The October Minden City Council Meeting marked yet another meeting that the Council failed to approve a budget for the 2021/2022 fiscal year. The City of Minden is now officially behind deadline, and operating at 50% of its budget.
This stalemate amongst the council is now starting to have tangible effects on the operations of the city, with department heads being warned to only spend money in emergency situations.
This stalemate has also caused the council and mayor to bring upon themselves the frustrations of the Minden community, with public comments representing half of the total time of the meeting.
However, before the public comments started, Acting City Clerk Michael Fluhr was the first to talk about the Council’s failure to pass the budget, and the very real consequences the city is facing as a result.
“Before I close I want to say a few words on the two items which bother me. Item number one is the budget. I don’t have a horse in that race, but I wish you all would understand that since Thursday 4:01, we act on 50%. Officially on 50%. What that means is, that for example the street department, is only using 50% of it’s money to cover potholes,” said Fluhr.
“I’m on the record with the Mayor and gave him in writing, recommending to tell the departments, only in emergencies to make purchases, because we don’t have the luxury to say, well, our commitment to pay government capital for the bucket truck, which is a yearly commitment roughly about 30,000 if I’m correct, well we’re gonna cut it in half.’ It doesn’t work that way. I’m going to tell the Chief, your new vehicles are not absolutely necessary. He will probably say well they are necessary, and I understand what he’s saying, but absolutely necessary means emergencies.”
Here Fluhr describes the complications of the City working on 50% of its budget. While it only has half of the available funding, it isn’t like the city can just cut all of its costs in half.
“We cannot cut the salaries in half, so the money goes out the door very fast, and I really have a very hard time, a very hard time. I understand what your problem is with the budget. It’s not the money, everybody knows that. But I’m reading in the paper, for example, Mr. Edwards says, ‘I’m willing to compromise.’ What is your compromise? Why is the council not talking to each other? You’re going to bring this city to its knees, and I don’t think it’s in anybody’s interests,” said Fluhr.
“I urge you, come together and discuss it. You’re going to ruin the city, and you don’t make any friends with the employees. Because they don’t get agreed pay raises, and sooner or later the hammer falls, and the state is knocking on the door. At that point I ask you to come together in your own interests, and say I have a problem with this and this and this.”
“Nobody. Not you Mr. Edwards. Not you Mrs. Walker, not Mr. Bradford, not Mr. Roy, not Mrs. Bloxom came to me and said can we look into this… You’re all going to sit there on the hot pot and wait till it goes up. So that’s point number 1.
Point number two, is also in my interests to clear this, is the pay raises. Everybody is entitled to more money, let’s put it this way. What bothers me is that everybody is talking about the pay raises, but nobody says how much that costs” said Fluhr.
“Yes we have to find the money, but are you aware that the pay raise requests for both departments fire and police … the costs are a half-million dollars. Where is that money coming from?”
“My question to you all, and I wish that these, I should not say it but, these backroom deals, should have to stop. Come out, sit down, come in, and discuss it. Where are we gonna get the money from? It would have been easy. I’ve been waiting for three months. In June we basically had the budget ready. I started early, because I knew it had become difficult,” said Fluhr.
“But since then, nothing has happened. We’re going to come to every meeting, and no, we don’t approve the budget. That is not sustainable, and what is not sustainable also is to say well, I’m in favor of pay raises. I’m sure everybody of you is in favor of pay raises. How are we going to finance them? How are we going to pay for them? That is my question. And I hope, and now I’m finished, I hope that you all come together in the interests of the city, not in your own, not in mine, or anybody else’s. In the interests of the City.”
Shortly after the Police Report the floor was opened for public comments, to which a litany of speakers from the Minden community came forward to voice their frustrations with the Mayor, Councilmen, or all of them combined.
“What I’m saying to you, Mayor, is that we need leadership. Managers make right decisions, leaders do things the right way, and I’m not so sure that things have been done the right way here in Minden. I feel with the information that I have, that you’re circumventing the council, said Mr. Miles. “You leave them out, you don’t give them any say.”
Community member Shanika Harris expressed her discontent and embarrassment, seeing the Minden Mayor and Council on national TV, while also discussing her fear that if the Council continues as they have, that will run everyone out of the city.
