With only a few agenda items for consideration and even fewer onlookers, LaFollette city council members plowed through Monday evening’s workshop agenda in short order.
Issues including insurance for retirees and roof repairs to a LaFollette Fire Department building required the most discussion during the meeting.
When Terry Sweat, interim city administrator, asked if the group would be willing to extend the deadline for city employees wishing to take early retirement council member Bob Fannon had questions. While the council had voted previously to offer insurance benefits to employees until they turn 65, providing they had put in the required number of years, the deadline for taking advantage of the early retirement option passed in September.
“I don’t know how this is going to assist us if we go all the way through June,” Fannon told Sweat. “We’ve never done it (offered insurance benefits for early retirement) mid-year before. It costs so much to do this.”
Councilman Joe Bolinger offered that the premise for offering the retiree insurance benefits was to save the city money by allowing long-time employees who tend to be the higher wage earners retire and be replaced by new employees at a lower rate of pay.
“We’re going to run short on money don’t you think,” Councilman Wayne Kitts said questioning Sweat about the city’s financial situation.
“We’re going to be close,” Sweat responded adding that the city is currently expending 4- percent more than it is making.
Kitts asked Sweat to do an analysis of how much money extending the benefits would cost or save the city before the council takes action on the matter.
“If Terry can show us we can save some money then maybe we can consider it,” Kitts told his colleagues.
The council continued to face tough financial decisions when Fire Chief Gary Byrd approached the group with structural issues at the fire hall located on Jacksboro Pike near Campbell County High School.
According to Byrd, recurring leaks in the roof have cause sheetrock damage, including falling ceilings, throughout the building.
While it has been repaired several times, Byrd said because the roof was put on in house no one who does repairs is willing to guarantee their work.
Byrd asked the council to consider replacing the building’s roof at an estimated cost in the neighborhood of $16,000.
Fannon suggested that Byrd get bids on making repairs to the existing roof as well as replacing it.
“The only thing about getting it repaired is we can’t hardly get anybody to guarantee it,” Byrd told the group.
When Kitts asked where money for the project would come from, Byrd responded that there was no money available in his budget.
“It is hard to run three stations with no money. You asked me to cut everything from my budget that I could, and the roof wasn’t leaking at the time. I cut money from uniforms, furniture and everything,” Byrd explained.
“You (LFD) did get hit pretty hard. You and the police department too,” Kitts said acknowledging Byrd’s tight budget.
Sweat said money for the repairs could possibly be taken from a capital outlay note the city had allocated for projects such as a new library.
“I think all of us sitting here can agree that we don’t have the money to build a new library right now,” Kitts commented.
Councilman Hansford Hatmaker suggested that repairs to the problem roof not be considered.
“As far as I’m concerned they’ve repaired enough,” Hatmaker said adding that the roof should be replaced.
Sweat agreed to confirm the availability of capital outlay money for the roof repairs before the council’s next meeting.
When asked if there were other items to be added to the upcoming meeting’s agenda Hatmaker said he wanted to discuss advertising the city administrator’s position.
“We don’t have to fire David Young again this month do we,” Hatmaker asked.
Kitts suggested that the group hold off on advertising the position until the outcome of a Jan. 11 hearing regarding Young’s position is determined.
“Everybody is entitled to their own opinion,” Hatmaker told Kitts.
The item will appear on next week’s agenda.
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