Monroe City Council Minutes
City Hall, Monroe, Louisiana
January 8, 2013
There was a legal and regular session of the City Council of the City of Monroe, Louisiana held this date at the Council's regular meeting place, the Council Chamber, City Hall Building, Monroe, Louisiana.
The Honorable Eddie Clark, Chairman, called the meeting to order. He then asked the clerk to call the roll.
There were present: Council members Armstrong, Ezernack, Blakes, Wilson & Clark.
There was absent: None.
Chairman Clark announced that a quorum was present and that the Invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance would be led by Mayor Mayo or his designee.
Mayor Mayo asked Pastor James Johnson, New Light Baptist Church to lead the Invocation.
Mr. Clark welcomed the concerned citizens who are here observing and thanked them for coming out. He then recognized the presence of the mayor and the department heads as well as other city employees and citizens who have taken time out to be here for the meeting.
Mr. Clark asked if any council member had any communications or special announcements.
Dr. Armstrong thanked everyone for coming out tonight and noted that citizen participation is vital to what they do and they appreciate all the input and information from the citizens. The Council enjoys seeing everyone here and appreciates the comments and participation.
Mrs. Ezernack welcomed everyone this evening and glad to see a full house.
Ms. Blakes thanked everyone for coming.
Mr. Wilson wanted to welcome anyone from the city and also District 4 and he appreciates all the support; he received a lot of calls this week.
Mr. Clark echoed the same sentiments and noted the numerous pastors present and he welcomed them. Also he welcomed the school board president, Verbon Muhammad, who was present as well as residents of District 5 who are here representing District 5 and all of the Homeowners Association. Mr. Clark thanked them all for coming and he look forward to having a great meeting tonight.
Mayor Mayo wished everyone a Happy New Year, since this is the first meeting since the new year started and he look forward to working with everyone this coming year. The Mayor noted that he is always positive about things that they do; he further noted that it is going to be a great year again and he look forward to their support and input as they continue to move the City forward in a positive way.
Upon motion of Mr. Clark, seconded by Ms. Blakes the minutes of the Legal and Regular Session of December 27, 2012 were unanimously approved as amended. (There were no comments from the public.)
Ms. Blakes noted a correction to the minutes to be that Rev. Van Brass was the designee for the Invocation and Pledge of Allegiance.
The following Condemnations were considered:
1004 South 4th Street (Owner - ARB Properties of Ouachita Parish) "Notice to Show Cause” was served. Photographic evidence was presented. There was no one present. Upon motion of Mr. Wilson, seconded by Ms. Blakes and unanimously approved, the building was condemned, and the property owner given 30 days or until February 7, 2013, in which to bring the structures into compliance with the code or to demolish the structures and clean the lot. (There were no comments from the public.)
Mr. Curt Kelly, Code Enforcement Officer, explained that their office has spoken with someone on this property and the following item noting they have the same owners. Mr. Kelly noted that he spoke with a Mr. Brooks who said that both properties would be down by last Monday and they are still standing as of today.
Mr. Wilson wanted to know the procedure for notifying property owners.
Mr. Kelly explained that they mail notification to them by certified mail and give them 30 days to compy and if they don’t comply it is forwarded to Legal for them to do their leg work and then to the Council. The process for notifying them is 30 days through the mail by last legal address at the Tax Assessor.
1104 South 4th Street (Owner - ARB Properties of Ouachita Parish) "Notice to Show Cause” was served. Photographic evidence was presented. There was no one present. Upon motion of Mr. Wilson, seconded by Mr. Clark and unanimously approved, the building was condemned, and the property owner given 30 days or until February 7, 2013, in which to bring the structures into compliance with the code or to demolish the structures and clean the lot. (There were no comments from the public.)
Mr. Curt Kelly, Code Enforcement Officer, expained that this is the same property owner who said he would have it torn down by Monday but nothing has been done.
3813 Cooper Street (Owner - Ms. Lee Taylor) "Notice to Show Cause” was served. Photographic evidence was presented. There was no one present. Upon motion of Ms. Blakes, seconded by Mr. Wilson and unanimously approved, the building was condemned, and the property owner given 30 days or until February 7, 2013, in which to bring the structures into compliance with the code or to demolish the structures and clean the lot. (There were no comments from the public.)
