by DANNY WADE | Senior Editor
During the Humboldt Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting on Monday, January 23, the board tackled a rather lengthy agenda. The first item of new business was the 2021-22 audit report.
Matt Wood with Alexander Thompson Arnold CPA firm addressed the board and highlighted a few of the most important parts of the report. Wood led off by saying it was a “clean” audit. He said there were no findings from the city of Humboldt. Wood noted that both the school system and the utilities company are separate entities, but they are included in the city’s audit. Wood said there were two uncontrolled findings in the schools’ portion of the audit.
Wood applauded the city for receiving the GFOA Certificate award for the 15th consecutive year. Wood said his firm handles many cities’ audits across the state and there were only three cities to earn this certificate.
Wood pointed out that the city has a healthy fund balance around $2-million. He quickly noted that is not money simply sitting in the account but money for the rest of the fiscal year’s budget.
City Attorney Randy Camp asked Wood if there was anything that could be misleading or appeared to be “cooking the books” in the audit. Wood replied, “none at all.”
Camp said when someone alleges illegal activity, there could be criminal charges. He said the audit could be an avenue to use.
Mayor Marvin Sikes told Wood that someone on Facebook had posted something about “cooking the books”. He also noted that the person posting was attending the meeting.
A female voice from the audience was heard, speaking loud enough for everyone to hear, “Bring it on. Bring it on. Bring it on.”
The taunt was ignored and the board unanimously approved the city’s audit report.
In other city board action:
•Mayor Sikes recommended the board approve hiring Jeanna Harris for the vacant code enforcement officer. Harris held the position for several years not too long ago. The mayor praised the work Harris did when she previously held the position.
Alderman Leon McNeal asked to table hiring a city code enforcer until the city can bring stiffer penalties for code and ordinance violations.
Alderman Shane Lynch asked if there was any progress to getting new codes.
Mayor Sikes said Ordinance 2016-1 is very clear on what can and cannot be done.
“That’s the same old song played over and over,” McNeal said.
Harris addressed the board and said the city made a lot of progress while she was code enforcer before. There were 110 houses torn down under her watch. She said she would “tag” a house, and if they did not respond, she would write the owner a letter. If that did not work, they would have to go to court. She noted that most people do not want to go to court.
“I will do whatever it takes to clean this city up,” Harris told the board. “I’m determined to be successful. I can work with the attorney to get it (codes/ordinances) fixed.”
Attorney Camp advised the board that the city has to follow due process and equal protection and said, “The state won’t let you fine (someone) $10,000. If the city wants to amend the charter, I’ll work with you. But you need to look at the entire process. If you change one ordinance, it could affect another. I’m for making it (codes and ordinances) as strong as possible and stay within the law.”
After a lengthy discussion, Alderwoman Julie Jones-Coleman called for question. A roll call vote was held with Monte Johnson, Jones-Coleman and Lynch voting to hire Harris. McNeal voted no, not because he did not want Harris for the position, but due to the codes and ordinances not yet changed with stiffer penalties. Alderwoman Tammie Porter was on the fence, but eventually voted to hire Harris.
•The board accepted the retirement of Humboldt Police officer Tony Barr. Sr. Ptl. Barr had been with the department full-time for 12 years and a total of 20 years, also serving as a reserve officer. It was also noted that a reception for Barr was set for Thursday, January 29 at the police department.
Three other officers submitted letters of resignation. Clifford Biber II was hired in November 2022 but never reported for duty. Biber did submit a letter, stating he had health issues. Richard Duncan submitted his letter. He was also hired in November 2022 and never attended Basic Police School. Duncan stated in his letter that this is not the right time in his life for this field of work. Sr. Ptl. Devin Kesterson’s letter stated he is continuing with his military obligations and will relocate to Missouri after a 400-day deployment.
All three officers’ resignations were approved.
•Two fire fighters submitted resignations, Dakota Burress and Levi Williams. Both resignations were approved.
•Acting Fire Chief Leroy Kail recommended hiring four new fire fighters, Chris Burns, Josh Kwasigroh, Taylor Boyd and Matthew Little. It was noted during the meeting that Boyd and Little have fire fighter experience. All four will attend the Tennessee Fire Codes and Service Academy.
•After the meeting adjourned, Mayor Sikes asked the board members to submit a list of streets that need repaving in their ward. He hopes to have the list ready in March to seek bids and paving beginning in April.
The mayor said painting equipment should be coming in any day to paint the downtown water tower.
The last update was on the search for the next fire chief. Sikes said he, Mr. McDonald and Dana Dean, both with MTAS, held interviews with five candidates, which took all day from 9 a.m. until 6:15 p.m. He said all five did well and are worthy of holding the position. MTAS took the score sheets to tabulate. The mayor said he received the sheets back last Monday. He will get each alderman copies of the sheets to help them make a decision when voting to approve the next fire chief.
Mayor Sikes said he would like to have hiring the new chief on the city board’s February 27 meeting.