Orr picked to represent Ward 5

Friday, February 13, 2015

By Karen Hall

Editor

Former city manager David Orr was chosen to represent Ward 5 when Lewisburg's City Council met Tuesday.

The other two applicants -- Dave Kennedy and Nicholas Tipper -- were not even mentioned when Mayor Jim Bingham announced the first item on the agenda was the appointment of a councilman to replace Robin Minor, who resigned in December.

Councilman Steve Thomas made the motion to choose Orr, and it was unanimously approved.

"Congratulations," said Bingham.

Orr was sworn in by City Recorder Pam Davis.

Then the meeting continued, with unanimous votes of approval for a number of ordinances. Orr declined to vote, stating that he did not have enough information to make decisions on matters which have been in the works for some months.

At the end of the meeting, councilmen heard citizen input, which this month came from La'Monn Harris, an African-American employee of the public works department. He has been with the department for almost four years.

Harris said, and wrote in a letter distributed to councilmen, that things at the department have taken a turn for the worse, at least as far as he's concerned, since his former boss Kenny Ring died unexpectedly in December 2013.

"I've been harassed since Kenny Ring passed away," said Harris. He explained that Director of Operations Buck Beard continually uses profane language toward him.

"He doesn't have a right to talk to anybody like that," said Harris, after giving councilmen some graphic examples of Beard's way of addressing him.

"These displays of hostility leave me fed up, and I don't know what else to do to make it stop," wrote Harris in his letter to the council.

"Though I have only described a few, these types of exchanges happen continuously, and I am seeking some type of resolution, and leaving my employment is not the answer," he continued. "As I explained, meetings with Mr. Beard and Mr. Dunn have not returned a practical solution to our problem, and I am looking to you for guidance ... I was never in trouble nor deemed hard to deal with during my employment under Kenny Ring, and that work ethic has not changed on my part."

"This is very disturbing for me," said Orr. "Each individual that's mentioned, I consider a personal friend. I hired La'Monn when I was city manager. I hope we can get this worked out."

In a phone interview the next day, Harris said he was the only one willing to speak up, though normally he is a shy kind of person.

"It's bad," he said. "It's real bad."

"Kenny treated me fairly," Harris added. "This man (Beard) don't care about nobody. This city is in a mess. There's a lot of stuff (that) needs to be brought out."

The Public Works Department has 18 or 19 employees, of which five or six are African-Americans, Harris said.

He said Beard's use of profane language is not limited to the African-American employees, but added, "I know he has a thing about black people."

"He cusses out everybody," said Harris. "Everybody's scared of him!"

In other council matters, a special visitor to the meeting was Mike Borgelt of Gobbell Hays Partners Inc., the company in charge of building the new swimming pool at the Rec Center. Borgelt reported the project is 21 percent complete and "a little ahead of schedule."

He told councilmen about an opportunity to put in a better salt system for sanitizing the pool water. The one Borgelt was proposing keeps the salt levels more consistent, uses less salt and needs less maintenance, but costs quite a bit more.

"I'd like to know more about it," said Councilman Trigg Cathey. "Is there anyone local who has one of these systems we could talk to, to make sure it's worth it?"

"I'll have to check," said Borgelt.

City Manager Randall Dunn was concerned about delaying pool construction while the new salt system was considered, but a motion to defer the decision until councilmen had more information passed unanimously. Davis pointed out that the council could hold a special-called meeting if it had to approve spending more money on the pool before March's regular meeting.

City employee Lueshell Taylor then had the honor and pleasure of reading the proclamation honoring the prestigious accomplishments of her nephew Dont'a Hightower. Hightower, a Lewisburg native, was a member of the Superbowl champion New England Patriots. All the councilmen, including Orr, were pleased to unanimously approve the proclamation.