There were few fireworks Monday night at the Kimberly City Council meeting regarding Mayor Craig Harris, but the council did vote to cut city workers’ hours to 32 hours a week, in the wake of increased city expenses and declining revenues from business licenses and sales taxes.
Councilman Bob Ellerbrock said that the city was about $30,000 down in incoming revenues, largely because the construction of the new Mortimer Jordan High School is now complete. Because of the shortfall, he recommended that the council cut workers’ hours instead of laying off workers entirely. The council did this a little over two years ago in similar circumstances, and opted for reduced hours instead of layoffs after gauging opinions of the workers.
The cutbacks go into effect March 5.
The council also decided to forgo its own monthly stipend of $100 each for the time being.
The meeting was considerably calmer than the previous session, in which council members revealed that Harris had taken advances on his mayoral pay from the city, in what they claimed was a violation of the state constitution. Harris did not deny the advances, but voted against resolutions declaring no-confidence in his administration, and another calling for his outright resignation.
At that meeting, Harris ruled that those motions did not pass because they were not unanimous. But in Monday’s meeting, after questioning by Kimberly resident (and Morris police chief) Brian Cochran, Harris admitted that the city attorney had advised him the resolutions were valid, and had been entered into the record as such.
Harris also stated that he would pay back the $1,175 outstanding balance that he owed “within the week.”
Harris was the subject of another call for his resignation, this time from his immediate predecessor. Ralph Lindsey, who also spoke before the council on two other unrelated issues, praised the council for their actions and called for Harris to step down. Lindsey was elected mayor in 2008, but resigned after he was diagnosed with cancer. The council appointed Harris as Lindsey’s replacement.
In a resolution carried over from the last meeting, Harris was removed from his position as the city’s representative on the Cullman Jefferson Gas Board. The council voted 5-0 to replace him with Councilwoman Donna Cude, who abstained from the vote.
In other business, the council:
• Approved an amendment to zoning ordinances which will regulate off-premise signs, such as highway billboards.
• Approved another amendment to zoning ordinances which provides allowances for property owners to avoid compliance with certain regulations in times of emergencies such as tornadoes.
• Voted to spend an additional $480 to install a handicap-accessible seat on the Senior Center’s new van, as required by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The amount is the city’s 20-percent match of federal funds.
• Set a qualification fee of $50 for candidates in the 2012 city elections, the same fee as the last election.
• Voted for Green Construction to install a seal coat on roads within the Jackson Trace development, in lieu of a defaulted bond by the original contractor.
• Heard a report from Councilman Brad Stark that the police department had issued 50 traffic violations in the past month, more than three times the previous number, in response to a complaint by Lindsey of increased speeding and other dangerous driving on roads near Mortimer Jordan High School.