Mr. Curt Kelly, Code Enforcement Officer, explained that the property owner is deceased and they have been in contact with the son who live out of state. The son said he was going to get bids on the house and have it torn down. The structure was boarded up but there has been no other contact with him. A resident that lives close to the house is storing dog at the back of the property, but no other contact has been made prior to the original contact.
Ms. Blakes wanted to know how long has that been.
Mr. Kelly noted that they talked to the owner back in May of last year 2012.
1608 South Grand Street (Owner - Rosalind Loyd) "Notice to Show Cause” was served. Photographic evidence was presented. Upon motion of Mr. Wilson, seconded by Dr. Armstrong and unanimously approved to remove from the condemnation list, and the property owner given 120 days or until May 8, 2013, in which to bring the structures into compliance with the code or to demolish the structures and clean the lot. (There were no comments from the public.)
Mrs. Rosalind Loyd-Chisley, 1410 South Grand, Monroe LA was present.
Mr. Curty Kelly, Code Enforcement Officer, noted that this property has been in their office on numerous occasions and it originally started back in 2008 it was a delapidated structure along with the property beside it. There are two appartment complexes and the property owner was ordered to secure the buildings and she did. The owner told Code Enforcement that she was going to remodel it to make it liveable and that was back in 2008 per the reports in the office. As of March 2012 one of the units burned and on today Mrs. Loyd notified Code Enforcement which was the first time having contact with her. Mrs. Loyd had the burned structure boarded up again, but she was told that would not surfice because the sitation was for her to rehab it up to City Code or demolish it. Mrs. Loyd informed Code Enforcement that she had a bid for a contract to actually start the work in April of this year, but she was told that it was up to the Council to extend her some time.
Mr. Wilson asked Mrs. Chisly to tell the Council what she is doing and what her plans are for these structures.
Mrs. Chisley explained that she had been notifyied in the past about property needing to be secured. She further noted that she has had vandel problems, but that the property is very well kept, totally maintained and totally manicured every two weeks. The property did burn but she do intend to have it rehabed and she has a contract for it and the work is to begin in April.
Mr. Wilson motioned to give the property owner 120 days to bring the property up to code and remove it off the condemnation list.
Upon motion of Mr. Wilson, seconded by Ms. Blakes 2905 Hope Street (Owner - Doretha Hopson) was unanimously removed from the agenda. (There were no comments from the public.)
Mr. Curt Kelly, Code Enforcement Officer, explained that this property has been demolished as of today.
Resolution No. 6002 was offered for final adoption by Mr. Wilson and on his motion seconded by Mrs. Ezernack was unanimously approved and adopted.
Resolution reappointing Frank Taylor to the Board of Adjustment of the City of Monroe, and further providing with respect thereto. (This item was passed over at the last meeting.)
Comments from the public:
Mr. Wayne Hackney, Egan St., Monroe, LA came forward and noted that he is not here to try to keep Mr. Taylor from being on this board, but he feel that anybody going to serve on these boards should at least come to some of the meetings every now and then.
(Mr. Taylor was not present.)
Upon motion of Mr. Wilson, seconded by Mrs. Ezernack a Resolution by the Monroe City Council establishing a review committee to study crime in the City of Monroe and further providing with respect thereto was unanimously removed from the agenda. (Armstrong)
Resolution No. 6003 was offered for final adoption by Mr. Wilson and on his motion seconded by Mr. Clark was unanimously approved and adopted. (There were no comments from the public.)
Resolution authorizing James E. Mayo, Mayor, to execute Change Order No. Two (2) to Powell Ave. Tank Repairs and Repainting, between the City of Monroe and Structural Protection Systems, LLC., for a increase of $3,200.00, of said project.
BREAK IF NEEDED:
Upon motion of Mr. Clark, seconded by Ms. Blakes an Ordinance rescinding Ordinance No. 11,349 amending Chapter 30, Article I, Section 30-7 Entitled "Sewer Rates” of the Monroe City Code entitled and further providing with respect thereto was introduced, discussed, and placed on file with the City Clerk and will remain in her office in the form in which it will be offered for final adoption and is open to the inspection of the public as the law requires prior to being offered for final adoption thereof. (Armstrong) (Mrs. Ezernack voted against this action.)
