It may have been chilly in the building, but the city council got heated in the discussion to repair the heating and cooling system within the police department.
Police Chief Jeff Curtis presented a number of quotes to repair the heating and cooling system to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting Monday. What is normally routine business soon escalated into an argument among some board members.
Sealed bids were not necessary for the repairs since the cost did not exceed $50,000. Quotes were given to Interim City Clerk Mario Edwards to repair the seven units within the police department and municipal court building.
Those quotes sparked a heated discussion, beginning with Mayor Diane Delaware.
“If they don’t have to be sealed (bids), why is he opening them,” Delaware asked, referring to Edwards.
Sarah O’Reilly-Evans, board attorney, said Edwards was simply opening the envelopes which held the quotes.
O’Reilly-Evans asked that Curtis explain to the board what happened to the heating and cooling system within the city building.
“During the hot summer months, the air conditioners started...” Curtis began.
“I am aware,” Delaware interrupted. “I always find these things very interesting, but go ahead...move forward.”
“In the process of the air conditioning being repaired, we were advised by the service personnel that the heat sensor pumps were broke,” Curtis said. “It was dumping carbon monoxide into this building.”
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is toxic to humans.
“The service personnel refused to turn the heat back on until we rectified the problem,” Curtis said. “I started working with the city clerk to get this expediated as soon as we could before winter got here.”
Curtis said there was a line item in the budget that could have been used to handle the issue. But that line item “had been removed.”
“We don’t have a line item in the budget to cover any of this,” Delaware said. “I mean, you all have decided what we are doing. What are we doing?”
O-Reilly-Evans said the board needs to first acknowledge receiving the quotes for repairs.
After acknowledging the quotes, Delaware moved onto the next items on the city council’s agenda.
“But we didn’t get done with the other item,” Alderman Aubry Brent Jr. said.
“We don’t have any money for it so we are gonna have to come back and deal with it,” Delaware replied.
“I just wanted to remind you that we are without heat in this building...” Curtis added.
“You gotta find the money,” Delaware said. “We can do it next week. Where are you gonna get the money from?”
Alderman Dr. Jack Varner said the $333,000 from the Public Service Commission could cover the necessary repairs.
“That money came after the budget,” he said. “That money was not figured in this year’s budget. That makes $333,000 not chartered in the budget. The mayor should have known that.”
“I do know that,” Delaware replied. “That has nothing to do with what we are talking about. We have already allocated some of that money so we could pay our bills.”
O’Reilly-Evans said the city used that money to pay the bill for the recent resurfacing project until the Mississippi Department of Transportation paid the city back.
“I acknowledged the receiving of these items, and I respected that as presiding officer,” Delaware said. “There was no conversation on if we would do anything else so we moved onto the next item.”
Brent said his problem is that Delaware interrupts everyone.
“When I try to get an understanding you are constantly interrupting,” he said. “Therefore, I can’t process. Let people finish what they have to say.”
“I wasn’t interrupting,” Delaware replied. “You were interrupting me. I am trying to move on. What do you want to do?”
“I want people to be able to finish their sentences,” Brent said.
Varner attempted to question how many heating and cooling systems were in need of repair.
“I am confused about what is happening here,,,” Delaware interjected.
“Excuse me,” Varner replied. “Let me finish.”
Curtis said there are seven units within the building that need repairs.
“We were able to get by until the weather got bearable with heat,” Curtis said. “Now that we are with the cold part of the year, we have to address it.”
The board asked that Curtis review the quotes and return with a recommendation.