Marked Tree Council hears about audit findings

Friday, September 16, 2016
Mack Rhoads takes his oath of office as alderman on the Marked Tree City Council. The council appointed Rhoads last month after Mary Smith resigned from the position. (DT Photo/Corey Clairday)

The Marked Tree City Council discussed several items of business Monday night. Chief among them were changes the city needs to make following a recent audit.

Mayor Mary Ann Arnold began the business portion of the meeting by reading a statement in which she said it had come to her attention that she would be asked to resign that night. She said she had spoken with Larry Rollins, who had originally started a petition calling for her resignation. However, Arnold said Rollins later came to her wanting to apologize for starting the petition and saying he had burned the list of names. "He said he listened to the wrong people," Arnold said. Arnold then spoke about contracts that had been needed in response to the audit. Among those was a contract with the Poinsett County Health Unit, which Alderman Mack Rhoads brought up after her statement, saying the city had improperly paid utility costs for the health unit without a contract.

City Clerk Pam Wright explained changes the city needs to make in response to the audit, including the Health Unit contract. Wright said the city needs to have contracts for buildings it has been paying utilities on, including the health unit, whose contract has to be with the county and not the county health unit. She said the city has done this all the 19 years she has worked for it, and an auditor had not let them know they needed contracts until this year. Mayor Arnold added that the auditor said because the city pays the utilities the health unit and isn't reimbursed by the county until the end of the month, it's considered a loan, and that is why a contract is needed.

The other violations the audit found involved rules for city employees. One is for mosquito spraying. Wright said they have always given the job to city employees and paid the job as contract labor but learned during the audit they must pay it as overtime. The other violation involved cleaning the old Jeremy Bond house, which was all done through donations and was a job given to city employees. Wright said they always offer those jobs to city employees but have to have an ordinance now on each job and pay overtime. She said the Municipal League is helping them rework the ordinance and because statutes were violating they were turned over to the prosecuting attorney.

Wright said these were all things that should have been done years ago, but the auditor did not inform them until this year. "I didn't think any of this was an excuse because I've been paying them, and you (the council) have been approving," Wright said. "I didn't know we had done any wrong, but I do now and will fix it."

The council also discussed work being done at Carver Park. So far, Mayor Arnold said the pavilion has been painted, two basketball goals have been replaced, water has been set up to the court and pavilion (with electricity soon to follow), and picnic tables and benches are being put out. Alderman Jerry Jones asked that the other two basketball goals be replaced as well, but the vote failed with five against and three for.

In other business, the council:

*approved a resolution to apply for a $3,493.34 grant for four body cameras and a restraint chair for the police department through East Arkansas Planning and Development District.

*heard from Tom Rhoads on several items including: getting the owner of a trailer on Brigance Avenue next to the Sports Complex to clean their property, the need to repair a pothole on Brigance Avenue, the high grass and weeds under the railroad trestle where the chamber's mural is (Wright said that was a chamber project, and they are working on it), high grass at 211 Riverside and 114 Brigance, and she informed the council that the reason the Bond house has been postponed at public auction for years is because they have not been able to notify all of the lien holders each time. She said she wanted to see the city get proactive issues like these.

*heard from Joan Campbell regarding a neighbor who is letting his chickens loose for exercise. She said the chickens are ruining people's yards and driveways. She said when she called the police, she was told Soozi Williams was in charge of that now and that Williams had been disrespectful to her over the phone. This led to discussion of the need for an animal control officer.

*approved paying for city workers to paint the Carver Park pavilion. Wright said she is still working on the ordinance needed.

*approved an ordinance waiving competitive bidding for mulch for the Sports Complex and Carver Park and accepting a bid of $11,904.50 from ACS Playground Adventures.

*approved an ordinance waiving competitive bidding for repairs to the Sports Complex parking lot and accepting a bid of $11,467 from Gillis Inc.

*hired Lirla Smith to the Street Department.

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