A modified resolution calling for the re-imposition of two expiring 5-mil property taxes on Jonesboro property owners – one for streets, the other for fire – was passed 4-1 yesterday at a special called meeting of the town’s Board of Aldermen.
The new resolution differed from the one passed last week by specifying in the ordinance the amount of taxes “reasonably expected” to be collected, which is about $92 thousand for each tax.
Doug Stokes, the town’s attorney, said that the law had been changed, adding that requirement.
Said Stokes, “You had to put in the estimated amount that it generate in one year.”
The only no vote was District B’s Renee Stringer, who said that since the town had not had an audit in four years, she could not in good conscience support providing the town with taxpayer’s money.
Stringer said in a TV interview that, “until someone can account for the all the taxes, (and) until that happens I won’t support it.”
See here the Notice of Election.
While the tax vote resolution was the reason for the called meeting, other issues dominated the meeting.
Several residents from the neighborhood off Gansville Road came to the meeting to complain about a rent house that until recently been the scene of alleged drug dealing, loud noise, raw sewage, and corresponding odors. The residents said they could get no response from the Health Department or the Sheriff’s Office, and were told it was a town issue.
The town’s controversial mayor Leslie Thompson suggested that the animal control officer should be commissioned, so that he could issue citations and make arrests.
Stokes opined that the the town already had the power to issue citations, but only a commissioned officer could make arrests.
When the issue of the nuisance abatement ordinance and efforts to amend it came up, Stringer opined that the present ordinance “had plenty of teeth, it just needs to be enforced.”
An added agenda item, water bills, also brought some discussion.
Thompson was forced to admit that no Attorney General’s opinion existed that would prohibit an alderman from discussing billing issues with a constituent. Stringer had in past meetings brought that issue up, but was told by the mayor that an AG opinion prohibited such interactions.
See the memo.
Thompson also presented a memo that outlined a procedure whereby any water bill issues would be handled through his office, in connection with the billing clerk.
See the memo.
Stringer then asked what paperwork should she bring to any future meetings on the issue, or if the constituent should come to the meeting.
Thompson never answered the question, saying that he would address the issue as “expeditiously as possible.”
Regarding ongoing issues with reading water meters, Thompson said, “It has us all pretty much stumped.”
The discussion, including some from the audience, then focused on water bills that were significantly higher than would be expected for the number of residents living at a metered location.
Secret Meetings With Legislative Auditor
Also discussed was a secret meeting held recently between representatives of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office (LLA), the mayor, and at least two aldermen – District A’s Sam Lamkin, and District D’s Devin Flowers.
Thompson said that similar weekly meetings would be held in the future to update them regarding the ongoing financial issues with the town.
Stringer said she would like to be included in any future meetings, to which Thompson replied that she could submit any issues to the other two aldermen and they would bring them up in the meetings.
Thompson added that the auditors didn’t want to make them “open meetings,” to which Lamkin concurred.
Said Lamkin, “They said that it would not be an open meeting.”