Tensions rise between town council members on Cloverdale Utility Board
CLOVERDALE -- Tension was high at this month's Cloverdale Utility Board meeting Monday night. Already over budget with what seems like no way out, expenses just keep adding up.
The meeting started with a 10-minute public hearing, which passed the appropriation resolution, or budget, for next year that includes a 9.22 percent increase.
"We know our budget is high but we know some things will be cut," Cloverdale Clerk-Treasurer Cathleen Monaco said.
As the budget was passed, the utility board updated the public that the standpipe project is currently under way. Workers will begin efforts on the inside the tower, and it is expected to be finished by Oct. 28.
The most talked about item of the night was figuring out how to pay for Monaco's attorney, Jon Hughes. After only budgeting $4,000, his first bill has nearly used all of the budgeted money.
"She's entitled to an attorney and entitled to those legal fees," said Hughes.
As the board began to wonder, just why Hughes had to be present at each meeting, tensions grew. From August to December Hughes budgeted a total of $12,500.
"I'm not opposed to Cathleen having an attorney, we're just way over budget already," utility board Vice President Dennis Padgett said.
When the option of tabling the item came up, which would deny the clerk-treasurer her right to an attorney, Monaco finally reached her limit. As utility board President Cathy Tipton began questioning just what all the fees were for, Monaco began firing back at Tipton's every word.
"I'm entitled to an attorney, so I want one," explained Monaco.
The item was eventually tabled until the October meeting but the disagreement did not stop there.
As the board requested that Monaco provide an update on the minutes, which they have not received since last November, the room exploded.
"I told you, you'll get them when I have the time," Monaco said.
As Monaco tried to explain that her workload is too heavy, tension only grew between Tipton and Monaco.
"This is precisely why she needs an attorney," explained Hughes. "Every meeting I've been at her character seems to get attacked."
Utility board member Don Sublett attempted to diffuse the situation by suggesting volunteer services to help Monaco, but his suggestion remained unnoticed.
"You get so far behind then someone asks a question and we have no way to reference anything," said Padgett. "How do you run a town when you can't see what's going on?"
As Padgett suggested that he will walk out of next month's meeting if he is no presented with an update on the minutes, Monaco spoke up by firing back at Padgett, suggesting that he should be used to having no minutes from previous years.
The issue remains unresolved but in an effort to lighten Monaco's workload Tipton will now be creating all agendas for upcoming meetings. Also, Sublett will be contacting local schools in an attempt to find volunteers to help with updating the minutes.
The final order of business to be discussed was the grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The grant would go toward helping fix and maintain the Doe Creek lift station. The town council was forced to decide during the meeting whether to take the $47,200 needed for the grant out of the general fund or lose the grant.
"We haven't been very successful in getting grants that are really useful," town attorney Alan Yackey said. "If you don't try, you don't have a chance"
The board eventually decided it was best if it passed the motion to take the matching funds for the grant out of the general fund in order to fix the lift station. If they had not come to this decision and decided to forego the grant, the risk would be having to pay more than $660,000 to fix it themselves.
The next Cloverdale Utility Board meeting will be Monday, Oct. 24.