The relationship between the city of Rainsville and the Northeast Alabama Agri-business Center was once again a topic of discussion at Monday’s workshop prior to the council meeting.
Councilman Marshall Stiefel addressed the meeting, saying he’s concerned about who is “handling” the money at the Agribusiness center.
During the last meeting on Dec. 3, Stiefel referred to the center as a “ball and chain” and an “albatross around the neck of the city.”
At Monday’s meeting, members of the Agri-business Center board and Public Building Authority attended the meeting to respond to the comments. Bryan Thomas, Arlan “Monk” Blevins and Eric Samples were present.
After Stiefel said he is still “investigating” the center’s records, Councilman Rickey Byrum reminded him that they were in a city council meeting, not a PBA meeting.
“The chairman of the Agri-center [Board] is sitting there,” Byrum said. “They’d be more than glad to tell you when they have their meetings, and if you want to attend their meeting, you can address anything you want to address to them. They have all the records. We don’t have any of the records. They’re a separate entity, a separate LLC.”
Stiefel, referring to Samples, the chairman of the PBA, said he still gets paid the same, despite a change in responsibilities.
“Just for the record, I know this is a council meeting, but this city subsidizes that place at almost $1,000 a day, so I feel like the citizens have the right to know what’s going on with money,” Stiefel said. “If you’re paying a guy almost $58,000 a year, but yet you’re taking him off of some of his responsibilities, he was handling the money and now he’s no longer handling the money, and I can’t get a clear answer as to why he isn’t handling the money, but he’s still there.”
Councilman Freeman said referring to someone’s job duties or pay was a matter for an executive session, not a regularly scheduled public meeting. Stiefel declined to move into an executive session to discuss it further.
Bryan Thomas, chairman of the Agri-business board, followed up with Stiefel’s comments, saying the Agri-center had little to no representation from past administrations, which set progress back years.
“I know all of this talk is about the PBA, and the changes we’ve got going on and things at the Agri-center that we want to change, and Councilman Stiefel, you made the comment last meeting that the PBA was “handed a raw deal,” is how I think you put it,” Thomas said. “The liaison to the Agri-center Board, that I’m chairman of, was the [past] mayor, and he didn’t make half of the meetings. We had no representation, and the PBA didn’t even meet. The last city council and the last mayor that got it in the shape it’s in now.”
Thomas said the board would provide Stiefel with any information or records that he has unofficially requested and invited him to any Agri-business Center board meetings, with 7 to 10 days notice to place him on the agenda.