Mrs. Ezernack wanted to make a few statements before the vote and her opinion of this and how she is going to vote tonight is "no” she do not believe that they should rescind the sewer rate increase at this time. Mrs. Ezernack recapped that they had an ongoing study of the existing sewer income and expenses beginning in 2010 when the Consultant Doug Gardner, with Pioneer Consulting was hired. Mr. Gardner was going to be projecting what the accurate rate should be and when they met with him prior to the ordinance being introduced he was recommending a $3.95 per 1,000 gallon increase. He was asked at that time to calculate a rate based on increases with the CPI that is included in the ordinance from the time the City last had an increase. That number came up to be $3.55 and that’s where the City recommends that ordinance to be and where that amount came from. Mr. Gardner would have preferred it to be in the $4 range because a lot of our neighboring communities’ sewer rate is in the $4 range per 1,000 gallons. Mrs. Ezernack further noted that the Sewer Infrastructure is in direr need of repairs, replacements and maintenance. The Sewer Infrastructure south of I-20 is the oldest as the City develops from the south to the north with some infrastructure on the south side in critical need of repairs. She further noted that they are being reactive rather than proactive having to make repairs on emergency bases which always cost more so you don’t get ahead. The Sewer Fund Debt continues to rise which resulted in a finding being issued by the external auditors; the failure to me and not to act on the finding could cause the Legislative Auditor to come in and review the situation and cause the City to fall out of compliance with the EPA, which could result to large fines or either being put under an additional Consent Decree. Mrs. Ezernack further noted that no one wants the federal government to come in and tell the City how to run the city or sewer department and she don’t think that rate that they said the City had to pay, which the City would have to pay would be $3.55, it would certainly be more than that. She further noted if they want the City to continue to expand and grow both internally and through annexation the City must have the capacity to provide sewer to the existing citizens as well as business and industry considering locating in the City. Also or wait until asked to ramp up and make accommodations to provide this service the City must be proactive and plan for future growth and needs of the community. Mrs. Ezernack went on to comment further but at the end said that she do not support rescinding the ordinance and noted that there could be a compromise in the future, but at this point she can not support rescinding it.
Ms. Nell Bradley, 308 Forsythe, Monroe, LA wanted to know if the City was collecting delinquent payments. She went on to ask if Richwood still owns the City a lot of money for water and if the City recouped the money that the guy stole from tax and revenue. She further noted that the City should get on to that before they start raising fees for everybody.
Mr. Freddie Everett, 1444 Erin Avenue, Monroe, La came forward and noted that the concerns that some of them has was the automatic increases that is attached to this. He further noted that he can see the need for the rebuilding of the system, but he would think that the Council and its wisdom could look at this again in 2 or 3 years and see if the increase would be warranted rather than to automatically increase them.
Mr. Wayne Hackney, Egan Street, Monroe, LA came forward and noted that he is not here to say that they don’t need an increase in the sewer because they do, but the reason they really need this big increase in there does not fall on the people today. It should have been on the people that were in council prior and the mayor’s office prior. If they would have brought this up every year then the City wouldn’t be in the fix it’s in right now. Today they are sitting everything on the shoulders of the senior citizens because they are probably the only ones paying their bills. Mr. Hackney noted that he has had a lot of senior citizens call him about this and want to know why they got to pay the bill and these youngsters around here live in a house for 30 or 60 day then move off and leave the bill. He further noted that they have got to do something about that, but he disagrees with the automatic raise as noted earlier and he thinks it should come back to the Council every year.
Ms. Marilyn Denoux, 308 Stubbs, Monroe, LA came forward and noted that this is her first time hearing about the water bill increase and she wanted to know if it is correct that there are people or companies that have not paid their bill and that someone could go and get outstanding money.
Mr. David Barnes, Director of Administration, noted that all bills are being collected, there are people who are delinquent, but nobody is over 90 days. That is a policy the City has after 30 days, 60 days they send a cut off and cut it completely off. On new meters if they don’t pay their bill the meter is pulled completely out of the ground, nobody gets free water.
Ms. Denoux thanked Mr. Barnes for clearing that up because she thought the City has hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing around and they were going to raise the bill to compensation for that loss rather than address recoup those funds. Ms. Denoux wanted to invite the Council to think about maybe doing a partial raise instead of going higher at one time and maybe next year come up with the second increase so people aren’t so shocked.
