M’hall board hears from parents

By MARLAN JONES,

The regular meeting of Mendenhall’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen was held Wednesday, July 5, instead of Tueday, July 4, due to the holiday. It was the first meeting of the new Board of Aldermen, which consisted of two new faces. Leadership for the City of Mendenhall now consists of MayorTodd Booth, Alderman at Large Tim Gray, Ward 1-Donnie Thomas, Ward 2-Robert Mangum, Ward 3- Jana Miller, Ward 4-Sandra Weeks.
With the new board in place the city moved forward on line items that were tabled last month. 
The parking lot agreement between the City and Joe McGuffee needed to be amended to include the new owners of McGuffee Drugs. The agreement as it stood does not call for any monthly payments for the use of the parking lot, but the city was required to maintain and clean the lot and  make any necessary repairs. It was brought to the Board’s attention that the city could not legally maintain a privately owned parking lot. Instead they would need to establish a contract and pay a monthly fee for the use of the lot, leaving maintenance, repair, and upkeep to the owner. The item was left on the agenda through the election process because it was illegal for the board to enter into any new contracts until afterwards. 
Booth explained that in order to make the deal legal a contract and dollar amount was needed. He explained the terms and conditions which gave each party the right to terminate the contract with a 60 day notice to the other. The city will also not be limited to only night time use of the lot. Booth said that citizens can use the lot without any problems and that the maintenance should be less than $2,400 a year. 
Alderman Robert Mangum explained that in terms of maintenance McGuffee is looking for the lot to be swept once a week and help with marking it off every three years. The Board unanimously voted in favor of signing the contract. 
The next tabled item was the memorandum of understanding in regard to the Mendenhall Cemetery. The $4,400 payment made to the Simpson County Cemetery Association for the maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery was previously questioned. There were questions as to whether the City actually owned any portion of the cemetery. City Clerk Tiffany Wallace reported that the city does in fact own approximately 3 acres of the cemetery. Former city attorney Bill Smith was hired to help research the issue, and he produced deeds and an unsigned memorandum of understanding. City Clerk Tiffany Wallace presented the board with all of the pertinent information who unanimously agreed to sign the memorandum of understanding and agree to pay the Cemetery Association $4,400 a year for maintenance. 
The board also made a decision on handling the maintenance of the recently finished Highway 13 and Highway 49 landscaping projects. Sealed bids were opened during the June meeting and the lowest bid was $2,054.17 monthly. It was estimated that the price would be $550 each mowing. Booth said that for the time being the city would handle the maintenance of the area themselves and the item died due to a lack of motion. 
A concerned parent Samantha Waldrop appeared before the board to discuss grievances that she and an alleged group of parents have with the management of the Mendenhall Sportsplex. She spoke on behalf of the group and questioned the price of the program and the quality of the uniforms. She stated that the children do not receive jerseys, but instead play in t-shirts with the sponsors logo printed on the front. She also pointed out that there are no names on the back of the jerseys and the teams sometimes do not receive their jerseys until after the season has started. Other concerns were losing players to other programs due to dysfunction and not using the facility to its full potential. Waldrop pointed out that the coaches have become responsible for much of the maintenance on the field, and questioned where the money earned at the complex was being spent. In particular how much of the money was being used on upkeep and maintenance.  Waldrop wanted to approach the board that is in charge of the Sportsplex but was unsuccessful. “The Board needs to step up and do their job”, said Waldrop. She gave Sportsplex manager Tony Olney credit for his effort, but said the issues needed to be resolved. Waldrop said, “The parents got together to discuss the issues and want to make it better.” 
Olney was in attendance and addressed many of the issues presented before the Board. He stated that the money earned at the Sportsplex went back into the facility. Olney attempted to give perspective citing registration fees for the Mendenhall City League Baseball is $60, and the cost of supplies to paint one field once is $40. He explained that the registration fee of league is more expensive than other programs because the organization cannot afford to charge less.  Olney said more participation from parents would also lead to an improvement around the facility. Alderman Tim Gray said that since his involvement with the Sportsplex and baseball program there have always been two struggles. The first being money and the second being parent participation. More discussion was had before the meeting moved forward. Alderman Donnie Thomas was appointed as liaison to the Sports Club and he promised to work towards improving the situation.  
The Board also revisited the subject of moving City Hall to the armory. Alderwoman Sandra Weeks initiated the discussion stating that it was a great idea and would provide more parking. Weeks said that if the decision was made to stay in the Thames House that the building would need to be inspected and improved at some point. Alderman Tim Gray stated he was not against moving City Hall, but moving to the armory would make it difficult for foot traffic. He also cited the congestion of traffic in the afternoon due to school dismissal. 
Alderman Robert Mangum said, “We have used a lot of time energy and money to revitalize the center of Mendenhall and now we are trying to move the main center of government to a completely residential area.” Alternative plans were discussed but no decisions were made. Weeks said, “If City Hall is not moved we need to get the building inspector in here and make it suitable.” Alternate plans were proposed but no decisions were made. 
June 5 marked the new Mendenhall Board of Aldermen first interaction with each other in an official setting. The next will be on July 20 which is the date set aside for a budget workshop.