Time change causes heated argument


A 30-minute meeting time change sparked a heated argument, which quickly turned personal, among Winfield City Council members at the Monday, Sept. 17, council meeting

WINFIELD - Winfield City Council members Anthony Hallmark, Chris Ballard, Jimmy Hayes and Rusty Barnes clashed in a fierce argument over the council meeting time change that rescheduled future meetings to take place at 5:30 p.m. instead of 5:00.
At the previous meeting, the council voted to change the time for the Monday, Sept. 17, meeting to 5:30, along with future meetings, although some council members voiced that they were unaware they were agreeing to change the time of future meetings as well.
The thirty-minute difference proved to be grounds for an extremely heated exchange between the councilors.
The argument began after Ballard told the council that moving the meeting times to 5:30 would interfere with his work schedule.
“I’ve already adjusted my schedule an hour and a half for work to make it to those meetings,” said Ballard.
“Hell, I saw you in town today before 5. (Barnes and I) don’t get off until 5. We can’t be here at 5,” Hallmark replied.
“You’ve been here at 5 for two years,” Hayes chimed in.
Hallmark and Barnes said that, because of their work schedules with the Northwest Alabama Gas District, they could not attend council meetings at 5.
“I thought we discussed this at the last meeting. What’s the problem?” said Hallmark.
Ballard said that, because he works nights, when council meetings run long, he has been late for work. According to Ballard, the additional 30-minute delay would cause him to be late to work regularly or be forced to leave meetings early.
“Sounds like you might want to resign,” said Barnes.
“That’s exactly right,” Hallmark said.
Barnes and Hallmark both told the council that Hallmark was recently reassigned to cover the same area for the gas company as Barnes does. According to them, this change left them with no co-workers to cover for them so that they could get to the meetings on-time.
“Are you telling me that only three people work for Alabama Gas (NWAGD)?” Ballard rebutted.
“I guess we should just meet on Sundays after church,” said Hallmark. “I’m going to be honest, the gas company is more important to me than this city council. I can promise you that, because that’s my livelihood. This $460 a month ain’t covering it.”
Ballard suggested meeting at other times during the day, including early morning or lunch-time meetings.
Hallmark said that the meeting times had been at 6 p.m. when he decided to run for the position.
“If the meetings had been advertised to be at 5, I wouldn’t have run. I don’t get off in time,” said Hallmark.
“And how many meetings have you missed?” Hayes challenged.
Hallmark said that when the meetings were scheduled at 5, he and other council members had agreed to the change in order to help Ballard with his work situation.
“But now we need some help,” said Hallmark.
Hayes hinted that he did not believe that Hallmark and Barnes work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday.
This prompted a large reaction from Hallmark, who heatedly told Hayes to mind his own business.
“You ain’t nothing to me and I don’t have to explain nothing to you,” said Hallmark. “You ain’t my boss and I could care less what you think about me.”
“You don’t know what we do,” Barnes added to Hayes.
“Vote however you want to vote, but I’ll tell you right now, Mr. Mayor, I won’t be here at 5,” said Hallmark.
Hayes immediately made a motion to change the time of the meetings back to 5, with Ballard becoming a quick second to the motion.
Councilman Tim Garrison spoke up attempting to make peace, stating, “I voted last time to move it to 5:30 to try and help everyone. I’m not changing my vote.”
During the discussion, the mayor did not engage in the argument, but instead appeared to be texting.
Nearing the end of the debate, mayor Randy Price said he had been messaging NWAGD General Manager Heath Reed, to ask if both Barnes and Hallmark would be allowed to leave at 4:30 p.m. two nights per month in order to make it to the council meeting on time. Price informed them that Reed had approved the early leave for city council days.
“That’s fine. I’m still not changing my vote,” said Barnes.

The mayor stated that he had not asked for a vote, but was hoping to resolve the issue another way in order to accommodate all of the councilmen.
“I ain’t changing nothing. Don’t look at me because I’m not changing squat,” said Barnes.
“So you’re not going to change your vote even though your boss said you can get off early?” Hayes asked Barnes.
“It’s none of your business what I do,” said Barnes.
“So you’re just doing it to be contrary,” said Hayes.
“Yeah, I took after you,” Barnes retorted.
Winfield City Attorney Todd Atkinson said that there was no need to vote on the time change because the time had been changed at the previous meeting for all future meetings.
This change, according to Atkinson, means that all future meetings would take place at 5:30, unless the council voted on another resolution changing the time.
No middle ground was reached on the time issue and no vote was taken to alter the meeting time.
In other business, the council:
• Awarded the fuel bid to Midstates Petroleum Company to supply petroleum products for city vehicles at .093 per gallon over rack price. Rack price includes the cost of the fuel, transportation and some other expenses.
Midstates supplies fuel to Mac’s Minit Mart and Chevron on Highway 129.
• Scheduled a work-session to discuss the 2019 budget on Thursday, Sept. 27, at 5:15.
• Voted to purchase a lawn mower for the street department. According to street  superintendent Rob Bolton, one of the city’s mowers was difficult to steer and he voiced concern that the mower could go out before the upcoming Mule Day.

The street department would supply $4,000 of the purchase money for the mower, while the city supplies $4,800.

WINFIELD - Winfield City Council members Anthony Hallmark, Chris Ballard, Jimmy Hayes and Rusty Barnes clashed in a fierce argument over the council meeting time change that rescheduled future meetings to take place at 5:30 p.m. instead of 5:00.
At the previous meeting, the council voted to change the time for the Monday, Sept. 17, meeting to 5:30, along with future meetings, although some council members voiced that they were unaware they were agreeing to change the time of future meetings as well.

 


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