“Y’all have got to get along. I’m sick of looking at TV. Channel 12 News. It’s embarrassing to have our city on national TV,” said Harris.
“Where is y’alls love at, because it’s embarrassing for us to look at yall on national TV, and can’t get along with each other. That stuff hurts.”
“What kind of example are yall setting for the children? Yalls grandchildren, my children, they are the next generation. You done lived your life. The generation is left up to them now, but if y’all can’t get along to get on one accord this city is going to fall apart.”
“You got to make us trust you Mr. Terry. You Council people have to make us people that’s in this city trust you, but if y’all can’t get along how can we trust any of you. If yall want to go behind closed doors, y’all all need to go behind closed doors. Not just two or three people. When yall vote on something vote on it together, so we citizens won’t be out here in the blue,” said Harris.
“Look at what yall are doing to us. This is a bad influence. If yall don’t come together like yall are supposed to, y’all are going to run these citizens out of here. A lot of y’all have been on this board for years. If y’all don’t come together, then move out the way so somebody else can get here.”
Some individuals’ concerns were more specific, as with the case of Gwendolyn Ashley who voiced her dissatisfaction with the potential decision to increase citizen’s utility bills by $5 in order to compensate for police and fire raises.
“I live with me and my cat, and since I have been here only once have I paid a bill under 200 dollars. I cannot afford another five dollars. I lived in a state where TG&E would work with you if you were not able to pay your bill. You were able to make arrangements to pay your bill. They worked with you. Here you can’t even make an arrangement if you don’t have the money to pay,” said Ashley.
“I understand that the police need a raise, I understand that, but I do believe there has to be another way that you can find something in your budget for them. I’m here because there is no way I can afford another five dollars, and I know the people in your districts cannot afford another 5 dollars. So somehow, you guys are going to have to come together and work out a solution for this because there is no way you can put the strain on the community.”
She ended on a note that referenced the progress the city as a whole has made throughout the years, having left in the 70’s and returned recently, however she expresses it’s a stark contrast to the lack of progress the Council has made.
“I’m glad I made the decision to move back to Minden. I love Minden, it’s a small town, it’s a diverse town, it’s changed since I was here in 1975. You can see interracial couples that I didn’t see when I lived here in 1975. Minden has changed, but evidently, this council has not.”
Randolph Walker is a citizen who has attended a good portion of recent meetings, both monthly sessions and workshops, and he felt inclined to share some of the dynamics that he has noticed.
“It’s very reckless the way that you run this city, and I think that you’re dividing the city even further now. The disagreements that you have are basically distractions. I have to agree with the money man, if the money ain’t there then you don’t have nothing anyway,” said Walker.
“I understand that everybody has these little teams they’re in. I’ve watched yall pair off. You and you,” he said referring to Councilmen Pam Bloxom and Micahel Roy, “He validates your mistakes and you validate his.” Then referring to Councilmen Terika Williams-Walker and Vincen Bradford said, “You validate her mistakes and she validates yours. The only person who sometimes I see that is trying to get something done is this man here,” he said referring to Councilman Edwards.
“Mr. Mayor and Mr. Bradford. What’s going on with you two? Is this a domestic squabble? That’s what it appears to be. Me and my wife have problems too, but I don’t go out in the street broadcasting them.”
Walker also commented on the inefficiency of the meeting he has attended, commenting, “The workshops, you don’t do anything. I’ve been to the workshops. Only thing that yall do is justify something that you don’t do. You say you did this, and you say you did that. And from workshop to workshop, from agenda to agenda, it’s just passed along.”
“The budget has to be passed, we all know that. So let’s get over that. Let’s move on to something concrete that we can work with. The city is looking for you to do great things, everyone wants you to do great things.”
The above comments are just a small portion of the array of voices that came forward to express themselves in the Oct. Regular Session. If anyone is interested in hearing the full comments, they can be found on the city’s youtube channel titled City of Minden – Feels Like Home.
The Minden City Council Regular Session is held the first Monday of each month starting at 5:30 PM. Located at the Minden Civic Center, the meetings are open for the public to attend.