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Citizens question value of health grant

The outside temperature in Climax wasn’t the only thing that was heating up on Monday, Aug. 29. The air conditioning was not working at City Hall and a discussion inside with a few clashes of personalities and some difference in opinions added to the warm atmosphere in a called council meeting.

Mayor Charles Hadsock called the meeting to order, stating that two council members, councilwoman Vanessa Martin and Kaye Hickox requested a called council meeting as they had some questions about the $1,000 health/wellness grant the council approved at the regular meeting on Aug. 8 to purchase exercise equipment for city employees.

Hadsock also stated that he had several calls from citizens questioning the purchase, with one citizen being very adamant about the action, as that citizen felt the money needed to be spent elsewhere in the city.

Councilwoman Kaye Hickox said she had several citizens approach her with the same concerns. City Clerk Karen Toole reminded Hickox that she had seconded the motion made by Councilman Keith Harrison on Aug. 8 to approve the grant so the equipment could be purchased. Hickox said that even though she seconded the motion, she now needed to better understand what was involved.

Councilwoman Vanessa Martin stated she knew nothing about the grant, as she wasn’t on the council when it was applied for and received. However, she said she also voted in favor of the grant on Aug. 8. She requested more written information about the grant to which Toole replied that she would have to look it up as it had been filed away.

Martin stated that she felt the equipment should be used by other departments, such as the volunteer fire department (VFD), and not just the city employees and the council members.

Toole explained that the grant could not be used for the VFD, as that department did not have health insurance through the city as do the city employees. To better understand this grant, Toole said that Police Chief Joel Jenkins had gotten permission from the council last year to apply for a health promoting grant amounting to $1,000 through the Georgia Municipal Association to purchase exercise equipment for the city employees, thereby promoting better wellness and health for the employees.

Toole further explained that after the grant was applied for and received, Chief Jenkins had an automobile accident and has not yet returned to work due to this. Therefore the grant had not been spent and the time to use it was running out; the money had to be spent or the city would lose it.

She said the city hasn’t spent any money from any fund on the exercise equipment. The money has all been in the grant from GMA. Toole said the grant was originally for city employees only, and out of courtesy, she had gotten the council included.

She further said nothing was being kept from the council or anyone and she didn’t understand why the council couldn’t come into her office and ask questions, instead of calling special meetings.

Martin responded that she didn’t know if any other council person had a copy of the grant, but she wanted one and requested that the clerk furnish it as soon as possible.

Councilman Keith Harrison stated he made the motion to give the original $1,000 grant money Jenkins applied for to the employees to purchase equipment. He also said, that it needed to be understood that no city funds have been spent on this equipment, nor any matching funds.

He went on to say that the employees haven’t had a raise since he has been on the council, and this was just an opportunity to give the employees something to use, and that it hasn’t cost the city anything.

Hickox said she misunderstood what the council was doing when she made the second, and was sorry for any confusion on her part.

Hadsock remarked that the citizens needed to understand that this grant is money from the insurance GMA promotion for better wellness and health for employees and is not money being spent by or from any city account, and that the equipment is for the city employees — not for the council members.

Martin said she understood what this grant was, but she felt that the council needed to be more involved with what future grants included, and asked for more information on an upcoming safety grant that Harrison was working on.

Harrison said, “We aren’t doing anything but approving the employees to do something that isn’t going to cost the city one thing.”

Councilman Bob Thomas said that Chief Jenkins had taken the incentive to get this grant, and maybe he could also use the equipment when he recovers.

“The citizens need not to worry — this isn’t costing the city anything,” he said.

Hickox and Martin said they better understood the action taken on Aug. 8, and had no objections, and the meeting was adjourned.