Incorrect minutes lead to another heated city council session

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Caruthersville City Council was scheduled to meet during their regular time on Monday, Sept. 18. However, there were not enough council members present to have the meeting, and it was moved to the following day. On Tuesday, the council met, first to hold a public hearing to set the 2017 tax rate which was approved at the same as last year.

As the group moved into the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, Councilperson Matt Duckworth stated that he would not be able to approve the minutes as they stood because there were errors. One such error was the comment in the minutes that stated the water clerk was given a higher salary to keep them from stealing. Duckworth stated, as he had in the previous meeting, that he had been in all of the water committee meetings, and this was never stated. He went on to say this should not have been stated as fact in the minutes and that he would not approve them until he saw the water committee meeting minutes that stated this. City Clerk Takella Motton stated, “I didn’t think it was that big of an issue, but I will produce them.” Duckworth responded saying it was a “pretty big statement.” Motton went on to say it was past councilperson Teddy Cheek who had said this and that she would get the minutes from that water committee meeting to them. A motion was made that after all necessary corrections were made, the minutes would then be approved.

Councilperson Sue Grantham then stated there was another adjustment that needed to be made to those past minutes. The change was in regard to a motion that had been made by Councilperson J.J. Bullington to add an additional 75 cents to the salary of the person who opened the Recreation Center in the morning. In the minutes, it was stated that she was to be moved to a step E on the salary schedule, but this was not stated in the motion made by Bullington. But just to have 75 cents more for coming in during the early morning hours.

Mayor Mike McGraw responded saying, “Effectively you are correct, however, when it came to doing the step, she is on that step. But it is not exactly 75 cents.”

Motton stated there was discussion of Step E but that it was surrounded by a lot of confusion. She went on to say, “Step E was mentioned.” Duckworth then asked if it was mentioned inside of the motion. Going on to say that only what was said in the making of the motion should have been recorded. Motton responded saying, “If it is that big of a problem I can take it out, my God. I just think this is something minor.” Councilperson Lawrence Dorroh stated that the original motion was just to add 75 cents. McGraw continued to say it would not be an exact 75 cents. Grantham stated it was just meant to have on the record that the employee would receive an additional 75 cents for coming in so early. Several on the council and in the audience began to rumble stating that the minutes are a historical record of the meetings and should be recorded as they were stated and not added to along the way. The clerk, visibly frustrated stated she would change them. Grantham explained she was just wanting to make sure the minutes were right. The clerk responded saying, “I think you are just being picky.” Duckworth responded saying, “I was not being picky, now that is a pretty brash statement.”

Councilperson Barbara Rodgers interrupted saying she would not listen to arguing today and would leave the meeting if it came to that. With agreement from Councilperson Johnny Hood, the group stopped the meeting to pray as they had forgotten to have the usual prayer before the council meeting began.

During the presentation of letters, it was stated the Missouri Department of Economic Development has approved the City for a $222,000 grant to use for water improvements. This will be used on the Marlar project.

Mayor McGraw asked for any recommendations for a price on the city lots that had been previously recommended by him to sell for $1,000 each. It was stated this amount was believed to be too low and the group decided to discuss this at a later date.

McGraw then recommended the city take bids for maintenance of the I-55 Exit 6 overpass and all approved.

Police Chief Tony Jones shared the news that Operation Healthy Delta was a great success. The military team spoke highly of the City’s hospitality, and they hope to return to Caruthersville as they rotate throughout the counties on their list.

Code enforcement officer Sonya Fuller stated she is still sending out letters and working on follow ups. In a previous meeting she stated that Attorney Wendell Hoskins felt as though the city was being tougher on his properties than any others and had requested to see any and all letters to abate a nuisance that had been sent out by the city for the past year. During this meeting, Fuller said she had completed his request and had sent him the 93 letters that had been sent out. She went on to say a charge of $94.82 was sent to him for copying the letters and time searching for them. She finished her report saying she has received several compliments from neighbors in areas where clean up is underway.

Business from the floor was welcomed and resident Charles Oliver stood to address the council. “I have a problem with you running your mouth,” addressing Mayor McGraw. He went on to say that several people had brought it to his attention that the mayor had been telling people he and the chief of police were working for the “mob”. Oliver went on to say he felt the mayor was spending all of his time chasing girls when he should have been working to keep Wal-Mart and bringing in industry. “We are going downhill,” said Oliver. “It is all because of you. The next mayor who comes in here will spend their entire term just trying to clean up your mistakes.” Mayor McGraw then began to say “thank you” in an effort to get Oliver to finish, however, Oliver continued, “I am just going to tell you like this, stop it. You have been lying all over town like you have nothing else to do. Caruthersville better wake up.”

The mayor responded saying everyone has the opportunity of free speech and invited the next person to continue. Jim and Patty Matthews, Lisa Griffin and David and Cindy House, all of which live on Brantley Lane, then stood to be recognized as they wanted to speak about letters they received regarding the widening of their road.

Lisa Griffin stated she had been at the Monday night meeting, “Last night we didn’t discuss anything with other people in the room but as I left, you (Mayor McGraw) called me back into the room. You agreed that this map, and you did too Mrs. Grantham, is no where near what you stood in my front yard and told me. This almost looks like you guys want five foot on this side of the road which is undeveloped property. I don’t think any of us have a problem with that. But what you stood in my front yard and said was ‘no, it is five foot of our yards’. Taking out drive ways, trees, flower beds.”

The Mayor responded saying he felt as though the discussion should be with Edward instead of with the council. Griffin responded saying it was McGraw and Edward who signed the letter. McGraw answered, “Edward is the one we hired to do this, he is busy a lot.” Griffin stated it still did not clear up the matter and that McGraw had agreed with her the night before.

The group went on to say they need to know specifically how this will affect their property as they had already given up property for an easement and wanted to know why the unused property on the other side was not being taken instead. Even the lawyer and engineer did not have a proper understanding of where the easement was. Dorroh stated he felt what needed to be done is to have an actual survey done and have flags out so everyone can see more accurately. McGraw agreed and said it had been his understanding that it would be five feet from the road into their yards. In the case of Griffin, five feet would almost be to her doorstep. She went on to say that widening this road will do nothing more than provide a drag strip for people to run up and down. Dorroh said from his understanding there would not be any expansion of the road, it was simply for access for the developer of the property who will be selling lots.

“It was never my understanding that blacktop would be added,” said McGraw. Griffin argued saying that wasn’t what he had told her. McGraw went on to say that money would be an issue and because of ever tightening budgets, it would not be likely that it would be done.

It was agreed that a survey should be taken and that a meeting should be held for the property owners to discuss what is planned with the developer and the city. The property owners said they should have been notified to begin with, the mayor interrupted saying the letter they received was the notification. Griffin responded saying, “But the letter isn’t clear to us or you.”

The meeting ended with the group agreeing with Councilperson Lawrence Dorroh who stated the developer, surveyor, city and property owners will be brought together to meet.