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As the mayor calls for a vote to approve the city budget, Thomson Councilman John Smalley asks about a travel allowance for council members.

The Thomson City Council, last Thursday, approved a $19,377,781 budget for the upcoming year.

Mayor Kenneth Usry told the board that there was a public hearing earlier in the evening at 5 p.m. and said he would touch on the highlights of the budget. Monday night in a work session, the council members had already discussed the budget during a work session.

He said the millage rate of 6.89 is expected to generate $877,825. Usry also pointed out there will be a one-and-a-half percent pay increase for city workers and most expenses are flat as the city heads into the new year.

Usry asked for a motion and a second to approve the budget. Councilman John Smalley interjected with a question about travel expenses for council members.

“Let me come back to that John,” Usry said.

The vote to approve the budget carried unanimously, then returned to Smalley’s question.

“The only time you get reimbursed for travel is when you go out of town but all of us travel all over town checking the streets in the community that we represent and if y’all would like we can make it work and maybe everybody get a $200 a month travel allowance, but that’s just something that I’m throwing out,” said Usry. “We can make it work in the budget if you want it, but it needs to be in the form of a motion that we adopt a travel allowance for the city council.”

The mayor said such an allowance is unusual.

“Most places have a travel allowance,” he said.

Usry said he does a lot of travelling for different committees and he uses a travel log and then turns those miles in for redisbursement.

“If we do a travel allowance it would be $200 a month and it will be paid the first of every month when you get your regular city council pay,” Usry said. “We can make it fit in the budget if y’all would like to do that.”

Regular pay is $5,000 a year for a council member and $8,000 a year for the mayor.

Councilman Scott Whittle made the motion to adopt a $200 a month travel allowance for the mayor and the council members. John Smalley provided the second.

Councilman Alton Belton asked how the allowance worked when a member has to travel out of town. Usry said the travel allowance will be for around town travel and if they go out of town for conventions that will still be reimbursed.

“This will be just around town, what you do in town,” Usry explained.

The motion was approved unanimously.

“I did bring that up back during the year and it just got past me when we were doing the budget,” Usry told the council.

In other action:

•The council approved the renaming of Leslie Street to Heritage Lane, where a new assisted living facility will be built.

•The council also unanimously approved the modification of some language on a CBDG grant application.

“This is basically the same thing we follow every year,” Usry told the board. “This grant is water/sewer and some housing rehab. It basically follows what last year’s grant did and it stays in the same area.”

•The council received the 2021 council meeting dates and holiday dates. The council approved both lists.

•The council held the first reading of an alcohol ordinance. Usry explained how voters approved moving Sunday alcohol sales by the drink from 12:30 p.m. back to 11 a.m. and the council simply needs to make its ordinance confirm. The second reading has to be 10 days later. Usry told the council could hold a phone call for the second reading.

•The mayor, in the absence of the city administrator for medical reason, provided updates on several upcoming items. He said five vendors attended a meeting to receive information about bidding for trash pickup. Those bids will be returned by Jan. 7.

He also said the city put out for bid for engineering services concerning the airport. Those bids will come back sometime in January.

He said disposed of a house on Railroad Street and collected $20,000.

“We got that money and it will go back into whatever account that money came out of,” Usry said.

Belton asked if there will be a public hearing when the bids are returned from the companies interested in trash pickup.

“Normally you don’t do that but I’m open to whatever y’all want to do, I just run the meetings,” Usry told the board.

Belton made a motion to hold a public hearing when the bids are returned. Elaine Johnson provided a second and the vote carried.

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