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Houston County Courier - Local News

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Councilmen's tempers flare
Houston County Courier

By Lynda Jones

It was business as usual at the Monday, Oct. 7, Crockett City Council meeting as the council members heard departmental reports and voted on agenda items with minimal discussion . . . until they reached Item 11. Then tempers flared. Item 11 pertained to a contract financing solid waste equipment. Councilman Robert Meadows said he does not agree with buying a new (not used) loader. A recycle truck and some other equipment also are on the list. Meadows argued the city should take more time and shop for used equipment. "I think we did a good job of finding a backhoe for a third of the cost of a brand new one . . . and it seems to be a pretty good piece of equipment," Meadows said. At that time, Solid Waste Dept. Director and Deputy City Administrator Ray Fleming reported the equipment already has cost the city some money in repairs. There were electrical problems last week with the recently purchased backhoe and they just got it back Monday, Fleming said. Councilman Bill Holcomb moved to approve the financing contract but the motion failed for lack of a second. Councilman Chris Gunnels then moved to table the agenda item and Meadows seconded the motion. The motion to table the issue passed 4-1, with Holcomb voting "no". Meadows clarified he is not entirely against buying brand new equipment, especially for critical areas such as police and fire department vehicles that are used 24-7. For other departments, Meadows explained, he feels the city should take the time to shop for "good, quality, used equipment" at a significant savings over new equipment. He encouraged shopping for what they need at auction websites that allow purchasers to see and test the product. When given the floor to speak, Holcomb began to discuss the cost of lost manpower hours in addition to repair costs when Meadows attempted to interject a comment. Holcomb then, with his voice raised, told Meadows, "I didn't interrupt you." Meadows told Holcomb he didn't need to raise his voice. With his voice still raised, Holcomb replied, "I didn't interrupt you. Wait your turn." Holcomb then continued with a statement that during the budget process, the council intended to budget a small amount of money to purchase new, functioning equipment so there would not be an issue of city employees being idled by old, broken down equipment. He also said an advantage to getting new equipment is that it's under warranty, thus eliminating repair bills for three or four years. Meadows said he wants the public to understand, "We do have a second backhoe, and if those guys are sitting around doing nothing, they need to be fired, and the supervisor who's over them needs to be fired. "We have other equipment that could have kept those people busy and productive. There's lots going on in the city that needs lots of attention. If that one backhoe shuts down the entire system, we're in trouble. "We have been buying new equipment, and I think responsibly so. I just don't believe a city the size of Crockett, with the income and the tax base, it's just not a real world dream to think we're going to have all new equipment all the way across the board. It's just not." Councilman Larry Robbins also participated in the discussion, asking for an example of at least one big project that has been completed since the city has purchased replacement equipment. Fleming explained the backhoe in question is for the Solid Waste facility only and not for street repairs. "We need it to do our job," Fleming said. He also invited Robbins to visit the Solid Waste and Recycling Center to see what work is done there. The item will be discussed further at a future city council meeting. This meeting can be viewed in its entirety at cityofcrocketttexas.org.


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