The last Town of Luther Regular Meeting before the pivotal April 4 election is Tuesday night. When the agenda posted Monday evening, the items brought up many questions, including concerns from the former mayor.
The public meeting will be held Tuesday, March 14, 2017, at 7:00 pm at the Luther Community Building, 18120 E Hogback Road.
The first item on the agenda concerns “Public Comments” regarding Item 2. That item regards “Consideration, discussion and possible action regarding the approval to move forward with actions related to the deal between the Town of Luther and First Bank and Trust of Luther. This item refers to the deal to exchange the existing bank building for 3 acres (mol) of municipal property located on the west side of Wild Horse Park between Highway 66 and N. 4th St.”
This issue first came up publicly at the January 2017 meeting. Bank President Gary Roy offered a “swap” in which the Town would assume the bank property on Main Street with a market value by Oklahoma County at about $114,000 (2016). In exchange for the bank facility presumably to move Town Hall from its current location across the street, the Town would give three acres near the new Dollar General, on top of the rundown tennis court for the bank to build a new facility to meet its growing needs and escape a chronic parking problem on Main Street. At that January meeting, there was an indication from the elected official that there would be a public hearing on the matter, but one has not been scheduled. Apparently, the public hearing will be fit into the public comments portion of the meeting. Anyone who has an opinion on the issue should attend the meeting.
Interestingly, the agenda also calls for a discussion item to spend $1,500 “to go ahead and buy the tile to go on the floors in town hall,” even though this bank swap issue is pending.
The next agenda item regards hiring new town staff. After the agenda snafu last week for a special meeting, the agenda says the board will meet in Executive Session to consider hiring an “Office Coordinator” and a “Court Clerk,” following the resignation of the former employee who held both positions. The Board further wants to substantially boost the salaries of each position. The previous employee served as both “office manager and court clerk” for approximately $15 an hour. On the agenda is the Town Board to consider a salary of $16 an hour for the “office coordinator” (roughly a $30,000 annual salary plus benefits) and then $15 an hour for the court clerk.
The posting of the agenda Monday evening brought swift concern, including from former Mayor Lea Ann Jackson on the Town’s Facebook Page.
“The agenda proposes separating a current position. Always interesting when things are proposed that the Board hasn’t met to consider. Can’t help but wonder if everyone is familiar with the Open Meetings Act requirements. Mr. Vincent (town attorney)? The Agenda proposes separating the positions but applications were already accepted for two separate positions. Additionally, I’m pretty sure they gave Crystal a raise to $16/hr to be Court Clerk and Office Administrator. So she was doing both positions and had been with the Town an extended period of time and was a known performer. The Agenda proposes to bring in someone who probably doesn’t know the Town, the position or municipal requirements and pay them the same for doing only ONE position. Has ANYONE looked at what was budgeted? Has anyone looked at the OML compensation survey? How does the proposed compensation for two clerical positions compare to what the Town is paying law enforcement and fire? Are these compensation levels appropriate based on the ‘required’ education and experience? Is there ANY required education and experience? Where were these positions posted? When was their posting approved/authorized by the Board? Are there minutes supporting such approval/authorization? Open Meetings Act, Mr. Vincent? Is the Board limiting the announcement of such open positions to promote hiring of individuals they know? Is it about control? Speaking of personnel, are proper records being maintained regarding paid leave for all Town/LPWA employees?”
Further, another agenda item addresses the longstanding issue of the Town Treasurer Kim Bourns apparently still not complying with the law to prove his bonding to the Oklahoma County Clerk’s Office. The Luther Register shared the story back in January in which the county implored the Town to submit required paperwork so it could relinquish a $26,000 payment due the Town.
Even though the $26,000 has not been received from the county, apparently Mayor Cecilia Taft wants to spend it, according to the wording of the agenda item (verbatim below).
“Consideration, discussion and possible action to use the money being held on behalf of the Town pending the clerk treasurer form that is waiting to be sent in when that money is released. It will be used for opening 7th Street since the money is for streets and alleys. – CT (Cecilia Taft).
However, from correspondence between The Luther Register and the Oklahoma County Clerk’s office, we have learned the money belonging to the town is not for “streets and alleys,” but is from motor vehicle fees that filter from the state to the county and then in this case, to the Town of Luther.
What is the Seventh Street issue? The big battle over the road on the west side of town occurred before The Luther Register began publishing. However, in a nutshell, there is support among residents, including two trustees who live in the area, to repave a small stretch of road between Main Street to the west at Beech Street.
Some candidates for the Town Board have expressed concern about spending that money on this project, when other infrastructure issues are pressing, not to mention a need to grow the town’s savings account.
Finally, the agenda calls for “continuing the judge’s appointment.” The Town ordinances actually call for this issue to be taken up in February of odd years, but it is on the March 2017 agenda. The municipal judge, Stephen Haynes, earns $850 a month.
Pubic Comments will be heard at the beginning of the meeting. Each speaker is granted up to two minutes, with the whole public comment portion not to exceed ten minutes. The agenda says “comments must be regarding an agenda item.”
The meeting begins at 7pm. If you cannot attend, the meeting will be broadcast on Facebook Live on the Luther’s Register’s page.
A Candidate Forum for the Town of Luther election is March 21, 2017, from 5:30 – 8:00 pm at the Broken Horn Ranch Events Center, sponsored by The Luther Register. The public is invited to attend, as are ALL of the candidates.