Legal and Special Council Minutes
City Hall, Monroe, Louisiana
February 24, 2014
There was a legal special 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 and said a prayer.
Mr. Clark noted that this is the first time that they had not had the Administration present, but they want to plow through and go through each particular item listed. He further thanked his colleagues for coming tonight and all of the citizens who have shown up and they definitely want to hear from them. He further noted to the citizens present that if there is any agenda item that they wish to speak on feel free to come forward and let them know how they can better serve and represent them.
He then asked the clerk to call the roll. There were present: Council members Armstrong, Ezernack, Blakes, Wilson and Clark
There were absent: None.
The Honorable Eddie Clark, presiding officer, declared a quorum was present and stated the object of the meeting; that being to consider: (1) The 2014/15 fiscal year budget submitted by the Administration for review by the Council in Budget Hearing #1.
The Budgets discussed were as follows:
1) General Fund Revenues
2) Special Revenues & Expenses
3) Legislative Department (Council)
4) Executive Department (Mayor)
6) Legal Department
The Chairman again noted that they don’t have anyone from the Administration to speak on this, but if his colleagues want to speak or anyone from the public who would like to speak on the General Fund Revenues to please feel free to come forward.
Mrs. Ezernack wanted to know about the line item labeled Stormwater Permits and it has zero this time and she wanted to know if anyone picked up where those had been reallocated, because she knows they are doing some of that and that may be a question they need to ask or it may be posted somewhere else.
Mr. Clark noted that they are simply left to guess on where that money was reallocated and to what department and or which line item that money was spent. Again, they have no one here who can speak on that.
Mrs. Ezernack noted that she will find out what she can and let everyone know.
Ms. Blakes noted that she noticed on certain pages in the general fund that there is no projected budget for 2014 and 2015. On page 2 lines 56 and 57 they have 2012/13, but in 2014/15 there is nothing so what are they voting on. In capital there is a million dollars on line 29.
Mr. Clark, again, noted that there is no one from the Administration Department to go through that and he proposed that if there is anyone who wants to ask any questions to feel free. But that at any such time they introduce the budget at the regular council meeting and/or before the final adoption of the budget, then those questions will obviously have to be answered at the council meeting unless they are prohibited from attending a council meeting as well.
Mr. Wilson wanted to know how the grass cutting fees money is spent.
Mr. Clark noted that in 2012/13 the grass cutting fees budget was $108,340 and it was amended and increased to $117,500. The department is now requesting $108,350.
Dr. Armstrong noted that they collected $57,000 to date on that amount. His other question concerning grass cutting fees in previous conversations is that it seems that the grass cutting fees are low and it is almost cheaper to let the city do it than to do it yourselves. He would love to have information relative to what they charge and what they should charge for grass cutting fees to make sure they are fair to people and they are fair as well.
Mr. Clark noted that being that they are here to take care of the City’s business and to make sure they are good stewards of the tax payers dollars, again, that is another good question and when the budget is introduced at a scheduled council meeting he asked that Dr. Armstrong ask that question to the proper administrative official unless they are prohibited from coming to that meeting, but they are going to do their job tonight.
Dr. Armstrong noted also concerning the general fund the summer program participation fees in Beniot, Saul Adler etc. and he would certainly like to have those addressed to find out what they can do to serve public and maybe eliminate those fees. Also the B.J. Washington really don’t collect any money and that was a comment in the management letter and they don’t have an explanation for that either as to why they don’t collect any money at B.J. Washington. Dr. Armstrong noted that anytime they can get kids off the streets and into some of these programs, it is healthy for the kids, the community and help decrease crime. He would love to see that addressed to look at the participation fees to encourage more kids to attend these programs.
Ms. Blakes had a question about tuition and who went to school and she wanted to know if the city has a pay scale for employees.
Mr. Clark noted again that they can go through this tonight and they have proper questions which would be questions that the public would want to know and should know, but there is no one here to address those concerns. Mr. Clark noted that they can ask hypothetical questions all night long and burn a lot of time, but they just need to get down to the meat and potatoes of this and when this is introduced at a council meeting they can address the administration at that time if they are allowed to participate.
Ms. Blakes noted that she would like to place in the budget and she made reference to a picture of the homeless sleeping under the bridge on Grammont Street and she proposed the City buy a building that is in Booker T. as they call it the District 3, the old John Bro Center. They are asking $400,000 for that building and she would like to see the City do something instead of just on cold night opening up the recreation centers that they do something to keep people from sleeping under the bridge.
Mrs. Ezernack thinks that maybe to address this that maybe they need to look into the possibility of maybe there is a building the City already owns or has property that has a building on it that something could be worked out with a 501-3C that actually takes care of the homeless and has programs for that, that the City can furnish the facility and they can run the programs. She thinks there is more than just buying the building it is also running the building. They would also need someone with that expertise who is doing it know that may need another location and maybe that is the approach that should be investigated at some point.
Ms. Blakes also noted that she see where they are still charging for the summer youth programs. She sees where they only charge $50 for fees and she proposed that they have a field for summer youth to use behind Lincoln Elementary and she would like to have that implemented into the budget. Ms. Blakes asked Mr. Jefferson to come forward on this matter.
