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Hardy Mayor Clashes With Council Over Travel Expenses

2014janmeetingThe Hardy City Council passed a 2014 budget at its Jan. 7 meeting, but spending remained a hot topic through the remainder of the meeting.

During council member comments, Dale Maddox expressed concerns about the $6,000 allotted to the city administration for travel and education expenses. He said he thought the city had “over budgeted” for the expense, questioning why a city as small as Hardy would need to budget three times more than the city of Ash Flat, which budgets only $2,000.

Mayor Nina Thornton strongly defended the travel and education budget. She stated that the money is used for education for her, Treasurer Carolyn Groves and city council members who wish to attend conferences and continuing education schools. She said the reason Ash Flat budgets so little is that they “only have one person who attends [the conferences.]”

Classes that the mayor attends yearly include two Municipal League conferences, FEMA school and water school. She also attends meetings at the Municipal League headquarters as a member of the Cities of the Second Class Advisory Board.  She said that, because of her attendance at so many conferences over past years, she will be given her mayor certification at this month’s Municipal League Conference.  Five members of the city council, including the mayor and treasurer, have already registered to attend the January conference.

Council member Dale Maddox said that he felt the amount approved for reimbursement on hotel rooms, gas, and other expenses could be revised to save money.

After a lively discussion, council member Vicki Rice motioned to table the topic and continue the discussion at the council’s next regular meeting, as the current debate was “diminishing rapidly.”

For training, the quad cities budget as follows: Ash Flat $2,000; Highland $500; Cherokee Village $3,000; Hardy $6,000.  Mayor Thornton said that the budget can be amended anytime.

In other business, Police Chief Ernie Rose made a presentation on the department’s fuel usage and addressed the notion that there had been suspicious activity in regards to the amount of fuel used within the department. Rose had previously asked the council to increase the amount budgeted for fuel in the department. He stated that all records will be kept within the department from now on and that, beginning in February, he will make a monthly presentation to the council members.

The camper park lease was also discussed. The council decided to have a working meeting in February to further discuss whether the property should be leased out or whether the city should fix electrical problems to bring the property up to par, and manage the facility itself.

During the meeting, the council passed new rules governing its meetings. One change will require members of the public to sign in if they wish to make comments to the council, and to keep comments to a minimum of three minutes.

The council’s next scheduled meeting is Jan. 21 at Hardy City Hall. All members of the public are welcome to attend.

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