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Headstones and mosquito abatement hot topics in Providence

December 13th, 2012 Posted in Opinion

By Danielle Manley

PROVIDENCE –Two items of business consumed most of the conversation at the Providence City Council meeting Tuesday — headstones and mosquitoes.

Among an audit report and comments about voting for Christmas lights in the city, four new employees were introduced, the mosquito abatement representative position was updated and Randy Eck, the public works director, updated the council on issues concerning a cemetery ordinance.

The city recently hired four new employees to fill the spot of one — Terri Lewis. Lewis worked with the city for 16 years and has decided to pursue a career outside city government.

“We’re sad to see Terri go,” City Administrator Skarlet Bankhead said. “But we’re real optimistic that these four new women will help us grow and learn.”

Lewis started as a justice clerk and quickly became a flexible employee, learning other positions over the years.

“When we looked at our needs and resources,” Bankhead said, “we realized training for that many positions would be difficult. Our budget can afford four employees and after doing interviews, we had six or seven strong applicants.” Duties the new employees will be responsible for include receptionist and clerical work, working with the recreation and justice court, transcribing minutes from council meetings and working with the cemetery.

After introducing the council to the new employees, MacRay Curtis presented the audit report to the council members. “Skarlet and her people do a great job,” Curtis said. “We had no problems at all.” The numbers in the audit report gave the council reason to smile — they followed their budget for the year.

Moving on quickly from the audit report, Mayor Ronald Liechty asked for a motion to approve a resolution reappointing Deon Johnson to be the representative for the mosquito abatement project. “He would really like to continue,” Liechty said. “He’s done a good job.”

The city was required to advertise for a new representative, but no one showed any interest, Bankhead said.

Councilman Ralph Call expressed concern for the current representative. “I’d like to see someone else,” Call said.

Due to recent health problems, Johnson failed to report to the council when he was scheduled as an agenda item.

“He gives us a report,” Councilman Dale Astle said. “There have been a couple times he was scheduled on the agenda and wasn’t able to show because of his health.”

Call was concerned about how Johnson represents the city on the abatement project. “How do we know he’s representing us fairly?” Call said. “I haven’t seen him or heard a thing out of him and that’s my concern. Why don’t you assign someone on the council? I know nothing about it, but I’d like to know about it.”

“I’ve been pleased, but we can re-advertise,” Liechty said in an attempt to compromise.

The other council members didn’t seem to present the same concern for the position that  Call did.

“It’s difficult to get a citizen to volunteer and be dedicated to this,” Councilman Russell said. “I’ve been pleased with his work.”

“Deon has been to meetings and likes to volunteer,” Councilman Bill Bagley said.

After much discussion the council passed a motion to speak with Johnson in January and depending on the outcome, will re-advertise for the position after that meeting.

The other most discussed topic on the agenda was presented by public works director Randy Eck concerning a cemetery ordinance. A citizen expressed problems with the new ordinance about a month ago, Liechty said.

According to chapter four section 7-4-11 of the city code, the cemetery requires headstones to be of certain measurements. A headstone for a single grave must be nor larger than 48 inches long by 28 inches wide by 36 inches tall.

“There’s a reason for what we came up with in 2010,” Eck said. “It’s not outrageous, it’s what’s best for our city. We’re trying to make it safe for us. One, if it’s too tall we’ll hit it digging other graves and two, it takes up more water and we take pride in having a nice green cemetery.”

The council quickly agreed and all realized that one exception would lead to many more.

“It’s not a communication problem,” Astle said. “I think we should keep it the way it is. If we open it up to one, we’ll be making exceptions all the time.”

The council decided to keep the ordinance the same and to make no exceptions at this time.

The city council will not meet again until Jan. 8.


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