by Calvin Ishee

Some say “through adversity comes progress”, others say that when it comes to Pass Christian’s 2021 budget, it’s “politics as usual”.  Several sources have reported that a huge argument erupted during the August 19th budget meeting, primarily between Mayor Chipper McDermott and Ward 3 Alderman Anthony Hall. The issue? Pay raises for City employees. The big issue for at least one Board of Alderman member is the lack of justification for the distribution of pay raises.

Alderman Hall stated that even though he supports the  across the board pay raise for City employees hired within the last fiscal year and a 2% pay raise for Department Heads, he does not support giving folks a pay raise without sufficient justification. He noted that raises were proposed for the Mayor, City Clerk and others, one in particular was close to an $8,000 pay raise. He added that these raises may be warranted however, no justification was given at this meeting.

During Tuesday’s Board Meeting Hall commented, “I have three choices, 1.) go along with the raises without justification, 2.) vote against it because no justification was provided or 3.) abstain”.  He also commented that “no one loves the City more than the Mayor”, however, pays raises for City workers should be fair and justified.

Although no explanation was provided, Mayor McDermott apologized to Alderman Hall. The Gazebo Gazette asked the City for a copy of the audio for this meeting, however it had been accidentally deleted. The full budget will be voted on at the next BOA meeting scheduled for Tuesday, September 15th.

Ward 2 Alderwoman Regina Charlot once again made her recurring plea for the City to consider mandating masks be worn throughout the City.  Just like the movie Groundhog Day the discussion took the same direction as all previous discussions except for one key difference. In lieu of creating an ordinance which has the same effect as a law and can carry a monetary penalty, the Board opted to consider creating a non binding resolution “asking” PC citizens to wear a mask. Ward 4 Alderman Victor Pickich once again weighed in by saying neither action was necessary since Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves keeps extending the mask requirement.

During Public Comments local business owner Mary Catherine Scriber expressed her concern that adding this requirement after the State lifts their requirement, could have a deleterious impact on local businesses. The Board directed City Attorney Malcolm Jones to craft a proposed resolution for discussion and possible approval at the next Board meeting. They will also discuss how long the resolution will last as well as how often it will be reviewed by the Board. Also at issue continues to be how and who should enforce wearing masks in the event it were to ever to become an ordinance instead of a resolution.

The Board also approved paying two employees associated with the City’s new Dispatch Center 200 hours each, for accrued comp time. To prevent this from happening in the future the City has changed the designation of one position to “exempt” which precludes the payment for comp time.

According to Police Chief Daren Freeman, they still have two vacancies remaining in the Dispatch Center, one full time and one part time. Other actions in the personnel arena included the reappointment of Gayla Schmitt and Donna Newton to the Tree Board with terms expiring April and May 2023 respectively and the resignation of Police Officer Jacob Locklar.

Tabled was the IRS recommendation that City employees driving City owned vehicles to and from work pay $3.00 per month for such usage. The IRS views this as a benefit whereby users should pay a tax for taking advantage of this privilege.  Law enforcement officers are exempt from this policy.  Alderwoman Charlot proposed accepting this recommendation to “keep the City out of trouble”.

The City’s COVID 19 Emergency Proclamation remains in place and residents are encouraged to social distance, stay away from large gatherings, wear a mask when in public and follow Executive Orders issued by Governor Reeves.