By Angel Perkins
BOURBON — The Bourbon Town Council convened for the first time in 2011 beginning a new year with a new member, Les McFarland.
McFarland was sworn in Thursday, Dec. 23, at 10 a.m., at the town hall by Bourbon Town Clerk Kimberly Berger, to begin his four-year term Jan. 1.
And though new to the position as council member, councilman Gary Collins nominated him as president as the first item of business. Incumbent councilmember Larry Wattenbarger expressed his disapproval after the motion was seconded by McFarland.
“I kind of felt this was going to happen,” he said. “I think you’re sending a message to the town that you’re going to have to answer for. I thought you guys were in cahoots.”
McFarland said he felt “the people had spoken during the election” and explained that the council president merely “runs the meeting.”
Wattenbarger volleyed that the state would soon be looking into making changes regarding town employees (McFarland is a part-time, fill-in Bourbon police officer) holding office and said, “I don’t think the people of this town are going to tolerate it.”
McFarland said should the legislature make changes in the future, he would be under county jurisdiction (as a Marshall County police officer) and it would not necessarily affect him. After he was asked how it would affect him as a part-time Bourbon officer, he said should that prove to be a conflict to the position he was elected to fill, he would resign from being a part-time Bourbon employee.
He then asked the public if they had comments, and only one, town employee and councilman Wattenbarger’s wife, Dena, spoke against. “I think it’s bull; you’ve (only) been to one meeting.”
Another audience member, P.J. Hanley, said he didn’t care who the president of the council was but added, “I just hope you guys can get along and start doing stuff for the community, rather than your own agendas,” he said.
Collins brought up another issue that had almost caused a court battle between the town and police force and which had council members arguing for months, with employees and amongst themselves.
At the December 2010 meeting, then council president Wattenbarger and outgoing member Tim Perkins had voted to put the police department back on a five-day work week as are other town employees.
The Bourbon Police Department has been working a six days on, three days off schedule since at least 1986, when it was made an ordinance by a previous council.
In 2000, a employee handbook update — which included the police department’s employees, outlining a workweek as five days — was signed (and approved as a resolution) and agreed upon by all town employees, even though the police were still working the six on/three off shifts.
Former chief John West had brought up the conflict of days not being rewarded (police officers got five days per year off for vacations rather than the six they felt they were owed) to Bourbon councils in 2005 and 2008 and nothing was done to change the ordinance. He brought it before the next council in 2010, and after much deliberation and legal consultation, it was decided the town would offer the officers a “payoff” in exchange for the officers “forgiving” the years that had gone unresolved, (2005 through 2009) which was a $5,032.96 cost to the town.
As Collins explained at this meeting in regard to the decision made last month, “The other employees felt it was a pay cut for the police officers. I did some checking and the way it was voted on last month was not done properly,” he said. “That brought the entire board in violation of the (1986) ordinance. I spoke with an attorney and it could’ve been costly to the town. It’s a good thing it was caught.”
Collins explained that officers work shifts around the clock and on the weekends as regular shifts, not compensated as though they were working overtime (by receiving time-and-a-half), and reminded those present that “no one has gotten a raise in two years.”
McFarland let Collins’ motion lie and asked that he be given more time to explore the history and details of the controversy before making any decision and the matter was tabled.