July 14, 2010 10:45:00 AM
Jason Browne - [email protected]
WEST POINT -- The West Point Board of Selectman voted to fire the city''s chief administrative officer and electric department superintendent, Tuesday night.
Mayor Scott Ross ultimately vetoed both votes, which split 3-2 with Ward 2 Selectman Homer Cannon, Ward 3 Selectman Charles Collins and Ward 5 Selectman Jasper Pittman lining up against Ward 1 Selectman Rod Bobo and Ward 4 Selectman Keith McBrayer. Bobo and McBrayer voted against the firings.
Pittman, who moved to fire CAO Randy Jones, was the only official involved to answer calls Tuesday night. Collins moved to fire Electric Department Superintendent Dwight Prisock, who was hired in April to replace ousted interim electric superintendent Shasta Plunkett.
Pittman didn''t say if the firings were premeditated or spontaneous Tuesday evening, but he did admit he had asked Jones to step down several months ago.
"There are a lot of things (Jones) is doing to make this board look bad," said Pittman, although he wouldn''t go into specifics. "He''s telling us one thing and doing another."
Prisock was fired after being questioned extensively by the board in regular session regarding the electric department''s projected 2011 surplus, which had fallen from approximately $340,000 in 2010 to around $17,000.
"The reason with Prisock is we have a serious problem with the budget and I''m trying to cut costs," said Pittman. "The electric department could be run without him. We have an office manager (Theresa Moore) and a line foreman (Gary Hadaway) that could run the warehouse. (Prisock) is bringing nothing to the table."
Prisock claimed the bulk of the surplus difference was due to the loss of Americold, an industry which formerly serviced the Sara Lee Foods plant, and $150,000 budgeted for line clearing, which involves trimming tree limbs and other obstructions near power lines.
The board was further irked when Prisock''s 2011 budget failed to use actual numbers from April, May and June of 2010 for projection purposes. Prisock claimed the figures were unavailable due to the lack of a full-time accountant at the Water and Light Department and that a temporary accountant being paid $150 hours for part-time work had not had time to compile the figures.
Unsatisfied with Prisock''s explanations, the board continued to fire questions until Ross stepped in to rescue the superintendent, suggesting the board members submit their specific questions at a later date when Prisock was better prepared to offer details.
"The constituents want to hear this. And they need to hear this from Mr. Prisock," said Cannon, hoping to continue the discussion in open session.
The issue was temporarily dropped when Ross stated there was no action to be taken on the matter Tuesday.
Jones thought he had good news for the board when he informed them the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District had been in touch with Clay County officials this week to say they''ll be in West Point during the first week in August to begin working on the ailing bridge at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 45 Alternate.
The city already possesses many of the materials necessary to construct a new bridge, courtesy of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, and Jones says the work should be done within eight weeks of the start date, weather permitting.
However, Jones found himself under scrutiny as the board pressed him for details regarding a proposed compensatory time policy for employees. Comp time is time off given to employees who work beyond their scheduled hours in lieu of overtime pay.
The board took no action regarding the proposed comp time policy.
Jones and Prisock were both at work this morning, but if Bobo or McBrayer should change their vote, the board would have the power to override Ross'' veto with a 4-1 vote.
Reached for comment this morning, Ross said the selectmen''s decision to fire Jones and Prisock had no merit.
"The veto speaks for itself. I am satisfied, not just satisfied, I am pleased with the performance of Mr. Prisock and Mr. Jones. My primary concern is that the operations of the city are performed competently and honestly," said Ross.
He added that no political body in the world agrees all the time and that West Point can make progress even with such discord amongst city government.
In other business the board:
The board accepted Golden Triangle Planning and Development District Project Analyst Phylis Benson''s offer to seek a $250,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant to offset the costs of an extensive sewer extension project which will offer service to several areas annexed into the city years ago. Spradling said the city could request up to $3.2 million in loans for the project, but that it likely would not cost that much.
However, he suggested the city begin raising sewer service rates gradually by up to $12 to cover costs of the sewer expansion and a potential $7 million plan to bring the former Sara Lee Foods plant waste water treatment plant, which the city purchased, up to current Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality standards.