Mrs. Nanci Summersgill, City Attorney, wanted to help answer one of these many questions that really don’t have the bases that people think it has such as Richwood owes the City of Monroe no money. That was a lawsuit and they paid the City and they owe the City no money and she wanted to get that straight because that is one of those ever or never ending rumors she hear circulating and she wanted to get that straight on record tonight they do not owe the City money.
Ms. Bradley came forward again and wanted to know if the City has recouped the money that was stolen.
Mrs. Summersgill said yes, the City has a bond and they were able to recoup on that money.
Ms. Bradley noted that it would be nice if the City would inform the people/citizens when things like this are repaid so they wouldn’t be left in the dark.
Seen no one else come forward Mr. Clark made a few comments.
Mr. Clark noted that he is in favor of rescinding this ordinance and he thinks everyone and he has had different meeting this week with various people. Everyone agrees that there is a need for a sewer rate increase; however, it was the provision that was added on at the end which allows for automatic increases annually and administratively with Council review after 5 years. He believe if they rescind it and come right back in two weeks with the increase and any amendment to it that they won’t; then he don’t think it is going to be a problem with the EPA in two weeks. He believes that there was some concern if they rescind it that they would come right back and do the right thing and that is not correct. They just want to go back and determine what’s best for the citizens whether to do a tiered approach put a period and be done with it.
Mayor Mayo noted that he disagree and do not support the rescission of this and he has had an opportunity to talk with a couple of the council members including the Chairman. The Mayor noted that he do understanding and appreciate the fact that the majority of the Council is new and they are trying to get a better grip. In addition to that no one likes imposing rate increases on anybody and one of the reasons there has been no raised rates since 1998 is because of this same issue with concerns for the citizens, specifically senior citizens and low to moderate income residents and that is always a factor and he appreciates that and that is why it hasn’t been raised. The Mayor went on to say that the Council received a packet from him entitled the danger of rescinding the rate and he had a number of different things concerning that. He further noted that he appreciate the fact that they agree that something needs to be done and ne noted that this increase will only generate about 5 million dollars; the City need about 70 to 80 million dollars worth of work done. The citizens that are upset over 3, 4 or 5 dollar rate increase per 1,000 gallons but when you compare that with sewerage backing up, antiquated systems and all those issues happening; you will be more upset with that if the City don’t get the system taken care of. One thing not in the packet that they talked a lot about is the Consent Decree; a letter from the Justice Department from their senior attorney in which the City’s attorney Mrs. Nanci Summersgill, who represents both the Council and the Mayor or Administration has been dealing with them. The Mayor explained that there are ongoing negotiations that were not included but he wanted to include it but he is sure there will be a freedom of information request made. They are paying very close attention and they didn’t realize that the City of Monroe was running a 5 million dollar sewer deficit and the fact that they were hoping that the rate increase imposed would go along way to eliminating or reducing the SSO (sewer system overflow) issues that got us into the Consent Decree; in other words these people don’t play. In talking to a couple of the council members he is not sure there is a unified plan together that they will be able to come back with a rate that can move the City from at least where they are now forward such that the City can start working on this 70 to 80 million dollar project that is needed to improved the system. The Mayor noted that it was said that it was definitely going to go down tonight and the Council has the votes and they can do that, but the fact still remains that these federal folks are looking over the City and following the outcome tonight and the Mayor just want the council to know what the situation could be if the City is showing that they are not making progress in being able to fulfill the responsibility that was mandated by the Federal Government. Again this is serious.
Ms. Dixie Smith, 3800 Lee Avenue, Monroe, LA came in late and the Chairman allow her some time and she was here tonight concerning her water bill and the digital system and how ridiculous her bill is.
The Chairman asked Ms. Smith to get with Mr. Barnes after the meeting.
Dr. Armstrong noted that he completely agree that they need to increase their sewer rate and it hasn’t been done in 14 year; he talked to the consultant a number of time and he recommended that the City double the rate. He further noted that he is not going to vote for sewer rates increase tonight because he thinks there are other issues that need to be addressed. If they are going to place fees or taxes on the public they need to very, very thoroughly consider those increases in light of the history and future of where the City is and that is really the only reason and he wants to see this brought back very rapidly. Dr. Armstrong noted that he is trying to do his home work and that he and Nanci talked about an hour and a half to the Department of Justice about the Consent Decree and he understands what their issues are. He further noted that they need to represent the best interest and the thing there are other issues that need to be considered before they pass this.
