Mayor Vetoes Proposed Budget Amendment for Golf Course- Council Fails to Override

December 17, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The City of Smithville will apparently not be spending funds this budget year for a sprinkler system at the Smithville Municipal Golf Course.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson Monday night vetoed a recent city council vote to amend this year's budget and spend $215,000 to purchase and install such a system.

The aldermen failed to overide the veto on a 3 to 2 vote. Aldermen Willie Thomas, Jerry Hutchins Sr., and Tonya Sullivan voted for the override, but Aldermen Steve White and Cecil Burger voted to sustain the veto.

It takes four votes to override a mayoral veto

At the last meeting on December 3rd, the board voted 3 to 2 to adopt a budget amendment ordinance on first reading to appropriate the money. Had it been approved on second and final reading, the city would have spent $215,000 taking $88,000 from the golf course checking account and $127,000 from the general fund account to pay for the project.

In citing his reasons for the veto, Mayor Hendrixson Monday night read from prepared remarks stating that "During the past several days and weeks, a large number of Smithville residents have contacted me about the sprinkler system that is proposed for the Smithville Golf Course."

"Only a few have expressed their opinion that it needs to be done. However, many more have expressed that they do not want to see taxpayer's money spent for this purpose."

"The Corps of Engineers is in the process of lowering the water level at Center Hill Lake in an effort to repair Center Hill Dam, which is expected to be a seven year project to complete. At this time, the effects on our pumping station and Water Treatment plant as a result of the water level being lowered, and the cost of the additional pumping station at the water intake is unknown as this time. I feel that it is more important to provide water to the approximately 16,000 residents of Smithville and DeKalb County and upgrade and maintain our Water Plant, than to spend $215,000 from our reserve funds for a sprinkler system at the Golf Course, which could cause an additional tax burden on Smithville taxpayers."

"In view of public opinion and also a number of questions concerning the Golf Course Lease, and the fact that the City is facing the possibility of having to expend a significant amount of money at the Water Treatment Plant and pumping station, I cannot in good faith agree to spend the taxpayers money on a sprinkler system for the Golf Course."

"Therefore, I veto the action taken on December 3rd, 2007 by the Board of Aldermen to amend the budget for the purpose of putting a sprinkler system at the Smithville Golf Course at a cost of approximately $215,000."

Mayor Hendrixson also Monday night vetoed another recent 3 to 2 vote of the city council to hire a certified recorder to help Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson take the minutes of the meetings, at least until he completes his certification.

Again, the council failed to override the veto on a 3 to 2 vote. Alderman Sullivan, Hutchins, and Thomas voted for the override, but Aldermen White and Burger voted to sustain the veto.

At the last meeting on December 3rd, Alderman Hutchins made the motion to hire a certified recorder. "We've been having some problems with the minutes and I would like to make a motion that we get a certified recorder to be present at the board meetings until Mr. Hendrixson gets through his schooling since we have had some confusion with the minutes."

In citing his reasons for the veto, Mayor Hendrixson Monday night reading from prepared remarks stated that " The purchase of a $6,900 sound system for the City Council Chambers and Meeting room,that records all City Council meetings, and the fact that the Aldermen are asked at each meeting before approval of the minutes if they have any corrections or additions to the minutes of the previous meeting and are given the opportunity to correct any mistakes, and that a certified court reporter could cost as much as $16,000 to $17,000 over the next 10 or 11 months, I hereby veto the action taken by the Board of Aldermen on December 3rd, 2007 to employ a court reporter to be present at all City Council meetings."

The ban remains on the sale of fireworks inside the city limits of Smithville.

The mayor and aldermen Monday night voted 3 to 2 to make no changes in the city regulations, which have prohibited the sale of fireworks for twenty five years.

