A heated discussion occurred during a meeting of the Harlan City Council on Monday over an expenditure in the financial report.
Council member Croley Forester asked about payments to Thomas Consulting that he said add up to $18,000 per year.
“I’ve been here three years and the best I can tell they gave us some advice that funding was available for lighting trails, the only thing I know of they’ve offered us,” said Forester.
Mayor Danny Howard said they had worked with the city on a sewer project that is currently in progress.
“Who all do we have involved in this sewer project,” Howard asked City Engineer Leo Miller.
“We have the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC),” said Miller. “Rural Development, and then the city itself.”
Howard said the ARC was lined up by Thomas Consulting.
“How does Thomas Consulting line up ARC?” asked Forester. “I’m just trying to understand this because we’re paying them $18,000 a year and I just don’t see what we’re paying them for.”
Howard said Thomas Consulting contacted ARC.
“They contacted ARC to find out…what projects people had not spent money on,” said Howard. “I submitted this as an emergency, because it is.”
Howard stated further Peggy Satterly, state program manager for ARC, had contacted the city after Thomas Consulting contacted ARC with information that led to funding needed for the project.
“Peggy called me after being contacted by Thomas stating that she had found the amount of money that we needed,” said Howard.
Forester said ARC puts that information out regardless of being contacted.
Howard called for a motion to pay the bills, saying as far as he was concerned the discussion was over.
“I told you the answer…” Howard told Forester. “I’m going to pay the bills.”
The council then passed the motion to pay the bills, with Forester casting the one opposing vote.
After the motion was passed, Forester said the purpose of the meeting was to make responsible fiscal decisions.
“It’s responsible,” said Howard.
After some heated discussion, Forester asked again what Thomas Consulting was being paid to do.
“We’re paying it for their contacts,” said Howard.
Howard refrained from any more discussion on the issue.
Joe P. Asher may be reached at 606-573-4510, ext. 113, or on Twitter @joe_hde