Last night’s city council meeting at the Chilhowee City Hall was well attended by the community. Nearly two dozen residents filled the chambers, as the board of aldermen went about the business of the city. Unspoken allegations and tensions were apparent in the room, as the board and mayor Jack Campbell worked through the agenda.
Jeff Parsons, from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, gave the police report for the town. There were three reported incidents occurring in Chilhowee over the course of the past month, including a motor vehicle vs pedestrian incident on Highway 2, which is being investigated by the Missouri Highway Patrol.
Tony Lerda, owner and operator of O&M Enterprises, was scheduled to give a report on the town’s water system, but was not in attendance. Alderman Donnie Willcockson showed frustration over Lerda’s repeated absences, stating that the city ‘paid this kind of money for them not to show up at meetings’. It was announced also that the city’s water bill was paid from the general fund, as there was a shortfall in the account designated for water payments.
Paula Newman, of Clinton, Missouri, delivered the Treasurer’s report.
City worker time sheets were reviewed and a $100 gas reimbursement was issued to Alderman Jimmy Tawser for transporting materials.
Dawn Wendeln discussed the Chilhowee Park’s fundraiser, scheduled for Sunday, August 17th at the Woods in Warrensburg and a new grill that had arrived for the park. The grill is to be a permanent fixture in the park. Ms. Wendeln also discussed the town library, announcing that the library serves 181 patrons in the community.
Discussion surrounding the due date for water bills was tabled and Alderman Ernie Wilson proposed a mutual relationship between municipalities to collect delinquent accounts. No action was taken regarding these issues.
Also, an update on the sewer project from Mayor Jack Campbell revealed that it would be necessary to obtain a tract of land of 30 to 50 acres for a new wastewater treatment facility. Lift station pump issues have made this a priority and the board agreed to help with locating a suitable piece of land for development of a new facility.
The board then went into closed session, citing Chapter 600 of Missouri state statutes, to discuss a personnel matter. When the board emerged from closed session, it became clear that there were larger issues than a simple employee dismissal on the table for the Chilhowee City Council.
Announcements came quickly. One city employee was terminated and it was announced that the library would be temporarily closed, pending an investigation by the Johnson County Sheriff Department. The reason for the investigation appeared to revolve around the computer used by the city for generating water bills. According to comments made during this brief session before the meeting adjourned, allegations of tampering with the computer contatining water bills were levied. Statements were also made indicating that the only people with a key to where the computer is located are the Mayor, the Clerk and the Treasurer.
What is clear is that the library is temporarily closed pending an investigation. The scheduled fundraiser on Sunday, August 17th has also been cancelled. According to the board, the closure is a temporary measure while the investigation is conducted. Officer Jeff Parsons said that the results of the investigation will be made public once it is completed.
Stay tuned to Smoke Signals: Chilhowee’s Community News for more on this as it develops.