for compromise, or is this set in stone,” asked Carlton. Runion responded, “from my point of view, I should have asked for four (dispatchers), so no.”
Aldermen McDaniel interjected asking about the 9-1-1 property tax fee, “it’s quite a bit.” Runion replied that he wasn’t sure exactly what all it went towards, but would get back to them with an answer.
March 1 is the deadline for cities to agree or decline the proposal
In the next item of business, Black shared with the council that he would be renewing the yearly contract for the Mansfield Senior Citizens Center. Then, he asked the council to review items in their packet which included surcharges and building permit fees. The council will hold another study session at a later date to discuss those items.
Before adjourning the council heard a public comment concerning Runion’s proposal and the city’s plan to increase water fees.
With no other items of business, the Mansfield City Council meeting was adjourned.