The Smackover City Council met on Monday, where members passed the annual property tax and discussed several items of old business, including a disagreement Mayor Bobby Neal had with a resident of the city earlier this year.
In new business, the council unanimously passed its annual 5 mill property tax. The tax rate is unchanged from 2020.
Also in new business, Neal gave a brief overview of a meeting of the city's Finance Committee, which met before the regular council meeting.
"We just had a Finance Committee meeting and agreed to notify anyone that is going to do anything downtown has to clear it with city hall so we know what's going on," Neal said.
The Finance Committee is made up of council members Philip Childers, Mark Corley and Chris Long.
In old business, the council first discussed a request by Phoenix Group, an addiction rehabilitation business based in Ohio, to rent the old city hall property at 201 E. 7th St. The city government is currently based at 807 Broadway Street.
The request was initially discussed and tabled during the council's August meeting.
On Monday, Smackover Mayor Bobby Neal provided council members with a service proposal from Phoenix Group. Neal asked council members to look at the proposal and prepare to decide in October whether to accept or decline it.
According to minutes from the August meeting, Phoenix Group is an outpatient rehabilitation facility which will be "staffed 24/7."
Also in old business, Neal gave council members an update on ongoing work by Suddenlink to begin operations cable and internet service in Smackover and the city's efforts to inform the company of local regulations.
According to minutes from the August council meeting, Neal informed the council that Suddenlink "is coming into town" and "are currently putting guidewires on Entergy power poles."
The August minutes go on to state that "Neal pulled an ordinance from past cablevision contracts to make sure they agree with our standing contract."
Neal offered a brief update during this month's meeting.
"We sent them a copy of our regular ordinance and haven't heard back. We'll wait until we get back with them on that; it may be next month that we start working with them on that," Neal said.
According to minutes from the council's August meeting, the council unanimously approved a 3% pay increase for Smackover Police officers following a recommendation by Neal.
Also during that meeting, the council agreed without a motion to allow Kay Fogle Smith and Paul Smith, representatives of nonprofit Christmasville, to set up an "indoor holiday display... at no cost but with donations accepted" in the old city hall building from Thanksgiving until Christmas.
The minutes state that the organization will begin setting up the display in October.
Police report records were also available as part of the August minutes.
According to those records, the SPD took 104 calls in August; took eight misdemeanor and three felony incident reports along with two accident reports; made zero misdemeanor and three felony arrests; completed 991 security checks; made 48 traffic stops with nine tickets and 39 warnings issued; responded to five alarms; and completed 14 assists and one escort.
Council member Paul Givens spoke during council comments portion of the meeting to express dissatisfaction with a disagreement Neal recently had with a local resident in City Hall. The resident and her husband attended the August council meeting and addressed the argument at that time, though specific details were not available in the August minutes.
The argument allegedly occurred when the resident entered Smackover City Hall to visit the revenue office a few minutes after closing time after receiving permission to do so from revenue office personnel.
"I think the disagreement with that young lady was uncalled for... and could have been handled better. You're the face of the city and if you got in an argument with her and used profanity I think it was uncalled for," Givens said.
Neal replied that he "said 'damn' one time but was not talking to [the resident.]"
Givens suggested Neal could apologize to the resident.
"I'll apologize for what I said to her, but she needs to come up here and apologize to me for what she said to me. It works two ways," Neal said.
"You are the mayor and the face of the city," Givens responded. "You don't know how many times I've defended you. I'm one of your staunchest backers."
"I appreciate that, but we have people going to you for stuff they need to be coming up here with, too, and they don't need to be doing that," Neal said.
"They come to me because they feel comfortable talking to me," Givens said.
Council member Phyllis Scott expressed agreement with Givens regarding the situation.
"I kind of agree with [Givens]; I think tempers got a little heated and it should have been handled differently," Scott said.