By Terri Ferguson Smith / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
Without debate, the Meridian City Council unanimously passed a $1.2 million bond issue on Tuesday that will fund water and sewer projects in the city. The matter first went to a vote in May when the council passed a resolution of intent for the bonds.
The council approved the issue that will provide $350,000 for a generator at North Meridian freshwater plant, $600,000 for filter repair at B Street freshwater plant, and $250,000 to reroute wastewater from Marion to the east plant.
There was some disagreement on a couple of other matters, however. Seeing the matter of a school board appointment and a change in school board terms on the council's consent agenda, Ward 5 Councilman Bobby Smith favored leaving that for the new mayor and council to decide. Smith is among three council members who were not re-elected and he wanted to remove those items, as well as two other items from the agenda.
"I just feel like since we've got three new council members and a new mayor coming in, they are the ones to make these appointments," Smith said.
Smith also asked that the one-year extension of a solid waste collection contract with Southern Waste be delayed until the new council takes office. He further asked that an order adopting a revised version of the City of Meridian employee handbook be tabled.
After some back and forth discussions, the council agreed to take off all of the agenda items except for the waste contract, since they felt that it would be better to get that done now as the city prepares for another budget year.
Voting in favor of taking the school board issues and the employee handbook off the agenda were Smith and the other two council members who are leaving; Mary Perry, Ward 2; and Jessie Palmer, Ward 4. Voting against it were George Thomas, Ward 1; and Barbara Henson, Ward 3.
Thomas later explained that the matter regarding the expiring terms of school board members was an effort to get the dates in compliance with state laws. Currently, Thomas said, Meridian Public School District School Board members have terms that expire on different months of the year. They should all expire on the same month, Thomas said. Terms are staggered in years so there is never a time when all of the school board appointments are in the same year.
Tuesday's meeting was also a time for goodbyes with the three departing members and Mayor Cheri Barry taking the opportunity to express their thanks.
"I'd like to thank this community for its support. I'd like to thank the city council for our relationship. I'd like to thank our department heads who have been the very best team I could possibly ask for," Barry said. "I would like to thank the city employees for your hard work in this community."
Barry recounted the progress the city has made in the last four years with its budget and with street and water improvements, as well as a new police department, a new fire station, and a state-of-the-art public safety communications system.
"Our most important achievement was our decision to transform city government. We decided to change how the city spends money to live within our means," Barry said. "We have rebuilt our relationships with our county, our state and our federal government and all of our partners."
Smith thanked the mayor and in closing, thanked his fellow council members and offered some advice to the new council members.
"You see some of the actions here tonight. Sometimes it's fun; sometimes it's aggravating. Just remember when you go to vote on something you are one council member, not five," Smith said.
Palmer said he would still be around and he wished his replacement well. He also chastised eligible voters who did not cast ballots in the recent city elections. The general election brought out about 45 percent of registered voters in Meridian.
"Many people have given their lives for the opportunity to vote," Palmer said.
Henson, who is returning for another term, said she appreciates the civility with which the council members conduct themselves.
"You can disagree without being disagreeable and we have managed to do that," Henson said. "We haven't had any hard feelings and we respect one another."
"Even though we disagreed on some things, we always knew we could work them out," Perry said.
Thomas commended Barry for her accomplishments over the past four years.
"Being mayor is tough. It is a hard job," Thomas said. "You have to make decisions some times that very few people agree with but you have to do it right. I think Cheri has done that."
Thomas, Henson and new council members, Kenneth Dustin Markham, Ward 2; Pamela Houston, Ward 4; and Randy Hammon, Ward 5; along with Mayor-elect Percy Bland will be sworn into office on July 1 at 11 a.m. at the Temple Theater. The public is invited to attend.