Lumberton faces budget deadline,absent aldermen under fire

LUMBERTON, MS (WDAM) - As of Wednesday, the Lumberton Board of Alderman is down to the wire in terms of a city budget. The deadline is in three days - they've known it's been coming for months - and now they have just 72 hours to negotiate a budget, vote on it, and submit it to the state.

But as the clock ticks, three Lumberton city alderman are not showing up.

Kent Crider, Bobby Gibson and Tim Johnson have not attended five of the eight budget meetings held since June, according to one city clerk.

"We're talking about the water, the sewer, the garbage pickup, the mowing the grass, the keeping up of the city," said former Mayor Lumberton Larry Strahan. "It's a big deal."

Gibson says the meetings are often called on short notice and he can't make them. Tim Johnson and Kent Crider both said on the phone Wednesday they're been out of town or at work for the missed meetings. Johnson said since his election, he is working a job outside of the city.

When asked where the city's budget currently stands, Strahan answered: "They don't have one ... because you can't get anyone to go to a meeting to put one together."

Now, according to state law, any city that doesn't submit a budget by September 15 can be taken over by the state, meaning city workers could be out of jobs. Over the phone Wednesday, all three alderman said they are not concerned about the deadline, Kent Crider telling Seven on your Side he doesn't believe the state would actually take action.

"I think you ought to have a recall election. I think they all ought to be thrown out of office. All three of those," said Strahan. "Because they have their own little private agenda."

Strahan said at least once during his tenure, he sent city police to retrieve an alderman absent from a meeting.

In a meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening - the last one scheduled before the September 15 deadline - the same three chronically absent alderman told News Seven they are not able to attend.

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