By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Frustration, appreciation, disgust, satisfaction, and concerns were just a few of the emotions experienced at the City Council meeting dedicated to distributions of the Harman Fund. Prior to the presentation of applications of request, the crowded room recited The Pledge of Allegiance followed by prayer by County Commission President Lowell Moore.
Moore was present to discuss his letter requesting assistance in funding the thirty percent of costs not covered by FEMA when the dike was repaired. The purpose of this thirty percent not covered is due to previous damage that was present before the natural disaster of March 3 through March 14, 2015. A document from FEMA labeled as Damage Description and Scope of Work went on to state, “Applicant acknowledge there was prior damage to the facility before this disaster event, but had not been able to make any repairs to the diversion dike. The City of Parsons had an estimate prepared and advised that repairs for damages due to March 3 through March 14, 2015 event should reflect a deduction of $300,000 for prior damages from the $807,500 relating to the August 2014.” The total repair, minus the 30%, was just over $283,000 and to date, reimbursements amount to $132,500. The 30% is non-appealable and Moore fears if he attempts to do so, they will freeze the remaining funds still owed to the Commission. Moore continued to break down the costs and the status of this process and his intentions is for the 30% that FEMA is not covering to be equally split between the Tucker County Commission and the Parsons City Council, which totals $73,991.10, each party being responsible for $36,995.55.
Before commending the main attraction for the evening, Parsons City Mayor Dorothy Judy commented, “We’re all fighting for our cause, and I totally understand that your cause is the most important to you, I understand that. But it sounds like there’s going to be some cuts so please, let’s be nice to each other, get through this as quickly and as painless as we can.” City Administrator and Treasurer Jason Myers noted the total amount to be distributed was $908,000, unfortunately being $72,000 less than last year. “Harman fund was doing very good last year until the last quarter and it took a nose dive,” he stated. The potential was over $1,000,000. The total amounts requested per application was $1,148,267 equal $247,267 over budget. Myers stated last year’s distribution was their highest since the beginning of this process.
The way this fund works is the principal is never touched. The amount invested was initially around $12 million. Each year, the Harman Fund is allocated 5% of the interest accrued to distribute as the Parsons City Council feels suitable to the four “heirs”: City Cemetery, Five Rivers Library, Parks and Recreation, and the Benefit of the City of Parsons. 1% of the interest accrued goes back to the financial institution for management of the account, and 4% goes back to the principal. What began as $12 million has since accumulated to approximately $19 million in principal.
Myers presented in the stead of David Greenlief Sr. for the Parsons Cemetery Committee, requesting $58,000. These funds are used to maintain the Parsons City Cemetery, including salaries and wages, benefits, insurance, maintenance and repairs.
Kennetha Greenlief prepared the application submitted for the Parsons Parks and Recreation Commission that was presented by Councilman Tim Auvil. The total requested from the Harman fund totaled $207,901. The projected operating expenses consisted of payroll and benefits, utilities, capital outlay for buildings and equipment, and insurance to name a few. Some of the desires for the PPRC that were included in the proposed amount included construction of a basketball court at mill race park, Wellness 24 building to be repainted, vinyl dance floor covering, to replace baseball field fencing at River City park as well as the materials for the baseball field drainage project. Auvil expressed concern that if Parks and Rec we’re allocated any less than $190,000 there would potentially need to be employee’s laid off.