Mrs. Ezernack noted that everyone that has spoken has done so knowing that they need to increase the rate. There was a professional to tell what the rate should be, but the rate was put lower than what they said. The automatic increase seem to be the heart of the issue and rather than throw the whole thing out; the automatic increase or increase is not going to happen for a year anyway and maybe the choice would be to come up with what the increase will be rather than throw out the entire ordinance and you have an entire year to decide what that would be. To go back over years and years of work and jeopardize the community for large fines etc., just saying it may not happen in two week there may be other issues that come forth and never get that far. There is something on the books, the other council passed and no one up here has passed an increase but Mr. Clark and herself and he voted against it. His quote that night was because of the automatic increase and if they could do something about the automatic increase and she would be willing to talk about and maybe they need to stay where they are and have those discussions on the automatic increase and she could support something like that. To throw the whole thing out she thinks is jeopardizing too much for the citizens and community and just the wrong way to go.
Mr. Clark noted that Mrs. Ezernack is correct, so the record will be clear no one will be under the wrong impress if they come back. This is being introduced tonight; if they come back and rescind this particular ordinance then they come back to the meeting after that. They are coming right back with the rate increase that the consultant advised accept that it won’t have the automatic increase language in it. You are talking about the EPA fines and all that as thought it is throwing away and rescinding the entire deal. The reason this is on the agenda the way it is rescinding the entire deal; they are open to amending the ordinance that passed striking all the language dealing with automatic increases every year on the citizens with Council’s review after five years, which with the old council is what he tried to do anyway and it didn’t go forward. This way all he is saying is to rescind it, come back at the next meeting, have a final vote on it and 2 weeks after that come back with the same numbers and nothing more than what the rate consultant advised as to what the rate should be at the 55% increase without the language dealing with the automatic increase and that’s all. Mr. Clark noted that he didn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression that if they rescind it they are never coming back or they are going to come back with a rate lower that what the previous Council agreed upon. The language that then presented a problem for him then as it does now was the automatic annual increases on the citizens with Council’s approval on the front end and the language exactly was there would be Council review every five years.
Mayor Mayo noted on the record that he has no problem with that of going back with the same rate that the consultant said; his concern was with the rescission because there were differences of opinion in terms of how they need to move forward. He thought it would jeopardize the situation with the Justice Department so that was a huge concern and he expressed that to him. The Mayor noted that he thinks they are all on the same page about the automatic increase, but what the public does not know is that they went back and checked the CPI for 3 years and that was in the packet and it amounted to 5 cents per year. So when it come back before the Council and you have to make a determination as to what that amount is going to be that’s what the CPI was and as long as it does not jeopardize the City situation with the EPA and they are monitoring he can support that as long as they can stick to that.
Mrs. Summersgill wanted to note that if that was the intention of the Council there was a way to do that without undermining the underline ordinance with the rate as it is now. They could have come in and amended it, but what you are saying rescind the whole thing, the rate structure is going forward as of January 15th and people are going to start being billed for that but there was a way to do that and get everything you wanted without rescinding that rate and relying on you folks to bring it back up and vote it in again. The EPA is looking at the integrity of what the City’s intentions are and when you have a Council that has listened to a consultant for 2 years and they pass an ordinance; than another Council coming in rescinding that ordinance, then there is no integrity to that whole system if you can just come and go. What do they base their future belief in the City on that Monroe is going to do something with the SSO? Mrs. Summersgill noted that she don’t believe for one minute that it is the Council’s desire to not have the citizen pay what they should be paying and she believe as they sit here now that their intentions are honorable. Once you rescind that ordinance in totality the City runs the risk of some intervening factor doing something with that $3.55 rate structure. Mrs. Summersgill apologized because she just wanted to tell the Council that there was another way to do it other that totally rescinding that ordinance.
Mr. Clark noted that he appreciated that and he know she didn’t mean when she used the word undermine he know she didn’t mean it in the context in which it came across.
