LOOGOOTEE – Loogootee officials do not know the current balance in various city accounts, and Mayor Noel Harty cast tie-breaking votes twice Monday night.
Those events highlighted a contentious Loogootee City Council meeting that lasted 90 minutes.
Public Works Superintendent Bo Wilson asked the council to either purchase a 2003 vacuum truck for $110,000, which is being used in Evansville, or buy a new one for $405,000, minus a $10,000 trade-in. His preference was for a new truck. However, he said, “I'll be happy with anything. We need the equipment.”
Councilwoman Teresa Nolley said the council did not have updated balances on city funds, so there was no way to know if enough money was in the wastewater account to purchase a new truck. Wilson estimated it would cost about $41,000 annually for the next 10 years.
After further discussion, Councilman Collin Padgett said he only favored spending $40,000 on repairing the current truck due to the uncertainty over city funds.
“I want what's best for the city of Loogootee,” Wilson said. “I live here too.”
Harty suggested putting off a decision on the truck until the July 14 meeting, by which time he hopes the city accounts will have been balanced.
Christina Ziegler, a part-time worker in the clerk-treasurer's office, took the minutes during the meeting. She said after the meeting that several events had led to the city's account balances not being known.
Last fall, long-time clerk-treasurer Nancy Jones retired and was replaced by Carol Harder. However, she soon went on medical leave and has yet to return.
In the meantime, Ziegler said the office had to contend with a change from one computer system to the other. She said four people are working on trying to get the various accounts caught up, but the figures for one month this year are still not accounted for.
Councilwoman Ruth Smith missed her second consecutive meeting, which left four council members present. They split 2-2 on two motions, so Harty cast the deciding vote in favor on both occasions.
On both motions, Carroll Rayhill and Padgett voted “yes,” while Roger Downey and Nolley voted “no.”
The first motion concerned paying all the claims submitted for the month, which is usually a routine matter. During a discussion preceding the vote, Nolley questioned a claim for cutting down a tree, which she said had not been approved by the council.
Harty said the work had been approved by the Board of Public Works & Safety at its May 13 meeting. However, it could not be approved by the city council that day, since there was no quorum. Smith, Downey and Padgett were absent.
Wilson said he had received “lots of complaints” from citizens about the tree, which he considered a public hazard. He talked to Harty, who agreed it was an emergency situation and told Wilson to have the tree taken down.
Nolley said she questioned the legality of city workers walking onto someone's personal property and cutting down a tree. Wilson said the tree was either completely on the city's right-of-way or very close to it.
The council has budgeted $9,000 each of the last two years to pay for removing dangerous trees.
Harty also broke a tie to approve the Loogootee Volunteer Fire Department spending $45,000 to purchase a 2001 brush truck which is outfitted and ready to go. The truck is in Texas, but the council was told the offer on the vehicle had to be accepted Monday night or not at all.
That deadline didn't sit well with Nolley, who said “it sounds like a heck of a salesman to me.”
When the truck purchase was brought up earlier in the meeting, Rayhill made a motion to approve, but it died for lack of a second.
However, at the end of the meeting, a fireman in the audience asked the council to reconsider the matter. It was pointed out that the fire department would be spending its own money, so the city's general fund would not be tapped. That convinced Padgett to join Rayhill in supporting the purchase. Downey and Nolley were opposed, but Harty voted in favor.
In other business, the council will schedule a public hearing at a future meeting to discuss amending the city's noise ordinance. At the request of library board members, the council will seek to have construction noise added to the section of ordinance which lists exemptions.
Construction of the new library next to St. Vincent dePaul on Park Street is proceeding well. However, library board member Susan Harrawood said complaints have been made about construction noise and a safety concern for children. She said those complaining are nearby residents who have opposed building the new library from the beginning.
Harrawood said library opponents have threatened to have the library board fined for violating the city's noise ordinance. However, the city has taken no action and both Harty and police Chief Kelly Rayhill said fines were unlikely. Both men said they had never heard similar complaints about construction noise.