Aldermen Sullivan and Burger voted to keep the city regulations on fireworks as they are, while Aldermen Hutchins and Thomas voted to pursue passage of a new ordinance lifting the ban. Mayor Hendrixson broke the tie by voting with Sullivan and Burger. Alderman White refrained from voting, citing a conflict since he sells fireworks outside the city limits during the Fourth of July each year.

Since 1982, the city has prohibited the sale of fireworks but in recent weeks Jewel Redman, owner and operator of Jewel's Market on South Congress Boulevard, has requested that the ban be lifted to give city businesses and others the same opportunity to sell fireworks as those outside the city limits.

At the last meeting on December 3rd, the board voted to have an ordinance prepared to repeal the ban, paving the way for passage of a new one that authorizes the sale of fireworks with specifics on rules and regulations.

Aldermen Thomas, Hutchins and Sullivan voted for it. Alderman Burger voted no and Alderman White refrained from voting.

But on Monday night (December 17th) Alderman Sullivan said she had some reservations about making changes after receiving some phone calls from concerned citizens. She then made the motion that the city code not be changed regarding the issue of fireworks and that no further action be taken.

Although he refrained from voting, Alderman White agreed with Sullivan saying he believed the ban should be left in place. " There was a reason for the ordinance that we have now and I think it should stand as it is. I don't see any reason why there would need to be fireworks sold inside the city limits. We're not that big of a city. There's plenty of spots outside the city limits that do sell and there's plenty of spots open for anyone that would like to sell them outside the city. I also think that it's a safety issue and it could be a legal issue."

Alderman Hutchins pointed out that sales of fireworks within the city would have generated some additional fees and tax revenue.

The board voted 5 to 0 to open bids on the hay contract at the airport.

Since the early 1990's, Hugh Washer has held the contract to cut hay on the airport property. He pays the city $400 per year.

City Attorney Pryor says the initial deal was a one year contract with two, one year options for renewal, but instead of re-bidding after that time, the city has allowed Washer to keep cutting the hay each year at the rate of $400 per year.

Mayor Hendrixson says contracting this service is a good deal for the city. "We get whatever money we can get to let someone cut the hay off of that (property). If we don't do that, we have to keep it bushhogged ourselves, using city money, equipment, and time. We've been getting $400 per year, so whatever we get is extra and we don't have to do it."

Alderman Sullivan made a motion to open up the bidding. The hay contract will be good only for two years, after which time, the board must re-bid the contract. The successful bidder must meet all specifications including applying 200 pounds per acre of triple 19 fertilizer or equivalent on the property each year.

The city is in search of a new city attorney.

Mayor Hendrixson read John Pryor's letter of resignation to the board Monday night. In the letter, Pryor wrote, " I have decided to pursue other career opportunities which prevent me from continuing in my position as city attorney. I have enjoyed working with each of you and have found this experience very educational. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to work with you and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors."

Pryor will serve until December 31st.

The city voted to advertise that the position is open and to seek applicants.

The board also voted 4 to 1 to advertise, seeking another certified water plant operator.

Alderman Sullivan, concerned about overworked water plant employees and some who are not certified, made the motion. "The overtime is pretty substantial. We've paid out for the year to date, almost $19,000, which in my mind would be enough to go ahead an advertise for another certified water plant operator to help fill those positions and to help cut down on the amount of overtime. We've stretched some of them (employees) kind of thin."

Alderman White asked Sullivan "What kind of salary are you thinking of?"

Alderman Sullivan responded " This would equate to somewhere around 10 to 11 dollars an hour, if you pay full time, whatever the pay salary is. When we're paying overtime, we're paying time and a half so we need to reduce that, and we need another certified person there on that third shift."

Sullivan continued, "I've had numerous phone calls. I think the citizens were not aware that people there were not certified. I've had a lot of concerns, saying we need to have safe drinking water and a certified water plant operator is obviously needed. If we're going to try to stick to input from our citizens, then that's my motion."

Aldermen Sullivan, Thomas, Hutchins, and Burger voted to advertise the opening of the position. Alderman White voted no.

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