By CONNIE ESHThe Wilson Post
Ward 3 Lebanon City Councilor William Farmer discovered some “irregularities” about the Lebanon Senior Citizens Center this week, and presented the information to Lebanon City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday night.
The irregularities led Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath to suggest waiting to approve funding for the center until its legal status and its relationship to city government can be confirmed.
But Mayor Philip Craighead said he thought the funding should be a separate issue, and affirmed his commitment to fund the center.
Farmer’s investigation came after Wallace Alsup, director of the center, allegedly made statements to the seniors about Farmer which Farmer told councilors were lies and demanded that Alsup “cease and desist from further statements.”
The alleged statements claimed that Farmer wanted to cut all funding for the center and charge the seniors for the program. Farmer said he supported the senior citizens’ needs, and in fact, he is a senior himself. He added he had suggested looking at possible cuts in that budget as part of a general cost reduction for the entire city.
He also pointed out that charging $1 per person per event for use of the center would bring in approximately $67,000 in additional funds per year.
“And the board could waive the fee for any senior who could not afford to pay,” he said.
He challenged Alsup to “stay home from all those trips and tend to your business.”
Farmer said the center, which is a “501 (c) 3” non-profit organization with a board of directors calling the shots, including setting Alsup’s salary at $60,000 per year, is being treated as if it were a department of the city.
One example of this is that City Attorney Andy Wright files the agency’s required “990” reports with the Internal Revenue Service. Those reports are required every year to maintain non-profit status and Wright said he has only been able to locate two years’ returns.
Employees at the center receive insurance and retirement benefits paid by the city and the center’s finances are run through a city account, but the city does not control the agency’s budget, Farmer said.
Wright said since the matter has come to his attention, he’s been checking and is concerned that the employees’ workers’ compensation and insurance may not be valid since there doesn’t appear to be a waiver requiring the city’s insurance carriers to include the center employees.
In addition to suggesting that the center’s funding allocation be postponed, Warmath expressed her concern that the city may be liable for problems with the agency’s non-profit status and asked Wright to check the entire situation, including contacting insurance carriers to see what is and is not covered.
In regular business, the council approved on second reading an ordinance allowing Hearthside at Castle Heights, a senior citizens’ home, to apply a portion of its payment in lieu of sidewalks to help pay for additional widening of Castle Heights Avenue in front of its property.
The vote was 5-1, with Farmer opposed on the grounds that he doesn’t want to approve exceptions to the city’s sidewalk policy.
The project will make the three-lane section of the street continuous with no interruption from where it starts just past City Hall to the light at Baddour Parkway.
The payment-in-lieu would have been $44,650, said Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Baines, who recommended the credit. Hearthside will be credited with $22,000 for the street work. Baines explained to the council that in response to the city’s request, Hearthside has agreed to widen the street for about 200 feet beyond what is required for the turning lane to its property.
Warmath also warned Baines not to bring any more sidewalk issues before the council until members are able to revise the regulations to give more definitive guidance as to who is required to build sidewalks and who is not.
She said the council has been deciding on an individual basis to waive sidewalks, to apply in-lieu money to other projects, and to variously change the rules about sidewalks.
Council also accepted a bid to mow the areas around City Hall, the senior center, the Jimmy Floyd Family Center, Don Fox Community Park, the cemeteries and various codes violation properties.
In other action, the council approved a resolution to support a Fasttrack Infrastructure application for Nissan Parts Distribution Center in the Couchville Pike Industrial Complex.
Council also passed three other ordinances on first reading. One would set procedures to allow a reduction in force for the city. The second would set court costs for the city court. The third would increase fees at the Jimmy Floyd Family Center for annual membership by $20 for Lebanon residents and $45 for non-residents.
Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.