Kingston to alter background check policy
by Jason Lowrey
Jun 10, 2014 | 1014 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Those needing a background check whether for licenses or employment with the city of Kingston may soon be going to the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office to get it done.

During a work session and later a regular meeting on Monday night, the council discussed how to solve the problem of losing money on every background check it performed. Mayor Wanda Penson brought the issue to the council’s attention.

“[We] ended up paying more than what we took. We can’t go into the hole every time we go and do a background check. We only charge — in the ordinance it says $30 for a background check. It cost him $57,” Penson said of Chief Gary Bell performing the background check. “Either we’re going to have to change it or they’re going to have to go do it themselves and bring it back.”

During the regular meeting, City Attorney Brandon Bowen proposed a solution.

“The ordinance states that ... the applicant will provide to the police chief whatever the police chief needs to run the background [check]. The way to address that issue is the applicant can go to the sheriff’s department and fill out the application for the background check and direct that the sheriff’s department will provide the information directly to the police chief. That resolves the issue and we don’t need an ordinance change,” he said.

No vote was taken on the issue. The policy shift was the only decision made in a night when the council’s discussions ranged across several issues that were later removed from the regular meeting’s agenda.

During the work session the council discussed whether to hold work sessions and regular meetings on the same day, with the Monday meeting serving as one example. Penson said council member Harold Posey had suggested the idea to her. Penson added the June 2 meeting had been canceled because there were only two items on the agenda.

“I don’t have any great desire one way or the other,” said Posey. “It just seemed like it would be more efficient from the time spent. I guess what we could do, as always, is to leave it at your discretion as mayor as to whether we’ve got enough to need a work session or not because every month is different. I don’t know how the rest of the council feels about it.”

Other members of the council said they were also indifferent to having the work sessions on the same day as the meeting. Council member Louise Howell added the body would have to stay on time if they were going to hold the meetings back to back.

Penson later said the family of the late Dexter Jones, a former Kingston mayor, was asking for a street or bridge to be named in his honor. She said a woman with Christian Coomer’s office called and told her the council would have to vote on the measure before he could take it to the Georgia House to make it official. The family did not have a road or bridge in mind, Penson said, and Posey asked if the city had a protocol for handling such requests.

“But there’s no — we have no policy or procedure and before we change street names we probably need to have a procedure,” he said, “if that makes sense to everybody. Because when you start naming streets for people, it’s like you need criteria.”

The council next discussed Water Operator Rick Bundy and his duties. Penson asked if anyone on the council was aware of what his duties were, and the council was unsure outside of his work in testing the water. Posey and council member Chuck Wise believed the city needed to speak with either John Sweitzer, the city engineer, or the Bartow County Water Department so a job description could be made.

The last item on the agenda, assisting Larry Mays in chipping trees, was unofficially rejected.

When the council turned to the same agenda for its regular meeting, Posey moved to strike the work session changes, renaming a road after Jones, a water operator job description and the request from Mays from the agenda. It passed unanimously. The council then heard from Bowen on the background check policy.

Prior to its meetings, the council heard from Gladys Barton and Earl Wilkey in regard to separate water system complaints. Barton said her water had been turned off on May 28 although she had paid her bill on May 5. She said she had her receipt to prove it, but still had difficulty regaining her water service until showing the receipt to Howell, Wise and Posey. She questioned the city’s billing and water meter reading practices as well as the operation of city hall.

Wilkey spoke to the council about a broken water line near his property that he said had been leaking for approximately two years. He said the line was on Kingston property rather than his own. Penson believed the line was not in Kingston’s city limits and was possibly in the county or on another resident’s property. Wise later said it did not matter whose land the line was on.

“If this water is not being metered and it’s being lost, we’re losing revenue no matter whose property it’s on. If it’s not being metered, if it’s leaking before it gets to somebody’s meter, I would say somebody needs to try to look at it and compromise and get it repaired because we’re losing money and losing water pressure on one side of town,” he said.

Council member Mike Abernathy said he agreed with Wise’s suggestion.

Before closing the regular meeting, Penson urged those younger than 18 to take part in the daily lunches going on at city hall as part of a summer nutrition program. She said income level did not determine who was able to eat lunch. Abernathy then remarked on SPLASH Bartow deciding to assist approximately six homes in Kingston with various levels of work and repair.

The Kingston City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 7, at 7 p.m. at city hall.