Mayor vetoes council funding move

Smith 

Citing public safety concerns, Meridian Mayor Jimmie Smith is halting the city council’s plan to take control of money earmarked for vacant positions.

In its Oct. 5 meeting, the council voted 3-2 to move money budgeted for unfilled positions from departments to the Legislative Budget. The move affected all departments except for police and fire.

In a council meeting Tuesday, Ward 3 Councilman Joseph Norwood quoted an email to council members in which Smith said he was issuing a veto because the action was “cumbersome, inefficient and would harm the health and safety and welfare of the citizens of Meridian.”

Norwood asked Smith to explain how moving the money would harm the health and safety of Meridian residents.

“My question is – how does moving unfilled billets into legislative harm the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Meridian?” he said.

Every department has vacancies, Smith said. In an ideal situation, he said the city could hire 50-60 new employees. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many people looking for work, some jobs, like being a police officer, don’t have a lot of people looking to do that type of work, and the city’s hiring process is not quick.

All of that, Smith said, comes together to make it a long, arduous process to fill vacancies. The council order, which would require a budget amendment to pay new hires, would add an additional challenge to an already challenging process, he said.

“We need warm bodies, man,” he said. “We really do.”

The city government, Smith said, is tasked with serving the citizens of Meridian. To do that, he said, it needs employees to fix sewer lines, to provide public safety and to provide  essential services.

“We’re going to do whatever we can to get people and warm bodies here to help us do what we’re here to do,” he said. “That’s to serve the public.”

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