EARLINGTON, Ky. (1/15/14) — The Earlington City Council discussed new tourism opportunities and Mayor Michael Seiber responded to a letter circulated by councilman Jim Hicks recently sent to Earlington residents during its regular meeting Tuesday, Jan. 14.
Seiber addressed the allegations made in Hicks' letter that Seiber received a $6,000 pay raise a year, took the shop lights out of the old K.U. building and installed them in his own personal garage, used city employees to work on his own personal property, bought iPads for both him and the city clerk, used taxpayers money to pay for the city clerk’s education and opened a liquor store.
Seiber told the council that in April of 2008, a year after he was elected mayor, a meeting was held to approve the suggested salaries for both the mayor and city councilmen. It was agreed that the mayor should receive $576.95 per month and city council members would receive $116.50 per month. Both the mayor and council members cannot receive a pay raise without a vote, he said.
Seiber said that in his first term, half of his salary — totaling $2,203.40 — was donated to the city to be used in the benevolence fund to help residents of Earlington pay their bills.
Seiber said he received a letter from the fire marshal saying the old K.U. building had been condemned and needed to be torn down. None of his personal property came from the building and that if and when city employees were on his property, they were doing city work, he said.
Seiber also said that iPads are considered to be office equipment and the money received from coal severance funds could be used towards office equipment.
“An iPad is considered office equipment and I do not have a computer in the mayor’s office,” said Seiber. “I’m not here 40 hours a week; I took the option of purchasing an iPad to do my job as mayor.”
Seiber told the council that it is a benefit to the city by having a certified city clerk, which saves it money on its insurance provider by 3 percent off the deductible, and that Seller's continued education is necessary.
The building that is now being used as Mike’s Place had been in the hands of a real estate agent for six months, so Seiber decided to take the opportunity to do something with it, he said.
Hicks' letter also criticized Seiber for his opening a liquor store.
“Yes, the city of Earlington had a wet/dry vote, and I said that I would never open a liquor store. I probably said that, I’ll give him that one,” said Seiber. “It was a business decision, I changed my mind and I decided to open a liquor store. I’m proud of that fact. This letter was a flat out misinterpretation on Mr. Hicks' view.”
After the meeting, a member of the audience asked Seiber why he wasn’t allowing Hicks to provide the proof of his allegations when Seiber had said to the media that he wanted to see his proof. She also asked him why he felt these concerns weren’t being made a public issue.
“He has channels for that and city council is not the place to do that,” said Seiber. “Whatever he feels the need to do; if he’s suggesting criminal activity, I suggest he get law enforcement. I think this is a waste of the council’s time; a waste of my time. This council is conducted to do city business; we have issues with water sewage. To address false allegations that I already addressed is a waste of city’s time. So, we will leave it at that.”
Concerns about the water and sewage were also questioned.
“I’ve called Frankfort to see what we can do. Hopefully, they will get back to us at the end of January,” said Seiber. “That is one of my goals, to fix the infrastructure of Earlington. We are trying to find out why we have a $9,000 water bill and a $12,000 sewage bill, when sewer should be $2,500 and water $2,000 give or take. Instead, we are paying almost $20,000 due by the 20th of this month and that’s too much for this place.”
Another audience member asked why Seiber used taxpayer’s money to continue the city clerk’s education.
“When I hired Mrs. Sellers to be your city clerk, she took upon herself to be the best city clerk she could possibly be and to get certified to save the city some money, which we save on insurance premiums,” said Seiber. “We are not paying for her education; we are paying for her trip for her training. If anybody works at a job that’s being sent somewhere; the city’s attorney for instance, when we sent him to training, the city picked up that bill.”
Another concerned member asked why there was no law enforcement.
“That police department costs us $127,000 from the city’s general fund,” said Seiber. “Now, once the city’s financial situation gets corrected, that’s something we can look at replacing. But right now, the city can’t afford that. That’s the bottom line, it’s all about finances.”
As part of bringing more tourist opportunities to Hopkins County, the city of Earlington received a $100,000 grant for its Loch Mary ATV Park. The city also received $10,000 from Yamaha and $50,000 from recreational trail funds.
“What some of you don’t realize is this is sort of unique to Hopkins County,” said City Attorney Keith Cartwright. “We had a group come to Hopkins County and told us we have something unique to this county that you don’t have anywhere else — a place to ride four-wheelers. So, they told us we needed to start promoting this place as a tourism destination.”
Last month, Seiber and Sellers made a presentation to the tourism commission asking for an additional $10,000, which the commission granted to build a road that will lead to a new building at the park.
Councilman Phillip Hunt was impressed by the number of people who showed at Tuesday's council meeting.
“I wish all the citizens of Earlington would get more involved in the city government,” said Hunt after the meeting. “It’s their government, too. I just wished that they wouldn’t wait until a bad situation happens before they get involved.”
SurfKY News Reporter
Photo by Amber Averitt
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