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KEITH CAPDEPON (standing) of Bryant Hammett & Associates discusses various town projects during a meeting of the Vidalia Board of Alderman Tuesday night.

A new town clerk was hired by the Vidalia Board of Alderman Tuesday night, while Alderman Robert Gardner was elected mayor pro tempore.

The mayor and aldermen were also updated by Bryant Hammett and Keith Capdepon of Bryant Hammett & Associates on various town projects .

The work was outlined during a slide presentation.

Concerning the town clerk, Piara Wilson was hired by the council with a salary set at $49,000. She will begin her new duties on July 1.

Although all aldermen favored the hiring of Wilson, there was a dispute over the $49,000 salary proposed by Mayor Buz Craft.

Gardner said that he felt Wilson should start out at $55,000 as did Town Clerk Jay LaSyone, who was first hired as assistant clerk and is now making $65,000 annually as town clerk. LaSyone will now serve as town manager.

“I will fight to make sure every citizen” is treated and paid equally no matter the gender or the race, Gardner said.

Craft, discussing the pay matter, said LaSyone had 22 years of experience in banking and finance when he was hired, while the clerk before him, the late Vickie Byrnes, was paid $75,000 annually.

When the discussion grew heated, Craft said Gardner was “grandstanding … You’re trying to blow this way out of proportion.”

At one point, both men said the other was “out of order.”

On the vote, Jon Betts, Brent Smith and Tommy Probst supported the $49,000 salary while Gardner and Rosa Demby voted against.

Discussion over a mayor pro tempore also drew heated discussion with Gardner being elected on a 3-2 vote. Betts and Smith voted against Gardner.

Betts on a previous vote had been rejected as mayor pro tempore with Probst, Gardner and Demby voting against him.

During the discussion, Probst and Craft argued over the procedure. At one point, Craft said Probst was “out of order.”

On another matter, Town Accountant Debra Moak provided a report on the town’s finances for eight months ending April 30, 2021, noting:

General Fund: $1,793,420, year to date (YTD) fund revenue; $7,551,259, YTD expense; -$5,757,839, net loss; $6,568,568, transfers in; and $810,729, net change in fund balance.

Special Revenue Fund: $15,783,560, YTD fund revenue; $9,723,516, YTD fund expense; $6,060,044, net profit; -$5,295,036, transfers out; and $765,008, net change in fund balance.

Enterprise Fund: $10,671,554, YTD fund revenue; $9,706,070, YTD fund expense; $965,484, net profit; -$1,847,447, transfers out; and -$881,963, net change in fund balance.

Governmentwide Fund: $811,342, YTD fund revenue; $1,389,821, YTD fund expense; -$578,470, net loss; $573,915, transfers in; and -$4,555, net change in fund balance.

Net change in net assets: ($689,219).

In other business, the town approved occupational licenses for Shirley Mae’s of Vidalia (restaurant), Robert Gardner, 20 Alabama Street; Big Rob’s Smoke Pit (catering), Robert Calhoun, 405 Martin Luther King; and Cocktail Expert LLC (online sales), Alison Burkley, 2048 Charles Street.

 Following a presentation by Hannah Junkin, the town’s marketing director and grant coordinator, aldermen approved a resolution seeking a Louisiana Community Development Block Grant and to enter into agreements involving the administration of the grant and for engineering services.

Additionally, the resolution provides for citizen participation in the plan and procurement associated with the grant application.

The town will seek funding for sewer and street work.

In other action, aldermen:

Approved keeping $2.3 million in the hydro reserve fund. Craft said by ordinance the town is required to keep $1.98 million in reserve.

Agreed to hold public hearings in August to receive public input on proposed projects and possible alternative uses of surplus hydro revenues.

Named Danielle Jefferson as a part-time dispatcher for the Vidalia Police Department.

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