Two Ridgecrest aldermen says that despite the mayor’s request they will not be resigning their positions.
Mayor Veller Ray Carroll criticized aldermen Mitzi Boyler and Darlene Humphries after their absence from last week’s meeting resulted in a lack of a quorum and the cancellation of the session.
Boyler said she missed the Aug. 13 meeting because she had a death in her family.
Humphries said she was ill.
When the two failed to show up for the meeting, which the mayor said was crucial in order for the town to acquire water for its citizens, he called for their resignations.
“He can ask for it all day long,” Boyler said. “At Ridgecrest, we do not have anything on our books, there are no ordinances or anything, to how many meetings you must go to. We are supposed to go every month. I find it hilarious he asked for my resignation.”
Boyler said she researched the subject of aldermen resignations in the past with the Louisiana Attorney General’s office.
Humphries said she has been an advocate of aldermen regularly attending meetings.
“Ever since I’ve been on the board, I have supported aldermen coming to meetings,” Humphries said.
The main item up for consideration at the meeting was a public hearing on a water rate study and approval of the study. This is a crucial part in Ridgecrest obtaining a $1 million Louisiana Community Development Block Grant (LCDBG).
According to Carroll, Ridgecrest aldermen have until Sept. 1 to approve the water rate study or possibly lose the Louisiana Community Development Block grant. The grant would bankroll the tie in with Ferriday’s water system giving citizens drinkable water.
“I get we have to get the paperwork done, but why is Veller Ray waiting until the last minute,” Humphries asked. “We’ve had this grant for a year, and for it to take place it has to be done by September. Why does he wait for this month’s meeting to have the signing?”
Boyler said she was spending time with loved ones while they grieve a family member’s death.
“My kids come first,” Boyler said. “I just forgot (about the meeting). I was spending quality time with my children, and I turned the ringer off on my phone. It was my fault, and I’ll take all the blame for having my ringer off.”
Humphries said Carroll came to her business the morning of Aug. 13 to review the grant. At this time, she informed Carroll she was ill and may not be
at the meeting.
“I went to the doctor, and I took medicine the doctor gave me,” Humphries said. “(The medicine) puts me to sleep. I called Veller Ray back Wednesday morning.”
During the Wednesday conversation, Humphries said Carroll informed her he asked for her resignation and hung up.
Humphries said she was also absent at July’s regular meeting because of a family emergency.
Both aldermen said they would be in attendance via phone for a special meeting scheduled for Aug. 20 when the water rate study public hearing and vote will occur. The aldermen will take part in the meeting by phone because of their COVID-19 concerns. They said the size of Ridgecrest’s Village Hall was not adequate to sit everyone in attendance and properly social distance.
“(Carroll) could call around,” Boyler said. “All he has to do is pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, I need to have a meeting can we go here.’ We have a small room.”
Additionally, both aldermen say they support efforts to improve Ridgecrest’s water system.
“I totally support what we have done so far,” Boyler said. “I signed the first papers to get the $1 million grant when we first put in the request for it when I was (pro tempore) mayor.”
At the Aug. 13 meeting, Carroll was visibly agitated at the aldermen’s absence.
“I’ve had enough,” Carroll said Aug. 13. “I’m asking the public to get behind me. I’m calling the state, and I hope they are going to appoint somebody. I hope they appoint somebody that will step up and attend these meetings. I’ve had enough. Either they go or I go.”
In a Sentinel interview Friday, Carroll said he had contacted Louisiana Secretary of State and Attorney General officials on the matter.
The two departments told Carroll the matter should be handled locally.
The Louisiana Rural Water Association performed the study which is up for an Aug. 20 vote.
According to the rate study:
Residents would pay a rate of $64 for the first 1,500 gallons used and $5.65 per 1,000 gallons consumed after the minimum usage.
-- On the commercial side, a water rate of $45 for the first 1,500 gallons used and $5.65 per 1,000 gallons consumed after the minimum usage will also be introduced at the August public hearing.
-- In June, Ridgecrest officials signed a three-year contract to purchase water from Ferriday at the price of $4.70 per 1,000 gallons and a $10,000 deposit.
-- The deposit will be paid over three years at a rate of $140 per month during the first three years and $140 per month during the second three-year span. Ridgecrest will also have the option to renew the contract after the first time period has expired for another three years.