Mansfield City Council Votes to Nix Annual Pension Increases

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The Mansfield City Council met on Thursday evening, May 21. All members of the council were present including Julie Thomas, Dave Johnson, Jan Carlton, Beverly Lyons, Rick McDaniel and Sheri Hopkins. Also present, Mayor Buddy Black and City Recorder/Treasurer Becky Walker.

After the approving the month of April’s meeting minutes and financial statements, the council heard the city services reports.

Public Works Director Joe Manes was not present. The department had performed seventy three work orders. Manes reported that a water pump was replaced on the old trash truck, that workers had completed on sewer repair on Darlene Drive, and cleaned out a ditch on Fairfax Street.

Mayor Black advised that water shut-offs will be in place in the month of June. Anyone who fails to pay their water bill by the 20th of the month will be disconnected.

Next, the fire report was presented. Chief Michael Smith shared that his department had a total of 10 calls, seven fire and three EMS. Chief Smith is attending weekly meetings in Fort Smith, obtaining updates on the coronavirus. He also advised that regularly bi-monthly fire meetings had resumed, and eight members had attended last evening, Thursday, May 14.

Smith also reported issues with the tanker truck’s battery and informed the council that a new one needed to be purchased.

Mansfield Police Chief Wayne Robb was present and the council reviewed the department reports. For the month of April, the police department issued seven citations in Scott County and two in Sebastian County. There were a total of 28 calls, and 17 agency assists, two in Scott County and 15 in Sebastian. There were two arrest reports, and two accident reports, 35 total traffic stops and 26 warnings were issued. In total, the department had a total of 12 training hours.

Mayor Black asked the council to consider amending the agenda to discuss the disposal of personnel records at the police department. After voting to amend the agenda, Black informed the council that these records were eligible to be destroyed after seven years. A motion was made by Alderman McDaniel to move forward with destroying those records, and it carried unanimously.

Robb presented two candidates for full time officer positions, Chelcie Fletcher and Devan Nichols. The council approved the hiring of the two full time officers. Both Fletcher and Nichols will be attending ALETA in the near future.

City Attorney Matt Ketcham was absent for the meeting, but had presented the council with a proposed dog ordinance. Mayor Black asked the council to review the ordinance and be prepared to discuss any necessary changes at the meeting in June.

The city’s grant writer, Shelby Allen was present and discussed the low participation in the 2020 Census. Allen also provided the council with an update on the active grants and applications.

Lastly, Allen updated the council on the status of the planning commission’s meeting. The meeting, which was held 30 minutes prior to the council assembly, did not have a quorum, and no action was taken on the proposed multi-family housing rezone. There will be another planning commission meeting held Thursday, May 28 at 5:30 p.m.

Mayor Black read ordinance 2020-2, an ordinance which would provide for the city’s reimbursement of training expenses if the worker terminates their employment within 12 months. That ordinance, and an emergency clause was passed unanimously.

The next item on the agenda was the proposed annual pension increase change. An ordinance passed in November of 2008 gave retiring city officials such as the mayor, city recorder/treasurer, and city attorney a retirement pension and two of those offices a three percent annual increase. According to Arkansas Code 24-12-120, “Upon approval by the governing body, a city of the first class or city of the second class may provide for the retirement benefits established in this section for a city attorney elected or appointed to office.” Similarly, Arkansas Code 24-12-124, mayors of cities of the second class, states “…On January 1 of each year, if a retiree under this section has been retired for at least 12 full months, up to a three percent cost-of-living increase will be added…The governing body of a city of the second class may prescribe the retirement benefits of a person who has served as mayor of the city of the second class…” Lastly, 24-12-127, recorder-treasurers and city treasurers of the second class, states “…On January 1 of each year, if a retiree under this section has been retired for at least 12 full months, up to a three percent cost-of-living increase will be added…”

Black informed the council that in years to come, at the current rate of increase, the city would run out of funds. Currently, former Mayor Glen Hurt is the only one receiving the pension. However, three others are eligible under the current retirement plan, including the city attorney and former Recorder/Treasurer Anna Sterling.

After a brief discussion, Alderwoman Thomas made the motion to eliminate the annual three percent automatic increase to the pension. Alderwoman Carlton seconded the motion and it passed in a five-to-one vote, with Alderman Johnson voting against.

In one last item of new business, Black shared that both the City of Hartford and the City of Midland had agreed to the proposed waste water rate increase.

Before adjourning, Black urged Mansfield residents to participate in the Census, citing its importance to city funding and future. If anyone needs assistance, contact city hall and someone will be available to help assist with the Census response.

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Tammy Moore Teague

Tammy Moore Teague

Mansfield native, with roots in Scott County. Daughter, sister, wife and Christian. Education: 1995 MHS graduate; 1999 Arkansas Tech University Graduate - BA in Journalism. Career: Managing Editor - The Citizen; Copy Writer - Southwest Times Record; 20+ years experience in the news.

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