Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson will have to try again if he wants to appoint Tim Stribling to the city industrial development board and Walter Burton to the Smithville Electric System Board.
The aldermen voted 4-0 Monday night to set aside those appointments after City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. issued an opinion that the mayor should have first notified the aldermen in writing of his intentions before making the appointments, according to the city charter
During the March 16th city council meeting, Mayor Hendrixson appointed Burton to fill the unexpired term of the late John Bill Evins on the Smithville Electric System Board. He also appointed Stribling as a member of the Smithville Industrial Development Board, to serve out the remaining term of his brother Leon Stribling, who recently resigned.
The aldermen, at the March 16th meeting, voted 4 to 0 to approve the appointment of Stribling. However the board was split 2 to 2 on Burton's appointment. Mayor Hendrixson cast the tie breaking vote in favor of Burton. Aldermen Steve White and Cecil Burger voted for Burton but Aldermen Tonya Sullivan and Jerry Hutchins, Sr. voted no. Alderman Willie Thomas was absent.
Alderman Sullivan, during the March 16th meeting, complained that the appointments of Stribling and Burton were not included on the agenda and that the mayor may have violated the city charter by not presenting his request in writing to the aldermen.
Both Sullivan and Mayor Hendrixson later asked City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. to render a legal opinion on whether the appointments were made properly.
Parsley, during Monday night's meeting (April 6th), said be believed the mayor should have given written notice to the board and recommended that the appointments of Stribling and Burton be set aside until written notice is given. Based on Parsley's opinion, the board voted 4-0 to set aside the appointments. Alderman Steve White was absent.
In a letter to the mayor and aldermen, Parley wrote that "After the regular March 16th, 2009 meeting with the Mayor and Board of Aldermen, I was asked to give an opinion regarding the appointment of Mr. Tim Stribling to the City of Smithville Industrial Board and Mr. Walter Burton to the Smithville Electric System Board without written notification to the board."
"The Charter for the City of Smithville under Section 6 provides as follows: It shall be the duty of the Mayor, by written communications, to lay before the Board any information coming to his attention which, in his judgment, demands the consideration of said Board. It is my opinion that although the charter does not specify how that written communication should be given, the charter does require some type of written communication, be it by placing same in the minutes or a letter to the Board of Alderman. Therefore, these appointments would require some type of written notification to the board before passage."
So, the positions which would have been filled by Stribling and Burton will remain vacant for now until Mayor Hendrixson formally gives written notice to the aldermen of his appointments.
In other business, Mayor Hendrixson reported to the aldermen Monday night that the city water and sewer operation is currently operating at a deficit, mainly due to higher electricity costs, and that rate adjustments may be needed in the near future.
Mayor Hendrixson provided a monthly break down of water and sewer electric expenses from September, 2007 to February, 2009. "These are for the water intake, water plant, and sewer plant. In September 2007, the total bill for the three was $19,883. In January, 2009 it was $33,422 and in February it was $32,875. That is an increase of approximately 59% from a year and a half ago. That is causing the water and sewer operation to operate at a deficit. We have covered the deficit and have no problem doing that but the state will not let us continue operating the water system at a deficit. If we do they'll come in and set the rates for us. The water rates have not been increased since 1998. That's eleven years that the water rates have been the same. But the cost of chemicals, electricity, and everything has gone up tremendously in the last eleven years. The last time the sewer rates were increased was in 2005 and I think the state mandated that be done. I just want to make you aware that the water and sewer operation, mainly because of the electricity costs, is operating at a deficit this year. It will have to be addressed in the near future."
Under the current rate structure, City water customers pay $3.50 for the first one thousand gallons of water usage plus $3.50 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage. Rates for customers outside the city limits are 50% higher.
The rate the city charges the DeKalb Utility District is $1.85 per thousand gallons. Those rates (DUD) are evaluated annually based on cost.
City sewer customers pay the flat usage rate of $3.62 plus $3.25 per thousand gallons thereafter.
The City of Smithville has 2,344 water and 1,877 sewer customers.