Tyronza City Council approves budget, discusses several issues at meeting

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Tribune News Director

The Tyronza City Council voted 5-1 last Tuesday to approve the 2004 proposed budget for the city and its various departments. In debate, held at the Tyronza District Courtroom, council members heard from Tyronza mayor Marion Bearden about the budget, which includes a 3% raise for all city employees, a transfer of $30,000 to the General Fund for a property purchase and an expenditure of $20,000 to purchase a truck for the city's water department. The money, according to Bearden would come from a CD and would be used by Water Supt. Don Bilyeu in his day-to-day work. Voting in favor of the budget were council members Paul Hindman, Billy Hood, Michael Hood, Patty Lee and Sherry London. Voting against was council member Jerry Organ, who addressed questions as to the amount that the pay raise should be. Organ told the council that it should be a five percent raise, which he stated was standard for all towns.

In other action, the council:

* voted 6-0 to set in motion court proceedings against the state of Arkansas and the LOPFI retirement fund, over their acceptance of monies from a CD last year. In November of 2002, former Tyronza mayor Drexel Gill sent $136,326.94 to the state LOPFI account, which covers retirement amounts for fire and police personnel. The city is attempting to retrieve monies that were sent to LOPFI in Nov. 2002. However, an Arkansas Attorney General's response to a question over whether or not the money should be given back to the city states, "a court should decide whether it is appropriate that the funds the former mayor transferred should remain in the state-administered LOPFI account. Even if a court were to direct that the funds be returned to the city, I do not believe it would be appropriate for the city to treat them as general revenues, given that insurance turn back funds are earmarked for contributions to LOPFI or under certain circumstances to local pension funds." The council stated that the city did receive a credit for 2003 as a result of the money being sent and City Attorney Noyl Houston added that the city could get a future credit or file suit against LOPFI. Houston told the council that the city could spend at least $5,000 or more for the filing and trial portion, while the city could spend $10,000 or more for an appeal, if the city loses. Other council members asked whether the Arkansas Municipal League could help in the preparing the lawsuit. When reached for comment, former mayor Drexel Gill told the Tri-City Tribune that he did not do anything wrong. Gill stated, "We did not misuse the LOPFI funds. There was no illegal intent whatsoever and the money is there for the retirement of city police and fire personnel." Gill also noted that the city, when he was mayor, paid LOPFI money on a regular basis and paid into the account for eight of the last ten years he was mayor.

* heard from members of the Tyronza Fire Department, who addressed concerns from the public about taking the new fire truck or old truck out of town to fight fires. Tyronza Assistant Fire Chief Mark McDaniel told the council that the department, which is currently down one fire truck must use the new fire truck to work fires in Tyronza and the Tyronza Fire District, which is out of town. Tyronza firefighter Tony Turner told the council that the city must come first, but the department is responsible for a fire district that runs from Ark. 149 to Mississippi County, Ark. 308 to Ark. 118 and includes the communities of Birdsong and Heifer. The city also has a mutual aid agreement with Marked Tree, Heifer, Lepanto and Trumann, which members of the fire department state call for the Tyronza Fire Department to assist those departments when they are needed. Turner stated that other departments expect the best equipment to be used in fighting fires and the case is reciprocal. After debating the issue, Mayor Marion Bearden suggested that the fire department come up with a plan and meet with the council in January to go over the issue.

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