By Bonnie Culverhouse
Two Minden City Councilmen addressed current concerns at Minden City Hall with constituents during a community forum Sunday, hosted by St. Rest Baptist Church and Pastor Robbie Dale Williams.
District A representative Wayne Edwards said it is his opinion that one rule fits all.
“If we deviate from policy, there should be a discussion,” he said. “When you have a team with five members on it, you don’t need a 2-3 vote. You need a 4-1 vote or a 5-5 in favor or against. That’s just my opinion. It’s not written anywhere.”
Concerning the $39M city budget, which has not yet been passed, Edwards told the group of close to 100 persons that his issue mostly consists with the “sizable raises” promised Economic Development Director Phillip Smart and Human Resources Director April Aguilar.
“In our city handbook, there are no provisions for a performance increase or a merit increase,” Edwards said. “There are no provisions for the mayor to enter into a contract. If we give a raise to all city employees of 2 percent, then that should apply to those two employees. To me, we’ve got to stay with what the rules say.”
Edwards said he has met with the mayor and said he is willing to compromise on the raises promised the two employees.
“The mayor said he is not willing to move from his position,” said the councilman. “In order for this city to move forward, all five of the council have got to move forward.
“My goal is that we can negotiate with the mayor in some form or fashion with concessions on both sides,” he added.
“Trust me, we don’t want to shut this city down. We can’t afford to shut it down.”
The city handbook has been an issue with some of the council for the past two years.
District C Councilman Vincen Bradford said part of Aguilar’s job in Human Resources was to rewrite the handbook.
“We are operating under the old handbook, and we still aren’t going by it,” Bradford said.
Edwards also addressed an issue from the last council meeting concerning the Minden Animal Shelter. Gardner secured a $75,000 grant to move the shelter from its current location on Ewell St. to a city-owned building on Talton. The council voted against the action 3-2, with Bradford, Edwards and Walker as the naysayers.
“We did not turn down the (grant),” Edwards said. “We turned down the location. The information submitted to the state in order to secure that grant required a location be added to the documentation.
“Had the funding been identified as being separate in the narrative, there would have been no problem,” he concluded.
“At that time, we may have found a more suitable location, but for that amount of money, you can’t build what we were building.”
Bradford said the only way Gardner can secure the money for a new animal shelter is “to have canine (K9) dogs.”
“The layout had several areas just for canine (K9) dogs,” he said. “He’s got to have police dogs or contact other people to bring in their canine dogs. So, he’s not telling you everything.’
Bradford beseeched the group to attend the next council meeting.
“Ask the mayor questions, and let him answer,” Bradford said. “Then we will know whether he’s telling us the truth or telling us a fib. We’re going to have to get more support from the black community.”
Before the meeting ended, Pastor Williams broached an incident that took place at the last city council meeting, where chairs were pushed and heated words exchanged between Bradford and Gardner.
“Mr. Bradford did not bring up the incident with the chair and police because that’s in litigation,” Williams said. “He’s speaking with an attorney right now about that incident, and we don’t know where it is. We are waiting on the attorney’s advice.”
Williams said the community is behind Bradford.
“It’s been discussed whether or not we’re going to press charges against the mayor,” Williams said. “And whatever action we are going to take against the police officer who told him he didn’t have a nickel worth of sense, while his boss stood there and didn’t fire him.
“That’s the guy who leads the Minden Police Association, so if the leader would act like that, imagine what police officers we got on the streets,” he continued. “If a guy will do that in public to an elected public official, what would he do on the streets or a dark road when nobody sees it?”
District B Councilwoman Terika Walker was not present at the forum, and District E Councilwoman Pam Bloxom was asked to leave by Pastor Williams, who pointed out three councilpersons could not be in the same room where city business is being discussed.
“She disagreed,” Williams said of Bloxom, “but I am the administrator of this building, so we’re going to go by my opinion.”
Williams said when Mayor Terry Gardner tried to enter, he was also asked to leave.
“We asked him to not be present for our communities’ A & C’s business tonight,” Williams said.
Gardner said he was stopped as he approached the door.
“I was told this was just for the community, and that I was not a part of this community,” Gardner said.