Ecru aldermen discuss water/sewer applications

Sandra Priest Special to the Progress After receiving notice from Kenneth Hill, long-time employee of Ecru Water and Sewer Department, of his intention to retire in mid-April, board members met last Tuesday evening to review applications of persons interested in the position. Following brief discussion of several housekeeping type issues, allowing a privilege license for Deels Gone Wild, and authorizing Jake Chisholm to attend an upcoming training course, Alderman Ivonne Whitehead took the floor. “We have nine applications. I went over each one. Only two have qualifications for this job. I called all references for these two.” Whitehead spoke at length, outlining her personal opinions on the applications, the qualifications, recommendations of references, her expectations for the position, and her own recommendations. Finally, Alderman Ronnie Stephens spoke out. “We’ve all got opinions, Ivonne. But I also think that Gable Todd (Water and Sewer Superintendent) ought to have some say-so in this. He’s the one that’s going to be working with them directly all the time.” Aldermen took the opportunity to ask Todd about applicants and specific expectations he has as supervisor of the position. Speaking highly of Hill’s job performance, reliability, and dedication to the town, as well as his partner Wayne Robbins, Todd added, “One thing I’d like to see is for them [new employees] to be willing to go to school and get certified so if anything ever happened to me–if I got sick or something like that–our town wouldn’t be put in a bind.” Discussion was also held concerning job duties, such as whether the reading of water meters should be contracted out as it has been in the past, or if it would be more economically feasible to have it done in-house. “Let me figure up what it would cost for one or two employees to read the meters, plus the cost of the use of the town’s truck,” Todd said. Whitehead, who favors having meter reading done by town employees each month in addition to all other job duties, then addressed all present. “I am going to tell you board members, I see it with my own eyes when I am free. I see Kenneth and Wayne riding around town.” She went on to express her dissatisfaction with the efficiency of the two employees while on the job. Mayor Tom Todd questioned Whitehead on the specific whereabouts of the two employees throughout the days she followed their movements around town. Discussion then turned to the subject of accumulated comp time of Hill. Alderman Whitehead commented, “In my opinion, because Kenneth is leaving the second week of April, maybe he should go home to use these hours so we don’t have to pay him working time and comp time.” “I’ve been thinking about that,” Gable responded, “but now that Wayne is taking that job with the county, it’s changing things up some. I’m going to need Kenneth to train the new person.” Alderman Stephens said, “Kenneth’s earned it (the comp time). That’s the way I look at it.” Whitehead insisted that Gable present to the board how many days Hill would be needed to train a new worker, “…so we don’t have to pay him 63 1/2 hours comp time.” Alderman Stephens voiced his disagreement saying, “I think that should be handled by the supervisor of that department, not by the board.” Whitehead countered with an outburst directed at board members, Alderman Stephens specifically, during which time she paused, turned to the press, and ordered, “This is not for the newspaper!” A volley of heated personal comments were exchanged, during which Mayor Todd intervened, saying to Whitehead, “You don’t need to chastise the rest of the board members.” Turning once more to the press, Whitehead pointed her finger. “This is not to go in the newspaper!” More personal comments were directed toward Stephens. Alderman Charles Mitchell reminded everyone present that the meeting had not yet been adjourned. The motion was immediately voted upon to adjourn until Tuesday, March 5th at 6:00 p.m.