Anniston City Councilman Ben Little said last month that he asked for City Manager Jay Johnson’s resignation because work orders in his ward had gone without completion.
However, a Star review of city records shows that work orders completed in Ward 3 during calendar year 2018 exceeded those of any other ward.
Little’s requests have included streetlights on Lapsley Avenue between Third and Fifth streets and the widening of Maple Street near its intersection with Constantine Avenue, he said Friday, where he claims cars and school buses can’t pass one another and stay on the road.
Reviewed documents show that Ward 3 had a total of 759 completed work orders in the time span of December 2017 through January 2019; Councilman Jay Jenkins’ Ward 1 had 491 completed work orders, Councilman David Reddick’s Ward 2 had 459 and Councilwoman Millie Harris’ Ward 4 had 402.
The power to request work by a city crew is not held only by the City Council. Any Anniston resident can file a work order with the city — requests for work ranging from cleaning leaves to installing lights and fixing potholes — as long as that work is done on public property.
Little said prior to a vote at a City Council meeting on Jan. 15 to terminate Johnson’s employment that work orders he had created as many as two years before still hadn’t been addressed. The motion to terminate Johnson failed to carry, although Mayor Jack Draper noted that Johnson hadn’t been on the job a full year.
Johnson said by text message Friday that he does his best to inform Little if there are any delays or questions, adding though, “I will acknowledge that there are probably some that get delayed.”
“That happens for every council member probably,” he added. “I do not intentionally fail to respond to him.”
Little said Friday that his high number of work orders is due to his being in his office regularly, his having made his cell phone number publicly available and his willingness to stop and take notes about properties where he sees that work can be done, such as the lights on Lapsley “for safety,” he said.
Each member of the council said that money to complete work orders comes from the general fund and is not budgeted by ward.
Jenkins described the work order process as informal, based around shared information, and that he has had no issues with the system so far. He said he stops by the city manager’s office in the morning to report anything he’d like checked out, and will also usually ask residents to get in touch with the departments they need. Jenkins said he can help move things along if they don’t see progress
“It’s kind of a moving target, and I don’t think there needs to be a formal process in that,” he said.
Reddick said he believes the city’s public works department is strong, but he wants more accountability.
“I like the idea of being able to pull it up and seeing what’s happening, seeing where I am on it,” he said.
Little said he and Reddick introduced an idea a few years ago for the city to subscribe to a software service that would track open work orders, which residents could then access. He said he had forgotten the service’s name, but noted that several like it are available online.
“It’s not that expensive, not for the benefit you get out of it,” Little said.
Harris said that she thought a public database would be a good idea, though it would require the city website to be rebuilt.
“That takes a lot of funds we just haven’t had,” she said, adding that other projects have taken priority. “That needs to be done, I agree, so people can go in and check what the status is.”
Jenkins said the idea was worth consideration, though it might have drawbacks.
“The question is if it’s taking away from an individual’s duties updating this, and what happens if they’re not fast enough about updating it as someone wants (them to be)?” he said.