Rector City Council Hosts New Members
The Rector City Council is examining the proposed 2015 budget, as presented by Mayor David Freeman during Monday night's meeting at city hall. Freeman presented the lengthy document to Council members Lavern "Mac" Manchester, Cam Cate, David Romine and Teresa Roofe to examine and share their thoughts at the Dec. 1 regular meeting, but also made a point to go over any significant changes from previous budgets.
The first changes Freeman mentioned included a three percent base rate increase for city employees. This proposed raise is an all-encompassing "across the board" increase for all city employees. Also included in the proposed budget are increases for officials. Next year's City Council, which will feature new members Lark Sigsby, Ryan Lawrence and Iva Fahr, would receive an increase from $150 per month to $200 per month, as per the proposal. The position of mayor, which will be held by Roofe beginning in 2015, will increase from $1,000 to $1,250 monthly. Rates for the city recorder and city attorney will increase from $415 to $520 and from $825 to $1,030, respectively. Freeman also included adding short-term and long-term disability coverage for all employees enrolled in the city's healthcare plan. The additional coverage carries a cost of $10 per employee per month.
Additional changes of note for the 2015 budget proposal include the following:
* Earmarking $5,000 for the purchase of a new air conditioning unit at the community center.
* Adding a part-time employee at a rate of $1,000 per month to work with grant writing and community development.
* An additional $10,000 per year for the demolition of condemned properties within the city.
* Entering into a contract for generator maintenance and upkeep at a cost of $3,200 per year.
* An additional $400 per month for the purchase of new equipment for the Rector Fire Department.
* Funds to be used for the repair and maintenance of the city's fire hydrants in the amount of $12,000.
* Funds for the purchase of at least one new radar for the Rector Police Department and restoring the defunct assistant police chief position with a base salary increase of $1 per hour.
* Funds for the purchase of a new backhoe for the street department.
Mayor Freeman thanked city office manager Kim Romine for her efforts in creating the proposed budget.
Energy Saving Program
Chris Kell of Impact Energy Solutions met with the Council at the beginning of the meeting to discuss the possibility of Rector residents and businesses taking part in a program to identify ways homes and businesses can be made more energy efficient. Kell noted Impact Energy Solutions tests houses and buildings to find factors which lead to increased energy use. Once these factors are identified, IES works to create a plan to increase efficiency based upon the cost of repairs against one year of estimated savings. From there, owners are able to work with contractors to make the suggested improvements. He advised the Council the typical home can save $20 to $30 monthly by increasing efficiency.
Kell noted many energy providers, including Entergy, offer incentives for customers to become more efficient. According to Kell, these incentives are what covers the cost of IES' services.
IES previously has worked with the Rector Housing Authority, completing tests on 80 units which were then made more efficient. Due to this, he would like to continue working in Rector as a sort of "pilot program" to demonstrate to other communities. He agreed to provide the Council with information which can be shared throughout the community in order to gauge interest in the program.
Kenneth Stanley met with the Council regarding the property at 402 E. 4th St. Stanley advised the Council he is in the process of purchasing the property from Michelle Bearden, but there have been issues in locating the deed.
Previously, the city had identified the property as an area which had fallen below city requirements. Stanley and others have been in the process of restoring the house in recent weeks, making a number of improvements. Additionally, the Council received a letter of intent from Bearden, noting the effort to restore and sell the property. With this information, the Council agreed to give Bearden and Stanley the requested 30 days to bring the property up to city codes. The Council thanked Stanley for his efforts in restoring the property.
The Council will move forward with the condemnation of the 309 W. 5th St. property of Steven Fallis at the Dec. 1 meeting, slated to begin at 6 p.m. The Council will hear from any parties involved with the property at that time before making a decision to move forward with the ordinance required for the removal of the property at the site. The Council has been actively seeking the assistance of ownership at the site for more than a year with little to no results.
The Council approved a resolution to condemn the property at 615 E. 4th St. City superintendent Todd Watson noted he had been in contact with the property owners and advised them to contact the Council with any plans for restoration, but no one has made contact with the Council either by letter or in person regarding the property.
Another property, 1215 S. Phillips, has been added to the city's list of notable properties which do not meet standards. The Council asked for a letter to be sent to the owners requesting their presence at the Dec. 1 meeting before any additional steps are taken.
Watson spoke to the Council regarding the recent street repairs made in the city, noting the results have yielded "mixed emotions." Cache River Paving of Paragould handled the project, working closely with the city to target and repairs notable areas. The company utilized two techniques to repair most areas, patching and scabbing. The city has received some complaints from the areas which were scabbed, areas where the street edge was milled and a one-and-a-half inch layer of asphalt was layered in an area of 18 inches. These scabs result in a small bump in the street, but are approximately one-third the cost of more traditional patches, wherein the broken sections are milled out and new asphalt is placed in the resulting hole. Watson said the scabs have caused some complaints from residents.
Watson noted the city is seeking a $250,000 for more extensive street repairs.
Watson is requesting the city purchase a new backhoe in 2015 through state bids. Through the state bid, the city could purchase a backhoe for a lower price, estimated around $65,000, and sell its 1996 model through a program which could generate more than one-third the cost. The older backhoe, a two wheel drive, has become less dependable and has nearly 3,000 hours of operation. The street department has a 2004 backhoe which has over 2,000 hours of use that would be transitioned to a secondary role with the purchase of a newer model.
The Council was advised of three upcoming community events.
The Community-wide Thanksgiving service will be held at 5 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Rector Community Center.
The community center will host its annual craft sale on Nov. 22.
The annual Christmas Parade will be held starting at 6 p.m. Dec. 8 with entertainment and fellowship following at the community center.
In other business, the Council:
* Approved the minutes from the October meeting.
* Welcomed newly-elected members Iva Fahr, Lark Sigsby and Ryan Lawrence, who were in the audience. The new Council members will take office in January.