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Council approves budget increases

FOREST PARK — Council members voted earlier this week to approve budget amendments of more than $100,000 in Forest Park.

One of the amendments involved $74,065 paid to former City Manager John Parker as part of his severance package. Parker left the position he’d held off and on for 19 years in June, a month after Mayor David Lockhart took office.

Parker has said he was forced out. Lockhart said he resigned.

Finance Director Mike Blandenburg said the amount reflects the last payment owed Parker.

“This amount is needed to cover the severance agreement between the city and the former city manager,” said Blandenburg.

The other budget adjustment was for $27,485 to cover costs of a new elections superintendent and to cover several unexpected elections.

“There were several factors that caused us to go over budget in that area,” said Blandenburg. “We had the hiring and training of a new elections superintendent and needed the help of the elections manager more than usual.”

He added that the run-off elections were not built in to the regular budget.

“We also had on-site support and services from the company that makes the voting machines,” he said. “All that came together to put us quite over budget.”

City Manager Frank Brandon said the amount could have been higher, depending on the salary of the new elections superintendent.

“We decided to pay her $5 less an hour than the previous superintendent,” said Brandon. “We thought $25 an hour was inordinate for that position.”

Council voted again on members for Urban Redevelopment Agency, without explaining why another vote was necessary. Most recently, council members voted Feb. 3 to accept three members to the board — Joe Wimberly, Don Wright and Felicia Davis. Lockhart even used his veto powers for the first time since taking office to effect the change he wanted for the board.

When council voted March 17, it was to appoint Robin Plummer, Lois Wright and Brandon. Councilman Dabouze Antoine tried three times to get Plummer appointed before achieving his goal Monday.

However, Brandon’s appointment was still met with opposition from Antoine and Councilwoman Latresa Akins.

The tension among council members during the meetings is obvious to onlookers. Resident Sue Keith asked why there was conflict between Lockhart and some members of council when it appeared they supported him during last year’s campaign.

Keith said she has a postcard mailed to her last year featuring a photo of Lockhart shaking hands with Antoine. No one on the board responded to her query.

A businessman trying to get a restaurant opened in Forest Park unexpectedly apologized to police Chief Dwayne Hobbs for his “angry outburst” during a January meeting.

“I look forward to working with you and your subordinates,” said Alfonso Daggett. “I apologize for my angry outburst and for the comments I made about your department. I could have been more professional.”

Resident Yasmin Julio spoke during public comments about the possibility of getting a splash pad installed in Forest Park.

“It’s a great attraction for tourists and residents alike,” said Julio. “It’s great for people with small children or who don’t swim.”