By Justin Boron
Two Riverdale council members clashed Monday night - hashing out past scrapes over the budget and comments made to the media - until they both agreed that the often divided City Council needs better communication to remedy its problems.
The verbal blows between council members Wanda Wallace and Rick Scoggins were remnants of a dispute over whether the city should take out a line of credit instead of using its reserve funds to balance the budget.
Last week, the city failed to gain a $1 million tax anticipation note from a bank because the mayor would not sign off on it. To cover its immediate expenses, the city took $287,000 from its $1.1 million reserve fund.
The emergency withdrawal caused a fissure on the council, with Mayor Phaedra Graham and Scoggins, who is also mayor pro tem, pit against three other council members.
While Wallace on Monday accused her colleague of micro-managing and attacking city employees, Scoggins demanded a stop to the frequent in-fighting on the council.
He said the council members needed to come together "collectively" and stop "running around stabbing each other in the back."
"We need to sit down and talk uniformly like adults," Scoggins said.
Meanwhile, Wallace urged that the city staff, including the city manager and finance director, be permitted to make decisions as professionals and be given the opportunity to do their jobs.
"Give them some time. It hasn't even been a year," she said.
The back and forth that occurred in the work session drew a bitter response from citizens during the council's regular session.
"Stop trying to manage people and manage yourself," said a citizen Jewell Lewis.
Ben Davis, who films city council meetings, said the council fighting publicly would have its consequences.
"It makes citizens very irritated and not likely to vote for your behind again," he said.
Several citizens and council members also were critical of the media for what they called "negative" coverage of the city and its politics.
The meeting ended with Wallace saying she loved Scoggins and everyone on the council and was committed to bringing better communication to the council.
Lowe's still looking at Riverdale
City Manager Iris Jessie said at Monday's council meeting the possibility of a Lowe's hardware store coming to Riverdale is still open.
Whether it will set up in the city will depend partly on annexation of three parcels of property.
It wouldn't be a problem, said City Attorney Deana Johnson, except the annexation would create a jurisdictional island in the city. To remedy the problem, the city must de-annex a small strip of property to county, who must first accept it.
The council members said they would speak with county officials to arrange for de-annexation.