Council okays utility payment for museum
The Rector City Council agreed to support the projected utility costs as presented by the Rector Museum Committee, pending approval of the library board, during its meeting Monday evening at city hall. Mayor Ron Kemp, aldermen Cam Cate, Mac Manchester, David Freeman and Glenn Leach, city attorney Kim Dale, recorder-treasurer Lowell McKenney and city superintendent Todd Watson were present.
Joey Pruett addressed the Council on behalf of the museum committee. He said the committee first approached the Council about the museum, located in the back of the library, and how the city could assist with utilities for the museum about four years ago.
Pruett recalled that the key phrase used four years ago was "reasonable". He presented Council members with information regarding the average monthly utility costs of the library and the size of the museum.
Pruett used the library's utility bills for a year to set the baseline for his estimated cost of approximately $95.95 per month for the museum's utilities.
Kemp asked if the city would reimburse the library that portion of their bill. Pruett said he hasn't really discussed it with the library board yet, but that he thinks that would be the proper process.
Pruett added a security system has been installed and the committee is hoping to have the museum open the same hours as the library. The committee is also planning an event in April where residents can submit items for inclusion in the museum.
The Council agreed to support the figures, pending approval of the library board. A payment schedule will have to be negotiated with the library board.
Alderman Cate opened the sealed bids for asphalt and slurry seal.
Three bids were received for asphalt for the 2006 paving projects. Bidders were Thompson Construction of Pocahontas with a bid of $52 per ton; White County Paving Company of Judsonia with a bid of $58.20 per ton; and Delta Asphalt of Arkansas of Paragould with a bid of $55 per ton.
Kemp recommended taking the bids under advisement until the next meeting, due to the fact the city will usually go with the lowest bid but it has not done any work with Thompson Construction in the past. This would give Watson a month to check into the quality of their work and acquire references for the company. The Council agreed.
Cate next opened the bids for slurry seal. Two bids were received for slurry seal. Bidders were Broadway Holdings of North Little Rock with a bid of $1.23 per square yard and Vance Brothers Incorporated of Conway with a bid of $1.15 per square yard.
Kemp recommended these bids be taken under advisement for the same reason until the April meeting. The Council agreed.
Don Parmenter of the Woodland Heights Cemetery Commission said the commission has met and all members have signed off on the regulations regarding items that may or may not be placed at gravesites.
Parmenter said he sent a letter to Tina Stokes regarding violations at the cemetery (a large flagpole), but the letter was unclaimed.
Kemp said maintenance employees at the cemetery may remove items that are not in compliance, but he would like to have a police officer out there to witness the removal.
Leach said he liked the idea of citing violators to court and making them remove items from the cemetery themselves better. Kemp then asked where that would end. For example, would the city cite someone for a shepherd's hook that was not aligned properly? Kemp added he was not sure the violations qualify as a criminal offense.
Dale said they could fall under "criminal mischief in the second degree," which is a Class B Misdemeanor and could result in a fine up to $500. Dale said the cemetery commission would be the complainant on any citations and any officer could write the citations -- requiring violators to come to court and then remove the items. If the items are not removed, the violators would be in contempt of a court order.
Kemp said items would basically be divided into two categories: minor items the maintenance crew feels comfortable removing and larger items they do not feel comfortable removing. The larger items would net the citations. Kemp recommended letting Dale handle the enforcement of the rules, but if it is a minor item, the maintenance crew should just remove it.
Dale urged Parmenter to talk to the commission about the regulations and discuss how they want to handle issues as they arise.
Watson asked the Council to consider a letter from Pauline Bullinger regarding her property at 205 West Ninth Street in Rector.
Bullinger, who was in attendance, said she has a mortgage on the house and property. She is planning on moving back into the house, which was recently vacated by her granddaughter. Bullinger said she needs to do a lot of clean-up at the house and is planning on painting the exterior. She plans to tear the old shop down and has sold the tractor trailer, which is located on the lot.
Watson said the exterior appearance needs to be improved.
Bullinger said she honestly can't afford a whole lot but plans to paint the slate siding on the structure. She added the roof was completely reshingled three years ago.
Kemp asked her for a reasonable time frame for the exterior work to be done. Leach said the Council has given 90 days before and Cate asked her if that would be beneficial. She agreed to that stipulation.
