March 5, 2014 11:37:10 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
Councilmen accepted the resignation of Nicole Clinkscales as the city's drug court judge in executive session Tuesday.
Fellow municipal judge Marc Amos will replace Clinkscales until the current fiscal year ends on Oct. 1. Clinkscales remains with the city as a municipal judge.
Council minutes indicated Columbus Mayor Robert Smith first told the council during executive session at the Feb. 18 meeting that he had discussed the position with Amos and asked if he would manage it. Amos agreed, but no action was taken during that meeting.
During the council's Feb. 4 meeting, a motion made by Marty Turner to hire a local probation service at Clinkscales' request died for lack of a second. Smith told The Dispatch Feb. 5 that Clinkscales, whose tenure as drug court judge pre-dated her swearing in as a municipal judge in Dec. 2010, had tendered her resignation from the drug court position.
The city appropriated $102,267 to drug court in this year's budget after the state cut funding to local drug courts. Columbus did not appropriate any money to drug court in previous fiscal years before those state cuts were made.
During Tuesday's meeting, the council approved Clinkscales' request to apply for a Service-Training-Officers-Prosecutors Violence Against Women Formula (STOP) grant. If awarded, the city's newly established victim's advocate program would match 25 percent of what it receives with in-kind services. Those services can be in the form of training for first responders as well as volunteer hours, Clinkscales said, adding that the new city program may or may not be eligible for funding but wants to be considered in case it is.
"One of the areas we want to kind of focus on is making sure that all our first responders are trained and knowledgeable about how to respond to victims when they're called out and how to ... assist the victims if they go through this process," Clinkscales said. "Training is going to be a very big element of that."
City formally approves itself as Trotter contractor
After holding non-quorum meetings behind closed doors last week, little discussion was needed Tuesday before councilmen unanimously approved the city as the contractor for renovation of the Trotter Convention Center. Project managing firm J5/Broaddus will act as the city's agent and be in charge of overseeing the process and hiring subcontractors.
Councilman Charlie Box, who was unable to attend either of the meetings between split councilmen groups, referenced general contractor bids for the work, all of which came in at least double the $1.65 million construction portion of the $2 million budget. Box asked if the project could still be done for that much with all the items that were listed to be renovated or built.
"That's a lot of money to cut out," Box said, "and I just don't want the thing to be cut down to the bone."
Robyn Eastman, senior project manager for J5/Broaddus parent firm Broaddus & Associates, said he is breaking the project down into 11 separate packages that have been prioritized from top to bottom priority and the firm will go as far as the budget would take it down the list.
"We've currently moved the elevator down to the 11th priority. That would be the stopgap where we would potentially would not build the elevator once we receive bids on the others," Eastman said. "The north building -- the old county building north of the Trotter Center -- is not going to be part of the package. By reducing the general contractor and having the city serve in that role and with those two reductions, we can get this done within budget."
Renovation projects currently include exterior work, outdoor restrooms, updated carpet and ceiling tile and a new sound system.
Council tables three federal programs personnel matters
The city council entertained and tabled three personnel matters in the office of federal programs until their next regular meeting. The three employees in question were not named, but Travis Jones was in the room with councilmen during much of the session, as was special assistant director George Irby and secretary Loria Porter. The matters were tabled because city employees have the right to an appeal process and the time window to file the appeal for the three personnel issues discussed has not yet expired, city attorney Jeff Turnage said.
The city's personnel handbook states that employees can appeal disciplinary actions rendered by their department heads or immediate supervisors to the mayor and council by notifying the city's secretary-treasurer within three calendar days of learning about the action.
Columbus Chief Operations Officer David Armstrong is Jones' immediate supervisor.
Jones, Irby and Porter are the only three listed as Office of Federal Programs employees on the city's website.
Armstrong suspended Jones for five days without pay in November for "inattention to duty." Jones made a mathematical error in a grant application that made the city ineligible for grant funding through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The council approved to match $100,000, or 17 percent of $600,000 to renovate City Hall. MDAH grant guidelines required at least a 20 percent match and disqualified applications that didn't meet that requirement.
In other business, the board:
■ Approved all-way stop signs at Third Street North and Fifth Avenue at the soccer complex;
■ Approved requests to hire a police offer and office support clerk;
■ Ratified a $171 travel expense to federal programs assistant George Irby for his trip to the Mississippi Archives and History workshop. The vote passed 5-1 with councilman Joseph Mickens opposed;
■ Assisted the Lowndes County Chapter of the MUW Alumni Association for its Welcome Home reception in the amount of $500.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.