Issues regarding the fire department were the main topic of discussion at last week's Verona board of aldermen meeting, leading the board to consider holding a town hall meeting over the possibility of merging the department with the Aurora Rural Fire District.
At last month's meeting, the board was informed that the city's fire truck was inoperable, and bids collected since would see the city spending at least $10,000 to fix the truck. While that amount is within the department's budget, Mayor Joseph Heck said the truck is actually the property of the state's Department of Conservation and may have to be returned at any time.
A truck has been donated by the Pierce City Fire District, but repairs would also be needed on that one, as there are issues with the brakes and broken gauges. In addition, the city's old truck which currently sits in the garage is available, but the mayor noted it has not been pump tested in several years and he does not feel comfortable sending anyone out in it.
Aaron Siegrist, the ARFD chief, addressed the board and presented figures on how a merger could impact property taxes and home insurance rates in Verona.
After some discussion, city attorney Darlene Parrigon stated the board does not have the authority to vote on a merger, and the measure would have to be put to a public vote. In the meantime, the board is considering holding a town hall meeting to inform the public on the matter.
In old business, the mayor again attempted to nominate several people to fill the vacant position on the board. Heck stated he had not received suggestions from the board members, as requested, so he would continue to nominate people himself. Names suggested at last week's meeting included Eddie Carey, Tammy Jenkins, Terry Ray, Rebecca Maples, Pam Dorton, Joyce Faulk and Claude Carr
Each nomination fell short, as motions to approve -- made by Michael Haynes -- received no seconds from either Linda Gates or DeDe Hutson. After making a motion to adjourn the meeting until another board member could be agreed upon, Haynes hypothesized to a curious audience member about the reason for his fellow board members' unwillingness to accept the mayor's nominations.
Haynes stated the two wished to nominate Hutson's husband and former mayor Willis Hutson, but Heck will not nominate him, and if he did so, only Gates and Haynes could vote on the nomination.
Hutson then made a motion to postpone further attempts to fill the vacancy until April of next year, a motion later vetoed by Heck. Parrigon suggested the city set a deadline for interested individuals to apply for the position and have the board vote from those, but it was unclear whether the board would eventually attempt that suggestion.
Other action taken during the meeting included:approving a motion to send an additional $2,140 back to FEMA. agreeing to have the city attorney at each meeting until deemed unnecessary, at a rate of $150 per hour up to two hours, with a flat fee of $300. approving a request by city clerk Laura Hazelwood to create a separate checking account for Restricted Use Transportation tax monies.
At the end of the meeting, the board attempted to vote to go into closed session, but Haynes left the building, leaving no quorum present. Earlier in the meeting, a discussion on the hiring of outside counsel for Haynes' case against the city, as recommended by the city attorney, was moved to be had during closed session.
The next regular meeting of the board of aldermen is scheduled for 7 p.m., November 28, at city hall.