First-time city council bonuses causing controversy in Hughes

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HUGHES, Ark. -- Some community members in Hughes, Arkansas are asking why city council members are receiving bonuses for the first time when the city's strapped for cash.

There are potholes all over the city.

“Everybody’s hitting them," said Ricky Barkley. "People are going around them which is going to cause wrecks and stuff and going into people’s yards, that’s the main problem.”

There are also concerns about water.

“They’re telling me even if they boil the water, there’s a nasty taste to it," said Aristea George, a community manager of two apartment complexes.

The small town of Hughes has some big problems.

On Monday, some of them were brought up at city council.

The issue is the city’s stretched for cash.

One mandated city project is estimated to cost half a million dollars and they’re still working to pay off mistakes from past administrations.

Their budget's feeling the pressure.

However, it was a different conversation there last month when all but one of them approved city council members to get retroactive bonuses -- $500 a piece.

It’s the first bonus for council members in at least fifty years, possibly ever.

They currently get paid $100 for each monthly meeting, whether or not they show up.

Councilwoman Sheryl Owens proposed the bonus because the mayor receives one every year.

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander," said Owens. "I think if the mayor, who is an elected official, gets a bonus, then the same rule should apply to the city council. They’re all elected officials.”

The $3,000 is coming from the city’s general fund and emotions sparked as the decision was challenged at the end of Monday's meeting.

Some question why the bonus money can’t fill the potholes instead of council members’ pockets.

“The priorities should be to help the city not themselves," said Carol Dillahunty.

Councilwoman Owens stands by her proposal.

She says money’s set aside for fixing up the city but isn’t sure why the streets aren’t getting fixed.

Owens attended seven out of the 12 meetings for 2017, which the bonus applies to. She said her absences were due to having three deaths in her family.