Winnsboro Town Council members agreed to move Phillip Hutto from town superintendent to sewer plant supervisor and hire three police department dispatchers.
The actions were taken during their regular monthly meeting Monday night.
Taking Hutto’s place as town superintendent will be Justin Martinez. Martinez will now head Winnsboro’s town crews on a six month trial basis.
Councilman Rex McCarthy made the motion seconded by Councilman Keith Berry. Councilman Jerry Johnson gave the sole no vote.
“Phillip has done a good job as superintendent the last three years,” Johnson said. “I think he is to be commended for his job and his work for the town.”
Mayor John Dumas, in a Tuesday interview with The Franklin Sun complimented Martinez’s experience.
“Justin has a vast knowledge and has worked for the city before,” Dumas said. “He is currently at a school dealing with waste water to become a certified technician.”
Martinez has previously worked for Winnsboro’s town crew and Womack and Sons, a Harrisonburg construction company, according to Dumas.
Hutto took over as town superintendent after the retirement of longtime Winnsboro employee, Phillip Robinson. Along with being sewer plant supervisor and taking a cut in salary, Hutto will manage Winnsboro’s $4 million sewer plant rehabilitation project. The extensive project also calls for the replacement or rehabilitation of Winnsboro’s nine lift stations.
“I saw the need to move (Hutto) from superintendent which carries a lot of weight and a lot of responsibility for his knowledge and expertise in the sewer department,” Dumas said. “That knowledge and expertise would best be utilized by working with the engineers on this project.”
The nearly 40-year-old sewer plant suffers from wear and tear with employees continuously repairing various site components. Normal sewer plant life expectancy is 25 years.
According to Dumas, Winnsboro’s $1.6 million American Rescue Plan Act money will fund the start of the project. Dumas is also relying on possible USDA grants and loans for the remainder of project funds.
“Winnsboro has a good water and sewer rating which will help us qualify for USDA funds at a low interest rate,” he said.
Meyer, Meyer, LaCroix and Hixson of Alexandria are the engineers for the sewer plant project.
Meanwhile, Councilmen added Leonard Wordlaw, Jr., Scorthia Reynolds and Sallie Dykes to the police department’s dispatch crew.
The move came after Franklin Parish Sheriff’s office and Winnsboro Police Department parted ways over dispatchers. The sheriff’s office dispatched for Winnsboro many years but became frustrated over the lack of the police department’s involvement.
“We had several situations that we did not know how many (Winnsboro) officers were on duty whether it was two, one or zero at times,” said Franklin Parish Sheriff Kevin Cobb. “It was quite concerning for us because we are accountable for their policing. We take it very serious, and it is a duty we feel the citizens need and a service we provide.”
Cobb said the agreement between departments was mutual where as Winnsboro Chief Will Pierce said it was Cobb’s decision.
“We had only one dispatcher and there were times I didn’t have many officers,” Pierce said. “He got upset over that.”
Winnsboro Police Department over the last year has gone through many officers. Currently, the department has seven officers patrolling.
Cobb said the police department needs to be held accountable for their duties.
“Again, I don’t think it was the best agreement, but under the circumstance we feel like it is the only fair thing to do,” Cobb said. “If you are going to have those services for the Town of Winnsboro, you need to be more accountable.”
Pierce said the four dispatchers will provide 24-hour assistance to residents who call (318) 435-4307.
Along with outlining communities, Franklin Parish Sheriff’s office also assist and dispatch for Baskin, Gilbert and Wisner and will continue to assist Winnsboro residents if needed. Although, most sheriff offices around the state do little or no patrolling inside city or town corporate limits.
“I do bear the burden as sheriff,” Cobb said. “The public does constantly request our presence inside the city limits which is perfectly fine for us. It does create a burden for us in bigger events as I have certain amount of deputies spread out among the parish.”
Additionally, Town Council members passed an ordinance prohibiting residents placing tree branches or stumps more than five feet long and 24 inches in diameter on the town’s right-of-ways.
“During the month of February, we allowed residents to put limbs beside the roads due to the ice storm damage,” Dumas said. “People are now putting trash and limbs in ditches and right-of-ways. These piles are restricting water in our ditches and extending out and blocking our roads. This ordinance will alleviate that problem.”
In other action, Town Council members agreed to purchase a new boom tractor and to allow Limits Sporting Goods Store signage on town’s right-a-way near La Hwy 15.