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Lanett considers hiring city administrator

LANETT — Monday was Lanett’s first city council meeting following Mayor Kyle McCoy’s Feb. 16 arrest on ethics charges, and the council and mayor discussed what it might mean for the city moving forward.

Mayor Pro Tem Tony Malone said the city should consider hiring a city administrator.

“This person must see that city services such as gas, lights and water run effectively,” Malone said. “This person would be of big help to the mayor.”

McCoy said there’s a difference between having a city manager and city administrator. He said that Chambers County had chosen to go with an administrator rather than a manager several years ago and that it had worked out well.

“There are laws that say what you can do if you are a city with less than 12,000 people,” McCoy said. “We will need to see what we can do legally before we can act on this. We need to avoid any confusion with what a city administrator can do compared to a city manager.”

City Attorney Stanley Gray said he would research it.

“It may be necessary for the city to abolish the city manager position in favor of an administrator,” he said, noting that Lanett has had city managers in the past.

McCoy appointed council members Thomas and Tifton Dobbs to speak to the city’s human resource officer, Donna Thompson, to determine what the city needed to do in a search for a city administrator.

“We need to get the ball rolling on this,” Malone said.

McCoy also publicly addressed the arrest and charges for the first time since the date of his arrest. On Feb. 16, he released a statement denying any wrongdoing.

“It’s an embarrassing time for me and the city,” McCoy said. “I want to thank Tony Malone for his comments, and I want to thank everyone who has contacted me and offered the support they have.”

Malone said it’s imperative for the city to continue moving forward with the progress started under McCoy.

“We owe that to him,” he said. “We have several ongoing major projects, and we can’t let anything stop this city from moving forward with this progress.”

McCoy was indicted on three charges — using his official position or office to allow a dependent and/or family member to access and use a 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe owned by the city of Lanett without a lawful purpose; using his official position or office to obtain extensions and/or waivers of City of Lanett utility charges involving an amount equal to or a portion of $43,302.32 in U.S. currency; and using his official position or office to obtain personal purchases made on a City of Lanett account valued at an amount equal to or a portion of $643.84 in U.S. currency and/or labor of a personal nature by City of Lanett employees, which was paid for with overtime wages.

Council Member Angelia Thomas said the city was going through some challenging times right now and that all elected officials had a responsibility to continue serving with dignity and integrity.

“We will continue to beautify our city and to make progress toward a better Lanett,” she said. “Let us continue to pray for this city. God’s will be done.”

The mayor added that his primary goal right now was to have a budget for fiscal year 2021-22 ready for adoption before Oct. 1.

“We don’t need to wait until after Oct. 1, and then have to go back and put everything back into it,” he said.

In other discussion, there was quite a bit of talk regarding recreation in the city. Dobbs said he’d noticed over the weekend that the greenspace part of city park must have had up to 60 people on it either playing or watching soccer.

“Is the park open now?” he asked.

McCoy said the grassy areas were open to the public but that the playground equipment remained closed.

“We know that the virus is still with us,” Malone said. “But, it’s not good to be cooped up in the house all day long. That’s not good for anyone’s mental state, but we must be safe in what we do.”

Malone said that recreation is what city leaders and citizens make it.

“We want to provide recreation for all ages – young and old – but we can’t if we don’t have your participation. Spring and summer are fast approaching. We need input from the citizens on what we can offer. The James A. Hardy gym will be opening back up. We will be following state and CDC guidelines while in the gym. In addition to the indoor sports like summer basketball and volleyball, I think we should look at offering sports like baseball, kickball and track and field. Maybe our kids should be learning how to hit a golf ball. Please pass on your thoughts to our recreation staff. Feel free to call or email them with your suggestions.”

Thomas asked if present city ordinances permitted city residents to have backyard chickens and other livestock. McCoy joked that chickens are most definitely in the city.

“There’s a rooster near my house that wakes me up every morning,” he said.

Thomas said she would like for the city to have some kind of spring cleanup in April.

“It’s especially needed on Kroger block,” she said. “We need to be making a good impression on people who are driving through our city. We need to be attracting new businesses and homeowners. We need to be doing a little better on this. We do not need to have a cluttered look.”

Thomas added that people do not need to leave their trash can in front of their house all week. McCoy said there’s a city ordinance stating that it can be left there the day of pickup but must be moved to the back yard by the next day.

Thomas asked if the gas line work had been completed on South 2nd Avenue in the Lanett mill village. Planning and Development Director Tony Chandler told her a new gas line was being put in the ground along North 6th Avenue right now. He added that final work would be completed on South 2nd later this year and that the street would be paved.

“Everything will be finished by spring,” he said.

Council Member Charles Looser asked about a water pressure problem in the Brookwood neighborhood.

“That problem has been fixed,” Chandler said. “We had to put in about 430 feet of new water line.”

Looser said he was really proud of the Lanett High basketball teams. Both the boys and girls teams have advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals.

“It’s rare to have both teams advance that far,” he said. “God bless them.”

The mayor and council seconded that remark.

As council members arrived at city hall just before the 6 p.m. Monday meeting, Chief Johnny Wood had a new police cruiser on display for them. It’s a 2021 Ford Interceptor SUV, and the Lanett Police Department recently received two of them. The two vehicles cost approximately $87,000, but thanks to a grant the city will be getting back $48,000. That means each new car cost the city less than $20,000 each.

“It’s a great bargain,” Chief Wood said.

The two new cars were recently outfitted by All Star Graphics.

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