Snead votes employee wage increases

Following a motion by Tim Kent, the Snead Town Council voted unanimously to authorize a 50-cent-per-hour raise for its town employees effective with the first November “payday.” Kent spoke for the raises, noting the town has acted similarly the past several years. An average employee would receive around a $1,000 yearly pay raise.

Utilities department director Jeff Whited reported the town sewer aerator has broken. In questioning, he explained the problem lies with gears and not the motor. He alleges the gears are aluminum rather than steel and broke about a year earlier.

Referring to that past experience, Whited added he had contacted a different firm from the previous. That company, which had supplied the present aerator, has its nearest office in Mississippi and charges the town from the time its employees leave Meridian, until their return, for lodging, and board.

Whited said the present contractor believes he can make his own device using steel for a bit over $17,500. The first repair ran over $8,000 before the additional expense charges and the former company provided only a one year warranty. Whited said he thought he could get a five-year guarantee on the planned new one. The council approved that purchase.

In other department activities, Whited reported the installation of approximately 80 new radio-read water meters since the last meeting. The town has authorized replacing all its nearly 1800 meters with the radio-reads. The dry weather has delayed replacement with the difficulty in digging in the hardened ground for the exchange.

Whited advised the council that the town well has survived the current drought in good shape. He reported the water level only down about one foot, in the approximately 200-foot deep well. Completing prior discussion, councilors approved a “no jake brake” ordinance to forbid the use of dynamic braking systems within the town. The ordinance provides exception for the “aversion of imminent danger.”

Councilman Greg Ogles updated the council on his effort to have a traffic light installed at the town’s major U.S. 278 and AL 75 intersection. He said the state had reported the intersection had only some 27,000 vehicles passing through and thus did not qualify for the signal.

Ogles has challenged those figures and compared his perceived traffic count with that at the AL 75 and 168 intersection in Douglas which has a signal. He anticipates another traffic count to re-evaluate the need for the light.

Mayor Curtis Painter reported the state attorney general’s office had responded to the town’s request on use of police escorts for funerals. The request had questioned the permissibility of the escorts once newly-elected Mayor LaShone Price, the owner of the town’s only funeral home, takes office.

The attorney general declined to take a position, noting that Price has not yet assumed office. It did, however, refer to a situation in a prior ruling and stated, “a funeral escort is a form of traffic control that is a valid law enforcement function.” It continued by noting that in disputes between a mayor and council, council decisions rule. It concluded by adding, “actions by the council to set escort policy should be made by ordinance.”

Town attorney Brett King urged the council to adopt an ordinance to make its position clear. Several councilors along with councilor-elect Ann Sullins expressed their wishes that the escorts continue.

Price, in attendance, advised the council he has forwarded the AG opinion to the state ethics commission. He said the opinion with expanded questions is before the commission’s general counsel, Hugh Evans III.

Resident and regular meeting attendee Margaret Humbolt questioned her water meter reading. She said she had used only some 3600 gallons in July of 2015 but had received notice of the use of 9800 for July of 2016. She said she had done her own reading and has discovered she has supposedly used 38,000 gallons for the latest month.

She, councilors, Price, and Whited exchanged hypotheses. Whited eventually offered to check the next morning at Humbolt’s residence to see what might explain the increased usage.

The departing mayor offered a brief farewell statement. He expressed optimism over some of the town’s successes but offered opinions on forthcoming needs. He urged the council to convince additional town utility employees to get sewer certification. In warning that Whited would not always be available for the town, he admonished councilors to begin training someone as his replacement.

As for the fire department, Painter urged the council to find a means to obtain additional revenue from fire district residents not on the city water service. Present water customers can make contributions on their bills to help fund their fire service.

Councilman Charles Sanders missed the Oct. 24 meeting attended by councilors Phillip McHan, Dale Snead, Kent, Ogles, and Painter. The council holds its regular sessions the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 7 p.m. in the town community center. District Attorney Pamela Casey is to swear in the new officers in a special ceremony on Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the town senior citizens center.