Presenting on behalf of Five Rivers Public Library was Becky Moore in place of Board President Dennis Filler. The total funds requested was $140,000, allotting $108,600 for wages, benefits, insurance, and basic library services with the remaining $31,400 for materials, books, DVD’s, e-books, and computers and programming. Moore explained the extreme necessity for internet reconfigurations to protect kids and others from inappropriate material. The funds needed for this project is approximately $7,000 which is included in the $31,400 amount. She added the library needs approximately $12,000 per month to operate. Councilman David Greenlief, Sr. questioned the amount of employees and their benefits. Nancy Moore explained there are three full time employees who receive benefits and one part time worker that does not. Greenlief continued, “Have we been able to extend the library’s hours any as a result of the staff that you do have to allow any evenings available for the addition of the students that may not have electronic facilities at home?” N. Moore responded, “We are open on Saturday morning and we’ve been open on Monday evenings for the last nine years, and some Monday evenings are very slow.” Greenlief continued, “As I look at this right now though, you do have, if the sky would fall, well you actually have enough cash on hand for your situation to operate for approximately a year, is that correct?” B. Moore answered, “We have management reserves for six months of $72,000,” to which they explained is mandated by the bi-laws. N. Moore elaborated their Harman Fund from last year is going to be short for payroll in a couple months, where a withdrawal will have to be made from the general fund to cover that expense. Judy added, “I will say they’ve lost a lot of their funding because of the Harman Fund.” “If it had not been for County Commission we would not meet our state grant in aid, so we would lose $20,000 if it wasn’t for County Commission,” she explained.
The final application review was that of the Benefit of the Citizens of Parsons Commission, presented by Councilman Bruce Kolsun. The total amount requested by the BCP amounted to $742,366. A few examples of the breakdown of these expenses are $100,000 towards the Parsons Sewer Extension Project, $50,000 towards street paving, $86,000 towards City Police salaries, $163,500 for the purchase of the Parsons Industrial Park, $73,000 to the Mill Race slough Project, $40,000 for the Rainy Day Fund, $10,000 towards the request of Commissioner Moore for the diversion wall repairs, $30,000 for PRO, $50,000 to the new Mill Race Park entrance, and $25,000 for the Parsons Community Center Renovations. There were proposed projects that were scratched from their agenda, such as a basketball court at Mill Race Park and a roof over the ice skating rink. Of these itemized projects, several were noted to be unchanged amongst the council members’ proposals. When asked why that was so, it was informed that those monies we’re already allocated to these projects and could not be altered. For example, the industrial park is to be purchased for $163,500, so that could price could not be changed. However, the money for the purchase of the project was not actually secured until this meeting though an agreement had already been reached. Another example is the Mill Race Slough Project. This project has already been underway for some time and the money needed to continue to completion is $50,000 non-negotiable.
Once all of the proposals had been made, each council member went in alphabetical order making their recommendations of how to distribute the $908,000. Tension raised amongst the group s each member’s figures were put on the projector for all to see. Once each council member had a chance to go over their suggestion, the amounts were averaged using each line item proposal. The averages were as follows: Parsons City Cemetery Committee $40,142.86, Parsons Park and Recreation Commission $177,623.71, Five Rivers Public Library Board $79,000, and BCP average was $611,947.71 Each figure was then rounded and adjustments made when the council finally agreed on the following distributions for the 2019 William Mahan Harman Memorial Fund in the amount of $908,000. Parsons City Cemetery Committee was granted $40,000, 69% of funds requested, Parsons Parks and Recreation Commission $185,000, 89% of total requested, Five Rivers Public Library $79,000, 56.4% of that requested, and the BCP $604,000 totaling 81.3% of the total amount requested.
A brief recess was taken at the conclusion of the funds disbursement prior to commencing the regular City Council session. Steve Leyh from Tucker County Development Authority was present to request potential use of the water plant property for a one hundred and twenty foot tall tower for a broadband tower if the five county federal grant initiative is successful. Brief discussion commenced with all approval.
A memorandum of understanding was approved to support the Blueprint communities Project as well as a performance agreement with an up and coming artist named Kaleb Straley to perform at Mill Race Park. Quotes by SparkleWash International were presented to pressure wash and seal the veteran’s monument and the municipal building and sidewalks for a total of $9,700 with approval. In addition an estimate to replace a faulty camera at the water intake location, set up a port at the baseball field, and an additional camera to be added at the maintenance building was approved for $1,016 with all in favor. Seasonal employees will also be returning to their respective jobs with all in favor. Extensive financial statements for the past seven months were distributed by Myers and were approved.
At the present there were no correspondences and the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 2 at the Municipal Building with all public welcome to attend.