The Mayor’s Report prompted hot discussion at the end of Thursday evenings City Council meeting. The topic in dispute concerned Arcadia Metalcraft and their delinquent utility bill totaling $266,000. Mayor John Long expressed his standing on hearing remarks from citizens during the discussion, stating, “This is my meeting and I dictate who speaks.” The remark came after concerned citizen, Jerry Potterfield, tried to address the Board of Alderman. Prior to the Mayor’s Report, Potterfield had asked the Board in Open Forum about Arcadia Metalcraft and Mayor Long replied, “We aren’t going to discuss that right now, we will be discussing that subject later in the meeting,” yet Potterfield was unable to voice his concerns.
During the report, Mayor Long gave each of the alderman a purposed plan to overlook, in an effort to assist Arcadia Metalcraft in keeping their utilities on. Mayor Long explained, “I received an e-mail from Graham Furse, CEO of Arcadia. Graham included a detailed spread sheet of what he would like the City to approve.” Mayor Long discussed Furse’s proposition stating, “Graham askes for us to accept $20,000 a week through July. I personally don’t want to spread the payments out till July. I have included an 8-week plan and would like the board to consider its approval.”
Mayor Long informed the board of what will happen if the utilities were to be shut-off at Arcadia Metalcraft. He shared, “Taxes will be lost, the school will receive $60,000 of funding per year, we risk getting no payment on what is currently owed and we need to think about how this looks for the City supporting economic development.” The 8-week plan the Mayor purposed included a policy with due dates weekly, the business would still be charged late fees and if payments were not made by the specified dates, the utilities would then be shut-off. Mayor Long suggested this policy be written for all industrial businesses for the City of Monroe City to follow for any business who experiences a financial hardship.
Alderman Connie Painter questioned if Arcadia had made a payment since the last City Council meeting, two weeks prior. Administrator Jackie Pangborn said, “The City has received $40,000. They paid $20,000 each week.” Alderman Painter asked, “At the last meeting a motion was made and it failed correct? Have we been following the current policy since the last meeting, I thought we agreed at the last meeting to follow the policy.” Pangborn replied, “I did not have the utilities shut-off related to the Cold Weather Rule. I did not cut of residential, therefore I did not shut-off Arcadia’s either,” adding, “Yes, there was a disconnect day.” Attorney Michael Williams advised, “We were to follow the current policy.”
After Alderman Jeremy Moss had looked at the Mayor’s handouts, he stated, “Graham’s spread sheet he is purposing does not make sense. The rate and usage, does not measure up to the amount owed in order for him to get caught up.” Mayor Long explained Arcadia has recently got two jobs approved and possibly a third job, stating, “The die cast business is sometimes like this. These jobs could help the company get caught up.” Alderman Moss questioned, “Did he mention where he was getting the $20,000? My concern is if we aren’t getting paid then who is, and if we are getting paid then who isn’t.” Moss reminded Mayor Long, “Intermet declared bankruptcy and left the City with $140,000 in utilities in previous years.” At this time Potterfield attempted to speak, but was not allowed by Mayor Long. Alderman Painter requested Potterfield be allowed to speak, asking Mayor Long, “Why is it that every time Jerry tries to speak you won’t allow him to talk. He is a citizen and has a right to address the board.” Mayor Long replied, “This is my meeting and I dictate who speaks.”
Alderman Painter shared the auditor’s recent report which warned the City is not in the banking business, stating, “It is not the City’s responsibility to carry the bill. Arcadia has not been here for 50 years, they have been in business here for three years.” Long, expressing his concern to help the business, shared again, stating, “We need to set a policy for Economic Development, not just for Arcadia, but for other businesses in the future. If another company was to look at locating their business here, think about how this looks.” Alderman Moss replied, “I don’t think that is true. We have successful businesses here.”
“What is the 8-week plan John? Apparently, you feel passionate about helping Arcadia. This plan would ask the company to pay a total of $33,250 per week, plus their current utility bill. They have already expressed they can only afford $20,000 per week. This plan won’t work for them. I don’t see the point of setting up a plan that exceeds what the business states they can afford.”
Alderman Painter stated, “We had a residential customer you didn’t want to carry that long and for a lot less.” Alderman Moss stated, “I don’t think we need a new policy.” Mayor Long asked, “You want to shut them down?” Alderman Painter stated, “I want to follow the policy.” Alderman Melissa Hays shared her concerns, stating, “I don’t want to shut them off.”
Mayor Long asked the board to consider an 8-week plan, then re-evaluate. Alderman Moss replied, “What is the 8-week plan?” Mayor Long answered, “The plan would be $20,000 per week and will go up after that.”
Alderman Hays stated, “As sales increase he could pay more, but I question if Mr. Furse is confident and secure his company is going to pull through, why isn’t he seeking to find financial credit to get the money.”
After approximately an hour of discussion, Alderman Painter stated, “We need to make a decision. If this was anyone else, we would be told to make a decision.” Attorney Williams encouraged the board to make a decision if they were or were not going to follow through with the cancellation. He stated, “If you decide to go against the current policy and allow them more time, then a special meeting needs to be set up quickly to make a new policy, this cannot be left open ended. A decision needs to be made. Businesses do not have to follow the Cold Weather Rule.”
Alderman Moss expressed his opinion stating, “It is something to consider by not shutting Arcadia off. We need to know the timeline, the appropriate percentage to ask for. There is no one here to represent the company and they are asking the City to carry a huge amount of money,” adding, “I appreciate everything Jackie wrote up. Graham should be here to represent his company. We require citizens to come, we need him to be here.”
Alderman Hays shared, “I would make a motion, but I did that two weeks ago and no one agreed to second it. What motion do we follow?” Alderman Painter stated, “We need to follow the policy.” Potterfield announced he would donate the wages it took to have the Public Works employees come in and shut Arcadia Metalcraft off on Saturday. Alderman Hays replied to Potterfield, asking, “Are you human? Why do you have to be such a negative Nancy?” Potterfield stated, “I am not negative or nasty. This is simply business.”
The meeting was adjourned in an uproar with Mayor Long using the gavel to quiet the chambers and explained there was no need to further the discussion concerning Arcadia Metalcraft.