Bullinger has until June 1 to complete the exterior work on the residence.
Watson said he has not had any contact with Ronald Thompson, the owner of the house at 1088 South Dodd, which was earlier reported as 1014 South Dodd. Watson said the house number was different when he looked at the legal description of the property.
Everything Watson has attempted to send Thompson has been returned.
The Council adopted Resolution 2006-01, an order to repair or remove, regarding the residence.
Watson said there hasn't been much progress made on the mobile home at Second Place, which is the third property the city is working on at this time.
Downtown Revitalization Grant
Kemp said the city and the East Arkansas Arkansas Planning and Development District are working together to apply for a grant from the Arkansas Department of Economic Development (ADED) to revitalize downtown Rector.
The city is looking at applying for $200,000 with $50,000 of that being designated to complete sidewalk work and the other $150,000 being designated for purchasing and renovating downtown structures for rental to business owners or multi-purpose structures such as housing units.
Kemp said he basically wanted to discuss two different things: the grant and the possible formation of a committee or non-profit organization to look at revitalizing downtown. Brad Holland has been talking with him about forming such an organization.
Kemp said he hoped the city could apply for the grant and use it as a revolving fund, but he doesn't think it will work that way. He believes the city will have to have a specific plan in place for the funds. The application deadline is March 31, so there is a lot of work to be done in the next three weeks.
Holland pointed out the oldest structures should be worked on first to preserve them. He asked the Council to think about whether the committee should be an extension of the city or a separate non-profit organization. Dale recommended that Kemp and Holland talk to Gina Jarrett, who is in charge of Main Street Paragould, about how her organization was set up.
Kemp said he thought a non-profit organization would be a good idea and the city could have it oversee buildings and projects.
The Council authorized Kemp to sign any applications or paperwork needed for the grant. A public meeting to discuss the grant will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, at city hall.
Kemp presented an initial drawing of the proposed new restrooms at Rector Memorial Park compiled by architect Ken Stacks. The Council is moving toward bidding the project out.
Cate said he saw a flaw on the preliminary drawing. He said a sink had been added and a stall had been removed from the ladies' restroom. Another stall is needed instead. Kemp said he would make a note of that.
The old restroom will be torn down and the new one will be built in its place. The city has $35,000 in grant money on hand to build the facility, but it may take as much as $50,000 to complete it.
Kemp said the city's animal control officer has been picking up quite a few dogs and he would like to see the city make some effort to get more of them adopted.
Watson talked to Dr. Phil Daffron, the veterinarian at Piggott, about how much it would cost to do a heartworm check, spay or neuter a dog, and give it all its shots. Daffron quoted a price of $100 per dog.
Kemp said he would like to start an adoption program. The person who wants to adopt an animal will pay $50 of the fee and the city would pay the other $50. Pictures of dogs that are eligible for adoption will be run in the local paper.
There are four or five dogs in the city's pound at any given time.
The Council agreed to begin the program with a maximum of two dogs being adopted each month through the end of 2006. At the end of the year, the Council will re-evaluate the program.
In other business, the Council:
-- Accepted the minutes from the Feb. 6 meeting as read.
-- Appointed Don Parmenter to another five-year term on the Woodland Heights Cemetery Commission.
-- Heard from Kemp that the city's costs for the computer hookup at the revenue office have been reduced by $100 each month. The city is now paying about $300 a month for the service.
-- Heard from Kemp that the owner of the building behind city hall is still considering the city's offer to purchase the building.
-- Appointed Charles Manchester to the Rector Parks and Recreation Commission.
-- Extended the city's temporary franchise agreement with Cebridge for 30 days, through April 15, to allow the Council time to study the ordinance regarding the agreement and vote on it at the April meeting.
-- Discussed possible avenues for reclaiming some fines and restitutions that remain unpaid.
-- Reviewed a letter from Clay County Sheriff Ronnie Cole regarding a cost increase for ACIC system access.
-- Heard from Kemp that Walnut Ridge wants to do a feasibility study for a regional airport. Kemp provided the Council members with information about the project, which will not cost the city anything, and asked them to study it before the next meeting.
-- Heard that the city's generators are in place and tanks have been purchased to store the diesel for the generators. Watson said the city bought a 1,000 gallon stationary tank and a 100 gallon portable tank.