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City cleanup, summer jobs program under way

Posted on June 26, 2019

By Tia Lyons
Staff Writer

The city’s summer jobs and cleanup initiative is in full swing, with area youth putting the $85,000 expenditure to work by clearing litter and overgrown vegetation from city rights of way.

Young workers — mostly ages 17, 18 and 19 — reported for duty June 13, the first day of the city’s new payroll period and a week after the El Dorado City Council voted to dip into the city’s reserve coffers to help clean up El Dorado by providing summer jobs to area youth.

The $85,000 covers 20 part-time positions at 25 hours per week and the purchase of small tools and supplies, including weed eaters, chainsaws, pole saws, gloves and vests.

The city worked with local temporary employment agency Manpower to hire the seasonal employees and Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer said the jobs were snapped up as soon as they became available.

“They’re all filled and they’ve already started. It did not take long to fill them,” Smith-Creer said.

City officials initially set a minimum age of 16 to participate in the program but Smith-Creer and Robert Edmonds — director of public works, the department through which the summer job program is managed — said Manpower cited risk concerns for younger workers.

“The temp agency wouldn’t insure them if they were under the age of 17,” Edmonds said.

On June 6, Edmonds told council members that a temporary employment agency would handle payroll, workers compensation and other such personnel matters.

“We’re paying for the service and if you have a few that don’t work out, they’ll replace them the same day,” Edmonds said at the time.

Council members Willie McGhee and Andre Rucks, both of whom represent Ward 3, presented the $85,000 funding request to the council June 6.

The request led to a spirited debate that ended with McGhee pleading with fellow council members to try the program for “just one summer” and with a tight vote of 4-3.

Council members Vance Williamson, Paul Choate and Dianne Hammond voted no, with Hammond asking the city officials to wait until the June 10 Finance Committee meeting to review the matter.

Smith-Creer and Edmonds said the program seems to be working well as the young employees head toward collecting their first paycheck with the city this week.

They said the workers are working in all four city wards picking up litter and weed-eating city rights of way and they are on the clock for eight hours each Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

“We’ve been through (areas) several times over the past few days and it looks like it’s working out real good,” Edmonds said. “They’ve been on Marsh, a section of Hillsboro, Martin Luther King, Wilson … They’re scattered everywhere.”

Edmonds said the group is also helping to remove limbs that hang precariously over city rights of way and streets.

“My guys who are running the program say it’s working out well,” he said.

Smith-Creer said she has also heard positive feedback from city residents about the summer initiative.

“They said they’re thankful for it, thankful to see it,” she said.

City crews are also overseeing a newly expanded community service program in a partnership with Keep El Dorado Beautiful and 35th Judicial District Court.

KEB was recently certified as an alternative/community service provider for district court.

Defendants who are convicted of misdemeanor offenses and who choose community service to pay off fines levied by the court now have the option of picking up litter around the city for three days per week.

Defendants earn $10 an hour — which is applied to the balance of their fines.

District court Judge Jack Barker began assigning defendants to the KEB/city program earlier this month.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or