Junction City officials respond to bevy of rumors

December 12, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

JUNCTION CITY - City Council members spent much of their two-hour meeting Thursday dispelling rumors that have circulated around town about everything from the city's financial situation to how it uses inmate labor.

Resident Jesse Girdler, who hasn't been in City Hall since he served on the City Council in the 1960s, came to the meeting with a paper full of questions.

He wanted to know why the city waited so long to act on its financial problems, if it knew that the city's income had steadily declined in the past three years.

Council member Roberta Zeller said that much of the money was eaten up by attorney's fees for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency case against the city. The federal agency claims that the city was responsible for some battery chips found in soil here because it moved dirt with the chips in it. The city hired a lawyer that cost $500 an hour to defend it.


Council member Jim Douglas said he doesn't understand why the city had to hire a $500-an-hour attorney.

Zeller said the city was told by its law firm, Sheehan, Barnett, Hays, Dean & Pennington, that it needed to hire the attorney to protect the city.

"The EPA can't come into the city and sue us for money when we're broke," Douglas said.

* Girdler asked how much money the city has in its general fund now. Mayor G.G. Harmon told him $67,000.

* Girdler asked why a work-release inmate was seen driving a police cruiser. Harmon said the incident happened six or eight months ago, and that it would never happen again.

* Girdler asked why it took four inmates to read water meters. Harmon told him that the inmates rode in the van with a city employee because the inmates had to be supervised at all times. Council member Donnie Goode said that he knew the inmates weren't supervised all the time because he has seen them have lawn mower races down his street, and working by themselves, unsupervised.

* Girdler asked if the city paid for its employees to have Thanksgiving dinner. City Clerk Susan Music told him that the dinner was potluck. Girdler wanted to know why he wasn't invited. Music said he could come, but he would have to cook something himself. Later, council members voted to have a potluck Christmas dinner, too, so that the city could save money. They voted to give city employees $50 Christmas bonuses. Police and Fire Chief Jimmy Gipson returned his bonus. Goode returned $100 he had made for attending two council meetings.

Gipson also said that he planned to pay $200 for the medals awarded to the police officers that saved a family from an apartment fire recently. A Danville dentist sent the city a $200 check to cover the cost. Gipson said the city should accept both payments. Some residents had complained about the cost, in light of the city's financial situation.

Earlier this year, Junction City received a $100,000 line of credit from local banks to pay bills and salaries. The city has made one payment on the interest, but none on the principle. The total amount $82,000 is due in June. Harmon said the post office along with the building next to City Hall and the community center are collateral.

* Girdler asked if the mayor spent $2,000 on his office. Harmon said he bought a chair, a locking filing cabinet, a set of $9 curtains and blinds. He said that the old blinds were 10 years old and were rotten.

* Girdler wanted the city to put the audit in the paper. Music said it would cost $5,000.

* Girdler asked if the city was recruiting an industry to replace Penn Ventilator. Harmon said several people have looked at the building, but it hasn't been sold yet. He said Boyle County Industrial Foundation is working hard to find industries to locate there.

Council member Connie Vernon said, "We are hearing all kinds of rumors, but I know that we have a lot of good people that work here and that do a whole lot that they don't get paid for, and they need to be commended for the job they do."

The council adjourned its regular meeting to talk to its water attorney in executive session. Residents had asked when the city is going to sell its water system to Danville. Harmon said he couldn't talk about it, but when the council decides something, it will hold a meeting at the school to tell the public.

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