The issue was brought back to the table by council member Clyde Nix, who presented the minutes of meetings from past administrations when Edwards was first appointed fire chief in 1999. Since then, the pay rate had been consistently $400 a month until an across-the-board raise last year.
“Chris Edwards is the most qualified person I know in Dora to be the fire chief,” Nix said. “His heart is in it, he’s dedicated and he’s a good person. I think he should be retained at the same salary.”
Nix also praised Edwards and the fire department for coming to assist residents at all hours of the night and questioned whether anyone else in the room would do that.
“We need to set all this pettiness aside,” Nix continued. “The city had business that needs to be taken care of.”
Nix made a motion to continue Edwards at the previous rate, which is approximately $432 a month.
Council member Richard Lovelady reiterated his position from the last council meeting that his issue was with the handling of the appointment, not with Edwards or the salary. In previous administrations, the council has had the authority to appoint the fire chief by popular vote. The current council appointed Edwards for a second 90-day temporary term one meeting prior to Mayor Randy Stephens appointing him permanently at the last meeting.
“I don’t have any trouble with the amount,” Lovelady said. He also asked that the city request an opinion from the state’s attorney general on who actually has appointing authority — the mayor or the council.
“I have no problem with Chris Edwards as fire chief. He has done a wonderful job,” council member Betty Sanders said. “I have a problem with Chris Edwards from the past administration, that’s the only problem I have with Chris Edwards.”
Council member Hezikiah Walker also complimented Edwards as a firefighter but questioned his leadership ability based on issues he said arose during Edwards’ tenure as mayor.
The council then moved to executive session, although no reason was given for the executive session during the motion, as required by state law.
Executive sessions in Alabama are allowed only for clearly defined, specified reasons. One of those reasons is to discuss the good name and character of certain employees, however, the law also states that “except as provided elsewhere in this section, discussions of the job performance of specific public officials or specific public employees may not be discussed in executive session if the person is an elected or appointed public official... Except as provided elsewhere in this section, the salary, compensation and job benefits of specific public officials or specific public employees may not be discussed in executive session.”
Upon return, Stephens, Thomas, Busby, Lovelady, Nix and Sanders voted in favor of setting the salary at the previous rate, while George Sides Jr. and Walker voted against.
In other business:
•The council discussed the repair on a police car that was damaged by a fleeing suspect in late December. Previously, council members had questioned the value of the car vs. the cost of repairing the Impala. With original estimates of approximately $6,000 and an estimated vehicle value of $10,000, Sides suggested pocketing the money for the repairs and scrapping the car.
At the last council meeting, Stephens presented the council with the insurance adjuster’s estimate of $3,527. Stephens said that David Ross, the owner of a local body shop, had agreed to do the repairs for the insurance estimate.
“After Ross started working on it, he negotiated with the adjuster after he found other damage that was not seen at the time the adjuster first visited,” Stephens said Tuesday.
He added that there was no way to know how much damage there was until Ross began work.
“Any time you have a wrecked vehicle, the proper procedure is to send the car to the shop and let them tear the car down and then get an estimate,” Sides said. Sides also said that the newly-discovered damage should have been brought back to the council.
The final bill for the car will be $6,610.
“I can’t believe we’re putting over $6,000 into a $10,000 car,” Sides said.
Stephens countered that the city was only responsible for the $500 deductible on the repairs and that the repairs have now been completed.
•The council approved an upgrade to the copier for city hall and the printer for the police department. The existing lease on the equipment had expired. The new lease will cost approximately $6 more per month, but will allow employees more functionality and quality from a newer machine.
•Stephens announced the city’s new park director, Jonathan Stewart. Stewart was chosen by the newly-created park board.
•The council approved payment for an evidence technician training course for Officer Jared Hall.
Sides made a motion to table the matter until Hall completed a new employee probationary period, which will be ten days from the meeting date. That motion failed.
A second motion was made by Lovelady to approve the class, provided Hall continues his employment with the city for at least six months following the completion of the training or repay the $200 tuition cost. Busby, Nix, Stephens, Lovelady, Thomas and Hezikiah Walker voted in favor. Sanders abstained and Sides voted against the motion.
•The council also approved paying to send police officer Don Willis to an 80-hour police academy refresher course. The course is required for any officer whose Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training certification has lapsed.
According to Stephens, Willis’ certification has been expired for “a while.”
APOST certification is required for all officers in the state of Alabama.
Sides made the motion to pay for the training, citing Willis’ years of dedication to the city. Only Busby and Stephens voted against the motion.
Willis and his attorney appeared at the council meeting.