Mr. Jefferson came forward and stated that for the past 20 years Community Youth Activity Sports has provided thousands of children in the community with free access to recreational programs and activities. All these programs have been possible by the numerous community partners, volunteers, city departments and other aware citizens. Community Youth Activity Sports is a 501-3C nonprofit organization incorporated by the Secretary of State of Louisiana and its sole purpose is to provide free recreational and social activity to youth from low to moderate income families. Members and staff have functioned strictly on a volunteer bases and they pledge to continue by these means. All moneys have been secured by small grants, businesses and community supporters, however; none of this would have been possible without generosity and the support of people like you. They will target the Booker T. Washington, Renwick Addition, Newtown and as far as Parkview providing recreational and social activity and school monitoring to youth in these areas. This year their goal is to raise an adequate amount to purchase new sports equipment to complete the cleaning and landscaping of an outdoor playing field for recreational us. CYS will be using the field located next to Lincoln Elementary and they hope the Council and Administration will join them in their mission with helping to provide positive involvement for their next generation by providing them with recreational amenities and studies have shown who children who participate in sports are more likely to succeed as adults. Mr. Jefferson thanked the council for listening and he would be happy to answer any questions.
Mr. Clark noted that he is a product of some of the youth programs Mr. Jefferson is speaking of from growing up in Booker T. Community. He remembers the times when they had peewee football and the Marshals had a team and the bucks and everybody from different neighborhoods. Mr. Clark thought the City ran that program.
Mr. Jefferson corrected Mr. Clark that it was the Twin City Athletic Association which was run by a retired educator, who is deceased now and he was the founder of that peewee football league. After that Community Youth Activity Sports was in charge of the peewee football league, but at that time he was employed by the City of Monroe at Powell Street Neighborhood Center then and now it’s Powell Community Center. Mr. Jefferson thinks this is one of the problems that they are having in the city is the concept that has been changed from recreation center to community center. When you look at recreation center you are going to deal with kids coming from broken homes, single parent homes and teen mothers and fathers. Mr. Jefferson thinks the concept should go back to recreation and that way they can go back to letting their kids come into the recreation centers without charging them, also they will be able to meet the needs of more children.
Mr. Clark wanted to know what the City contribution was because it did keep a lot of the kids off the streets while their parents were at work or working to jobs etc. and how much seed money is needed.
Mr. Jefferson explained that money is not everything and when he first started working in recreation centers in the 70s they would let kids came out there in shirts and skins, because they were worried about keeping them busy and keeping them off the streets. Now and days they try to uniform them and be as organized as they can, so for a program like this you are talking about 20 to up to 100 thousand, but as much money as they can get from the Council, Unitedway, and donations from people it will help.
Mr. Clark wanted to know realistically how much money would it take or is being requested that the Council look at.
Mr. Jefferson noted that he came at the request of Ms. Blakes and off the top of his head he would say $20,000.
Ms. Blakes wanted to know if that would help with the fields.
Mr. Jefferson explained that would help get the fields operational and that he has also spoken with Dr. Vidrine, Superintendent of Monroe City Board and President Clarence Sharpe of Monroe City System and they are also partnering with Community Youth Activity Sports to try to get that field operational also. Mr. Jefferson noted that it is an eye sore and he has sent proposals to the council from Community Youth Activity Sports.
Mr. Clark noted that the $20,000 wouldn’t just go for the fields, but uniforms etc.
Mr. Jefferson explained that is correct and that most of it would go to the field, because there are no fencing and safety lightings etc.
After further discussion followed on this matter Mr. Clark noted that he would like to see the city support this organization.
Again, being that the Administration Department is not here to answer any questions the Council went through the other departments on the agenda and allowed citizen participation as well.
Dr. Armstrong mentioned the sidewalks and noted that he had spoken with Mr. Janway.
Mr. Wilson mentioned drainage at Young’s Bayou and Parkview.
Ms. Colleen Stewart, Roselawn noted the need for drainage improvements as well and urged funding for those areas in need.
Ms. Blakes mentioned street lighting and the need for more in certain areas around the city.
Mr. Clark mentioned Hwy 165 needing of more lighting.
Ms. Johnnie Thomas, 8th Street noted her petition for a red light to be placed at 8th and Millhaven and she wanted to know if some of those funds could be used for that.
Dr. Armstrong mentioned cutting crime and adding lighting where needed as a deterrent, doing away with fees at our community centers, helping food banks and the Council on Aging. Also mentioned was the airport security overtime budget showing $300,000. Dr. Armstrong also touched on the police service for the city.
Mr. David Pevont, Stubbs, mentioned lighting for the alleys and he was told that Mike Stephens with the city can help him with that.
Ms. Blakes, mentioned the Public Relations Department budget of $170,000 and she wanted to know the services being provided and the contributions to certain groups.
Ms. Colleen Stewart, Roselawn, mentioned the need for swimming lessons for kids
Mr. Wilson mentioned the breakdown of the Video Bingo funds.
Mrs. Blakes mentioned where contributions for this fund.
Dr. Armstrong wanted a breakdown on the car allowance for this fund.
Ms. Johnnie Thomas South 8th Street, wanted to know Code Enforcement Job details and what they need to do concerning property owners moving and leaving stuff on streets.
David Pevont, Stubbs, mentioned that West Monroe get prisoners to clean up all the time downtown.
Mr. Clark noted that the Community Police use to get prisoners for community pickup, but not sure if they still do that.
Ms. Blakes wanted to know what coroner fees were for.
Ms. Colleen, Roselawn, noted that she works in the medical field and that this is for a number of things autopsy and help with live bodies as well.
Mr. Wilson mentioned the street pickup and that the City needs to pick up everything on the sides of the streets.
Mr. Clark asked about the Diversion Program.
Mrs. Summersgill explained that this program is only for 1st timers.
Mr. Wilson wanted to know if the alleys were a liability for the city.
Mrs. Summersgill explained that there could be liability and that Entergy charge 7 to 10 dollars on your bill if they won’t a light and that maybe the public doesn’t know that.
Ms. Blakes wanted to know how many employees are in the Legal Department.
Mrs. Summersgill noted that there were 14 or 15.
The budgets presented were discussed and no actions were taken.
Departments not discussed the Council nor public had no questions.
There being no further business to come before the council, the meeting was adjourned at 6:40 p.m.
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.