Two children, an 8-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl who saved the lives of their family members back in October, are expected to be honored as heroes this week.
Their heroic actions came on Oct. 25 when the children awakened five members of their Adams Street household as a fire was overtaking their home, said Fire Chief Jim Baldwin in Thursday’s work session of the Fayetteville Board of Mayor and Aldermen, noting that resolutions honoring their quick response will be presented to the board in its regular session this week.
“They were able to get the whole family out,” he said. “The home was a complete loss but the family survived ... These two children we would like to honor as community heroes and make them honorary members of the fire department.”
The cause of the fire was traced back to a space heater in the children’s bedroom, according to reports at the time. The family of seven, which also included a 1-year-old, escaped the blaze that quickly enveloped the residence.
The recognition is expected to be presented during the board’s January meeting set to begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14.
Wm. D. Jones Blvd.
Authorizing the mayor to write a letter to the deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation regarding the William D. Jones Boulevard improvement project is also on the agenda of this week’s board meeting.
Mayor Michael Whisenant and City Administrator Scott Collins reported on their recent meeting with the deputy commissioner in Nashville. Accompanying them were Vice Mayor Dorothy Small and Alderman Danny Bryant.
“This is a paving project we’ve been working on for going on 16 or 17 years now,” Whisenant said, adding that it is a Surface Transportation Block Grant project, which also includes widening and other corrections to the roadway.
“This project is going to cost just over $900,000, and we currently have available approximately $550,000,” said Collins, noting that the STBG funds comprise the only funding option to get the project over the line, and if the mayor requested that future STBG funds were to be allocated to it, it could become a reality sooner rather than later. “You would be obligating those funds until about 2023.
“It will provide a much safer roadway, and that was a key point at the onset,” he said.
The City Board will consider action on the city’s FY 2018 audit, conducted by Putman and Hancock CPAs. If approved, the audit will then be sent to the state comptroller’s office.
Dan Hancock, a certified public accountant with the firm, was on hand Thursday to present the audit, which also included the Fayetteville City Schools, Fayetteville Public Utilities, and Fayetteville Housing Authority. There was only one finding this year, he said, noting that it pertained to FHA vehicle repair work which didn’t initially receive a budget amendment – that was later corrected, he said.
A big change came in the way anticipated retirement benefits are computed by the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, he continued, noting that the city’s 2018 change to the state system resulted in $1.5 million going into the fund balance of the city’s government-wide financial statement.
“The balance sheet shows $29 million compared to about $19 million the prior year,” Hancock said, adding that the bulk of that results from the $8.6 million in bond proceeds coming from the county.
“We had a combined debt service coverage of 3.02 times debt – that’s really strong,” he said. “That compares to the prior year’s figure of 3.05 times debt, so we’re very stable, very consistent in our debt service coverages, and also, we’ve had a stable year at the city level from an operations standpoint ... Most bond covenants in municipalities are going to say a minimum of 1.15 to 1.12 ... You guys are doing a great job monitoring your debt capacity.”
Facilities use agreement
The board will also consider action on the facilities use agreement between the city’s recreation department and the city school system for use of certain fields by sports teams and whether to charge the system for that use.
“It’s a cost to the city to line the fields, to mow the fields ... You’re looking at nine sports that use the fields on a pretty heavy basis, and we’re going to bear all the costs,” said Alderman Donna Hartman in discussion. “All the other schools that I know, they have to pay for their sporting events and the maintenance of their fields, so I feel like the [city] schools should have to pay something for usage.”
Other officials noted that over the course of the last eight or nine years, the city schools have invested approximately $20,000 in improvements to the fields, and that type of activity is expected to continue.
“They’re not using the totality of the parks, only small pieces,” said Whisenant, indicating his support of the schools’ continued use of the fields at no additional cost. He noted that this past year the city took over concessions and is making money from that move. Too, he said the agreement does include wording that requires the school system to put the money it makes from those sports back into the fields.
In other business, board members discussed a proposal to increase the $500 limit on purchases without having to go out for bid to $1,000. The city’s finance committee is recommending a cap of $1,000 to cut down on time and red tape.
Officials were also briefed by IT on the ongoing payroll conversion and the state of pubic WiFi access downtown. Testing continues on both. The purchase of beautification banners was also discussed, with that being put on hold, pending alternative designs. A number of budget amendments, items approved for purchase in the preceding budget year but not yet acquired, were discussed as well and set for the agenda.
Bryant noted that he would like to see a freeze placed on the creation of any new positions as the board prepares for its FY 2021 budget – “This does not concern any positions already funded or promotions,” he said. “I’m just talking about any new positions that would be re-occurring.”
Whisenant requested that a work session be scheduled for the purpose of having a mid-year budget review, something the city board has not previously done. The session is tentatively set for Thursday, Jan. 30, at 5 p.m.
Two new police officers are to be sworn in during the regular session this week, and the board will consider granting permits for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King March on Jan. 20 and the Firecracker Chase, which has traditionally been held in conjunction with July 4th. The latter event was discontinued this past year, but a new group is planning to take it on this summer.
At the end of the meeting, Hartman asked if the board could go into executive session, saying she had a personnel issue she would like to discuss. City Attorney Johnny Hill responded that the board could go into executive session only to discuss ongoing litigation or the threat of litigation.
“I don’t feel comfortable with it,” said Bryant. “This is a personnel issue sounds like to me, whatever it is. I don’t know what it is. Go ahead if you want, but I’m not staying.”
Bryant went on to say he would be fine discussing a matter in executive session if it’s in litigation already, but if it’s not, if it’s only the threat of litigation, he would be opposed – “If it’s the threat of litigation, a threat is a threat. We get threats every day. I’m not sure this meets the Sunshine Law.”
“It’s not an employee threatening litigation, but it’s a legal matter where the city could have potential lawsuits filed against them, and it’s a personnel process,” said Hartman. “I just feel like the full board needs to know what’s going on.”
Whisenant asked that Hartman meet with Hill individually, so that they could further discuss the situation, and he could advise her.