POUND — After taking steps toward buying a new police car and enacting utility rates and fees for the coming year that they were told would leave the town short on revenue, Town Council then found itself, within a half hour after adjournment, fielding a request from its town clerk treasurer for an emergency called meeting as soon as possible.
"After our recessed council meeting was completed and was adjourned, I was advised by Clerk/Treasurer (Jeremy) Mullins that he wanted an Emergency Council Meeting ASAP for a personnel issue which most likely means a closed session," Mayor and interim Town Manager George Dean advised council in an email just before 8 p.m. Tuesday.
While the original target was Thursday, navigating council schedules proved a challenge. By late Wednesday night, council appeared headed toward a Monday meeting at 7 p.m. instead.
At press time yesterday, Dean said he was 80 percent certain of that day and time, but it had not been confirmed.
In addition to Mullins' request, council also needed to approve July meeting minutes in order to expedite paperwork to the funding agency on the police car purchase, Dean told council in the email exchange.
During Tuesday's meeting, when Dean noted the need for minutes to accompany the funding request, Councilman Clifton Cauthorne also asked about the status of meeting minutes for February, March and June, wondering if council actions taken then were valid if the minutes had not been ratified. Mullins said he would look but Cauthorne pressed for an estimated time of completion. Mullins told the councilman he would talk to him afterward if he wanted.
Cauthorne also quizzed Mullins on any outstanding Freedom of Information Act requests. Mullins, the town's designated FOIA officer, said he had only two "actual" requests.
Council's meeting had been recessed from the previous week to take action on rates, fees and taxes, but it suspended the rules as the meeting opened to add to the agenda the police car paperwork and other items.
RATES, FEES AND TAXES
After some stumbling over precisely how to word the motion, council ultimately enacted increased water and sewer rates as advertised, with no tax hikes.
Councilman Phil Cantrell Jr. noted the increased utility rates are part of the structure required by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
Cauthorne said he endorsed them because they maintain a fair ratio between rates for in-town customers and higher ones for out-of-town customers.
He also supported the rate plan because it does not increase the $7 fee the town assesses to help pay down debt.
But Dean reminded council the budget numbers he originally provided were based on increasing that total fee to $8, with 50 cents each tacked onto both water and sewer assessments.
That increase was not included in the published notice, however, council learned at its last meeting.
It will cost the town about $9,000 in revenue if the fees stay level, Dean said, adding, "That should get very interesting long about December."
Just because the increased fee wasn't in the advertisement, one member observed, doesn't mean you can't have another meeting and do it later.
Council unanimously adopted taxes, rates and fees.
POLICE CAR FUNDING
Dean briefed council on developments with the police car purchase, advising of a recent meeting with Dwight Pierson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Agency. Pierson had encouraged the town to get moving, he said, explaining the intricacies of the process.
Dean said he didn't realize how tight the time frame was. Act before Aug. 8 and the town could probably get the vehicle it needs right away, but Aug. 11 is the deadline to take action. Wait until its next meeting Aug. 20 and they could be forced into an extended wait. Dean said he consulted Police Chief Tony Bates, who said he needs the vehicle now.
The approvals needed that night were the same as council had approved for previous funding from Rural Development.
Cauthorne asked if council should hold a public hearing and was told it was done months ago, in October 2018.
He wanted to know how many newer cars were currently in the fleet and was told three. He then wanted to know how many full- and part-time officers were employed and was advised five full-time and two part-time.
Given the town's financial status, including an expanded line of credit in the budget just adopted, Cauthorne said he couldn't support the police vehicle.
Even though $15,000 is a good deal, he said, buying another new vehicle "does not seem to me a prudent thing to do."
Councilman Glenn Cantrell countered that spending on the vehicle was included in the budget. Cantrell further explained that the added $25,000 in line of credit revenue was a cushion for the general fund budget.
Dean was insistent about the need for another vehicle, saying the Impala "is almost gone . . . it will cost more to fix it than it's worth."
Council approved moving ahead, with Cauthorne opposed.
Dean noted they would need to attach to the paperwork an approved copy of the minutes of the night's meeting, documenting the action had taken place.