Widener secretary on leave pending outcome of audit

WIDENER (Times-Herald) - The Widener City Council on Monday voted to accept a new bid for work on a new city park, and also voted to suspend an employee without pay pending an audit of the water and sewer system.

The council also approved an agreement to have the county pick up garbage in the city.

On the matter of the park, Widener recently was awarded a grant of $45,000 from the Arkansas Department of Tourism to construct a park behind the city's community center. The only bid, from the Apex Company of Jacksonville, was for $58,000. Billingsley said that after negotiations, the bid had been reduced to $38,769.71. He said the new agreement would require the city to do some of the work - mostly the concrete work.

The council voted to accept the new bid.

On the suspension, the city council went into executive session, after which Billingsley made an announcement.

Billingsley said that Meyer and Ward of Wynne, the firm that has been performing the audit for the water and sewer system, "came and got all our paperwork for our water and sewer system. They found discrepancies. It is not completed yet, so I can't go into a lot of detail about it. Due to the nature of it, I have requested that they go from Jan. 1 of this year to July 15 of this year."

He continued, "The audit should be completed by one day next week. They normally do only one year at a time, which would be 2012. But with the manner of discrepancies, it's going to cost the city some extra money, but it just needs to be done.

"At this present time, our secretary, Miss Betty Breathitt, will be suspended until further notice, with no pay, until this investigation is complete," said Billingsley.

The garbage agreement was made necessary because King Disposal, which had been picking up Widener's garbage, recently went out of business. St. Francis County has agreed to take over the garbage pickup for several cities until Dec. 31, at the same rates charged by King Disposal. After Dec. 31, there may be a change in rates or the cities can bid out the service.

"He (County Judge Gary Hughes) has left it open," said Billingsley. "We can bid it out or we can remain where we are with him. Because there's no increase in cost, I think it's best to stay with the county. I have checked with people out of Little Rock and Jonesboro, and it seems like they don't want to come this far for one or two communities. I think it's just better for us to stick with the county at this time."

The council agreed and passed a motion to accept the county's offer.

The council also voted to establish a bank account for funds from USDA Rural Development for a new police car.

There was also a discussion about the mayor's phone bill. Councilman David Green asked city attorney Alvin Simes if the council could reimburse the mayor for his phone use. Billingsley has said he does not want a separate phone, because he has so many contacts on the phone he has and also does personal business on it. He also said his phone bill has increased sharply since he became mayor.

Simes said he would look into the matter of whether the city could give Billingsley an allowance to make up for the extra usage on his personal phone.

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