Social media issues arise at Italy City Council meeting

The Italy City Council met in a called meeting on Tuesday night. Three citizens addressed the council during citizens comments.

Joan Grabowski told the council that Albert Garcia had requested restricted easements along Hwy 77 in the last regular council meeting. She said that she had done research on the issue and discovered the council had already approved the restrictive easements in their February 11, 2013 meeting.

She also asked if anything could be done to restrict truck parking along R.L. Campbell near Grandy’s. She said that the trucks restrict a drivers view when they are pulling out from the parking lot. She was told that the area is on private property and the city had no control over that. Mayor Hobbs said that he would check on the issue.

Pablo Jacinto asked the council how much money was being spent on the called meetings. he also asked if the business could be done in a regular meeting. He was told that issues come up that cannot wait for a regular meeting.

John Droll was the third citizen to address the council.

“I am sick of looking at Ed Voss,” Droll stated. “All this nit picking needs to stop.”

He told the council that there was no reason to discuss city issues on social media. He referenced a posting on social media by Councilman Steven Farmer. He said that all this social media stuff needs to stop and city business needs to be taken care of. He said that it was not being done.

There was a heated exchange between Droll and Steven Farmer regarding the post.

“Self government does not work without self control,” Droll added.

The council approved an agreement between the City of Italy and South Ellis County Water Supply Corporation for fire suppression for the proposed Love’s Truck Stop.

“I sent the draft to South Ellis County Water. The idea was approved. Because it has a different provision, it must be approved by the council,” said Ed Voss. “The basic structure is the same.”

The next issue on the agenda was to discuss and consider necessary action regarding city employee compensation issues.

“I want to let you all know what is going on,” Steven Farmer began. “We need transparency and I think Mr. Voss has put is in a predicament. We are stepping over some lines and we need to get this fixed tonight.”

“One department is getting overtime and others comp time,”

Voss told the council there was noting in the Fair Labor Standards Act that states all employees’ overtime must be paid the same way.

“I don’t think we can afford overtime,” Farmer stated. “We need to keep it fair across the board. It is our duty to do what is fair across the board.”

“I believe we have opened a can of worms here,” said Greg Richards. "I agree with Steven Farmer. We should be fair to all our employees. "

“I believe we all want to do what is right by all of our employees,” Frank Jackson added.

Rodney Guthrie said that they budgeted $14,000 last year for overtime. He said he did not see a problem with paying overtime this year.

“I have not heard from any of our employees that they have a problem.” Guthrie added.

Dean Carrell told the council he did not have a problem with the public works employees being paid in comp time. He said that he has been short 3 employees for over 3 months.

“You cannot run public works with just 5 employees,” Carrell stated. "You cannot take 3 people and beat then like a horse. We need 2 more people right now.

Joan Grabowski expressed to the council that they were violating their personnel policies by paying overtime.

“Section 13.09 states that hourly personnel will not be paid overtime. They will receive comp time. You are violating your own policies by paying overtime.”

“What is best for the city is making sure public works has enough fresh people to handle what comes up.”

Guthrie, Richards, Cockerham and Jackson voted to take no action and continue to pay the public works employees overtime. Farmer voted no on the issue.

The council also voted to take no action for purchase of a street broom and a trailer for the track hoe. The price of the trailer is $3,500 and the price of the used broom is $2,500. Teri Murdock said that she would need to check with Southwest to see if there is any money left from the loan for street equipment. The issue will be discussed at the next meeting when more information is available.

During Council Member comments:

Frank Jackson thanked everyone and said he was hoping and praying the council will work together.

Steven Farmer said that at first he thought he would have to fight every night but it is not that way. He said that he felt that he and Frank (Jackson) could not work together because (Jackson) did not have the betterment of the city. He also told Jackson he was incompetent.

Paul Cockerham said he appreciated those that were at the meeting. He said they have some work to do. He also said he appreciated the staff and the job they do. He said they need to listen to the employees and see what their needs are.

Greg Richards thanked everyone for coming to the meeting. He said they sit up here month after month and argue, but he believes that they are all trying to do what is right.

Rodney Guthrie said that they werre doing the best they can up there. He said there is an election every May and someone could put their name on the ballot if they think they could do a good job. He said that the council appreciate the citizens support.

During Mayor comments, James Hobbs said he appreciated everyone being at the meeting. He said he appreciated all the citizens coming out.

The meeting adjourned at 7:00 p.m.