By Sarah Naron
ELKHART – Elkhart Mayor Mike Gordon recently spoke to The Messenger and provided his opinion on the protests which took place prior to a meeting held by the Elkhart City Council on the evening of Friday, Jan. 26.
“I guess they had some concerns,” Gordon said of those who participated in the protest.
Among the issues cited by Gordon was the recent resignation of a council member.
“(She) had been harassed, so she resigned,” he explained. “We had to fill the spot.”
Gordon stressed that city officials always operate “by the book.
“We call our attorneys to make sure we can do everything by the book,” he said. “So, we accepted her resignation in a council meeting, and we appointed a person to fill her spot.”
According to Gordon, quickly filling the vacancy was crucial for the city.
“We’ve been having some problems with some of our infrastructure here, and we had to have somebody here in place to make sure we had the votes to get things done,” he explained. “We have to have somebody here to make sure we get our job done right.”
Among the issues recently faced by the city is broken pumps in the Elkhart Independent School District’s sewer system.
Criticism of the city on social media, Gordon said, is something he pays no attention to.
“I could care less about the social media,” he said. “All I know is what we do, and we do things right. That’s why we have an expensive attorney bill.”
As Gordon explained, the members of the city council “do not do anything without consulting our city attorney or the TML (Texas Municipal League) attorneys.
“Whatever people say in social media – I could care less,” he said. “I know that when we do things in here, it’s done by the book and done right. They can say what they want. I really don’t care.”
Gordon expressed upset at the fact that while residents of the city are quick to voice their complaints on social media, few are willing to make appearances at city council meetings.
“All those people were here, and there was a lot of people here,” Gordon said of Friday’s meeting. “But once we got through with just a couple of those issues, they all left.
“We had 28 or 29 agenda items to take care of,” he continued. “If anybody cared about this city, they would have stayed here and listened to every one of those agenda items and seen what we do. That just shows you, people only care about one thing.”
Gordon mentioned one citizen who does faithfully attend the meetings.
“She sits there until the (end) of the whole thing,” he said. “I really commend her for that. She writes stuff down, and she takes care of business. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Another concern held by many Elkhart residents is the plans of city officials for the building previously occupied by the Elkhart Volunteer Fire Department.
“We have bids out now; there’s people bidding on the building,” reported Gordon. “I think it was brought up that the volunteer fire department was going to bid on it.”
Gordon dispelled a rumor that the fire department was denied the opportunity to place a bid on the property.
“That’s the furthest (thing) from the truth,” he said. “We have got to bring businesses into this city to generate some kind of revenue.”
While Gordon acknowledged that the fire department has the right to place a bid, he added that city officials would like to see the building sold commercially.
“We would like to have that thing sold commercially to bring in revenue to this city,” he said. “That’s what we need. This town is a poor town.”
Gordon compared Elkhart to Frankston, which, as he pointed out, share similar populations.
“Frankston has almost three times as much revenue as we do,” he said. “They’ve got two nice car dealerships. They’ve got two state highways that crisscross right (in) downtown Frankston.
“We don’t have nothing here,” he said of Elkhart. “A couple of convenience stores and a couple of dollar stores, and that’s about it. We need to generate revenue to make repairs on this city.”
Among the repairs Gordon mentioned are the city’s many asbestos water lines.
“We have lots of things that we have to do, and we don’t have the money to do it,” said Gordon.
Gordon explained that the city will not have the opportunity to apply for financial assistance through grants for a period of two to three years.
“There’s a timeframe there where you can apply for so many grants,” he explained. “We’re still paying on another grant.”
Another concern widely held by Elkhart citizens and addressed by Gordon was the 10-year employment contracts signed with two city employees. Included in the contracts were provisions for $100,000 severance packages.
“This outside group of people made statements that they were going to come in here and clean house and do this and do that and basically put in the people they want,” explained Gordon.
The severance package, according to Gordon, was developed by the council in an effort to protect the city’s outside supervisor and secretary, who he said are “doing an excellent job” in their roles.
“This $100,000 severance pay don’t really mean nothing,” he said. “What it does mean (is), if they come in here and fire these people because they don’t like them, they have to pay them $100,000.”
Gordon described City Secretary Carla Sheridan as “an asset.
“If a person comes on here and sees that, they’ll have a change of heart,” he said. “That girl has really found some things (and) saved this city a lot of money.”
According to Gordon, the city officials are moving forward with plans to better the city.
“We’re doing some things that people really don’t know about,” he said. “People are going to be pleasantly surprised.
“We are out here for the citizens of this town,” Gordon said of the city officials. “We don’t have an agenda. Well, yes, we do have an agenda. Our agenda is getting this town cleaned up.”
Sarah Naron may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.