Mrs. Summersgill noted that it has to be some integrity for going forward and looking at is the City of Monroe going to do what they tell us they are going to do. This is the City’s integrity right here when an ordinance is passed and this is what they are looking at.
Ordinance No. 11,355 was offered for final adoption by Mr. Wilson and on his motion seconded by Dr. Armstrong was unanimously approved and adopted.
The Chairman opened the Public Hearing and seeing no one come forward the hearing was declared closed.
Ordinance authorizing James E. Mayo, Mayor, to enter into and execute an amendment to lease by and between the City of Monroe and Berry Plastics, and further providing with respect thereto.
Chairman Clark announced that the Council had concluded the regular portion of the agenda, and was now at the Point of Citizens Participation. He then asked if anyone had any comments/questions.
Mr. Wayne Hackney, Egan Street, Monroe, LA come forward with concern about the restrooms at Charles Johnson Recreation Center, but no one has done anything about it. He wanted to know why they need them down there if they are going to stay locked up all the time. He further noted that there are exterminators that can spray something to keep the birds out of the restrooms. Mr. Hackney wants the Council to do something about it and give the kids what they built the restrooms for. Mr. Hackney noted that he checked with an exterminator and they said there was something they could spray that building with and keep the birds out. If the City doesn’t do something about the dog situation they are going to over run Monroe and so something for the people of the City of Monroe.
Marilyn Denoux, 308 Stubbs Street, Monroe, LA came forward and noted that for about a year they have has a problem from the Forsythe Park on down to Louisville from Riverside over through Neville of a pack of feral dogs. She understands that they don’t have a dog catcher and she wanted to know what options as citizens they have. There have been 3 cats attacked, 2 dogs and she has not been able to verify this but a young boy at Georgia Tucker was pulled off his bicycle in the day time by these dogs. Early Sunday morning she heard a loud scream and she ran out to find at the corner of Stubbs and North 3rd a pack of dogs with a raccoon. She ran the dogs off and she wanted to know what they can do about these dogs. Ms. Denoux inquired whether she could legally get a BB Gun or Pellet Gun etc... (City Code does not allows)
Chairman Clark asked Ms. Denoux to get with the Police Chief after the meeting and noted that he is sure that it is not a good idea to shoot a gun.
Mr. Terry Ford, 111 Stone Avenue, Monroe, LA came forward and noted that he is very involved with historic preservation and he thinks this area does not put enough emphasis the history even though some of it they may not agree with it. The reason he is here is because ever since he has been here there has been a vacant flag pole in front of City Hall and he is not sure if anyone is aware of what flag should be stand there but it should be the First Confederate National Flag. Mr. Ford noted that his home is a national registry historical property and he display that flag proudly for the right reason not for the wrong reason. He understands that everyone is entitled to their opinion concerning that flag, but he is a proud descendant of a Confederate Soldier and he think that flag should be able to fly proudly for the right reason.
Ms. Earlene Bryant, 3208 Polk Street, Monroe, LA came forward and noted that there have been several break-ins in south Monroe during the Christmas Holiday at 127 Egan, 201 Malvern, the Pentecost Church on Pearl Street and Emily P. Recreation Center. Ms. Bryant noted that they need some extra patrol down there and maybe they will stop waiting on the people to leave and then break in their house. They also use the ally to get away and it needs to be block off, so something needs to be done.
Mr. Arthur Gilmore, Jr., Monroe, LA came forward and wished everyone a Happy New Year and he wanted to share in this first council meeting for the new year and congratulate everyone for doing an outstanding job. He further noted that as a very deliberative body that they are they have some tough issues before them, but he is sure they will be guided right in their decision making process. He also noted that he did want to comment briefly about the rescinding of the sewer rates and he thinks instead of taking a chain saw approach that they need to use a scalpel approach to this and if he was on the council it would have been an amended ordinance exercising that part of the language out that way it would not be couched as a rescission but as an amendment. Mr. Gilmore further noted that it is not too late to do that and they can get the same results by just amending the ordinance to take out the language that they find offensive.
There being no further business to come before the council, the meeting was adjourned at 7:00p.m., upon motion of Mr. Wilson and it was seconded by Ms. Blakes.
Carolus S. Riley
For extended details on the council meeting please call the Council Clerk Monday-Friday at 318¬329-2252 to schedule an appointment to listen to the minute tape.