DEPORT — City Council’s meeting Monday night quickly became a forum for residents to voice discontent, and conflict between council members became evident during budget talks.
The meeting opened with a public forum, where residents such as Dustin May referenced ongoing issues between community members and the council. May said his wife worked for the city, and he was seeing firsthand the stress she was exposed to, which was contributing to her poor health. Her job experience bordered on a “hostile work environment,” he said.
“Each and every day she brings home the stress, anxiety and worry that seems to accompany her position at the City of Deport,” he said. “It isn’t the stress of her job or the citizens that worry her. It is the officials and the things that go on that stress her out.”
May said he was “sick of the childish games that the mayor and some of the council members play at the citizens’ expense.”
“It is time that this great city of Deport be ran with the professionalism and integrity that it has deserved to be ran with for many years,” May said. Several audience members applauded him.
Other residents in the public forum named issues such as “backstabbing” and personal drama aired on Facebook, calling out some councilors by name. The council attempted to regulate the forum, asking only those who previously signed up to comment to take the floor.
The board also addressed the state of the community center, which has extensive water damage and mold and is in need of costly repairs, including internal restoration and a new slanted roof with metal awning that would cost around $40,000. The building, technically owned by the city, is primarily used by the organization Project Deport for fundraisers and community events, Project Deport board member Crystal Folse previously said.
Resident and Project Deport board member Jerome Chapman asked if the city was intending to make the repairs the building “desperately” needed, or if it could sell the building to Project Deport since the organization was paying bills on the building. Mayor John Mark Francis said the city would need to use a bid system if it was to sell the property, citing legal and real estate complexities that made Chapman visibly frustrated.
“If you don’t fix it, it continues to deteriorate, just like this City Council,” Chapman said, sitting back down in the audience. Several audience members applauded, again.
In addition to public forum, City Council announced the tax rate would remain the same as last year at 78 cents per $100 valuation. Councilors also gave an update on their budget, saying they were working hard to ensure all numbers were accurate and funds were accounted for in workshop sessions.
While there was a budget workshop listed on the agenda, the council chose to table it until Thursday amidst discontent from the audience after Francis and Councilor Marilyn Glover began to leave the council table early. Councilor Rebecca Crawford became upset, raising her voice and saying both of them were leaving early after “railroading” the meeting. The audience also joined in, voicing comments freely and arguing with councilors about everything from the budget to personal conflicts.
The council entertained a motion to adjourn, tabling the budget workshop until 8 p.m. Thursday.