Piggott Council Chooses New Alderman

Thursday, January 29, 2015
Clay County Clerk Pat Poole (left) swore-in the newest member of the Piggott City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 27, as Jeff Benbrook (center) has been named to complete an unexpired term. Those on hand for the ceremony at the courthouse included, from left: Poole, City Treasurer Jamie Cluck, Benbrook, Mayor Jim Poole and Utilities Manager Brian Haley.

The Piggott City Council met in regular session Monday evening at city hall and during the course of the gathering selected Jeff Benbrook to complete an unexpired term as alderman. Council members also voted to amend the 2014 city budget, and approve the proposed 2015 budget. An ordinance was also passed setting the mayor and city clerks' salaries, and a change in personnel policy was approved. At the conclusion of the meeting Mayor Jim Poole informed those on hand of a Freedom of Information Act request the city had received concerning payroll data of municipal officers, department heads and employees.

Benbrook was elected on a vote of 2-1 by council members Lester Edwards, Mike Cook and Jamey Parks to serve the remaining two years of the term as alderman from south ward, position one. He takes over for Poole, who was elected mayor in last year's election. A local businessman and community activist, Benbrook is currently a member of the Piggott School Board, serves on the Piggott Cemetery Association board of directors and is a member of the volunteer fire department.

Benbrook was elected following a brief executive session in which the aldermen, and Mayor Poole, discussed possible replacements. Afterward the body reconvened and Benbrook was nominated by Edwards, while Cook nominated Brian James' for the position. The matter was then put to a vote, with Edwards and Parks favoring Benbrook while Cook cast his ballot for James.

At mid-day on Tuesday Benbrook was sworn-in by County Clerk Pat Poole at her office.

Under old business the council also revisited the matter of hiring a city maintenance worker, which had been discussed in the fall of 2014. At the time a maintenance worker with the parks and recreation department had resigned, and the city chose not to immediately fill the position. Later discussion centered on finding a maintenance person who would be responsible for not only parks and recreation properties, but also other locations such as city hall, the MLWS operations center and power plant.

After discussing the matter council members voted to advertise the position for several weeks, and review the applicants at their February gathering. The matter passed on a vote of 3-0.

As required by state law, the council also approved a resolution allowing the city to continue to do business with Piggott State Bank. The resolution was required since Mayor Poole is also still a member of the bank's board of directors. The measure passed without dissent.

An ordinance was also passed by council members to establish the salaries of both the mayor and city clerk. The annual salary for the office of mayor was set at $27,000, while the city clerk's salary was set at $7,000. The ordinance was approved on a vote of 3-0.

Council also briefly reviewed the budget for the Parks and Recreation Department, which had already been approved by the parks commission. Among those on hand for the meeting was commission member Brett McMillon and parks and recreation director Shannon Williams.

A change in the city's personnel policy, and handbook, was also approved. Under the new system employees may choose to transfer accrued sick days and vacation time to another employee. The voluntary program will allow employees to share sick days and vacation time with others who have exhausted theirs, and allows more flexibility in helping employees maintain their benefits. The change passed unanimously.

Under MLWS business, council approved the budget for 2015 for the Municipal Light Water and Sewer department. They also heard an update from Utilities Manager Brian Haley on a number of efforts, and approved needed improvements at the substation.

Haley indicated the city was set to enter into an agreement with four other municipalities for hosting an ICC connection. The new addition is required to provide redundant metering of the city's electrical usage, and the associated cost is $2,000 for the installation and $800 a month for maintenance. "It's something we must have to be compliant," Haley explained.

Council also voted 3-0 to allow upgrades to the lines at the substation, which includes installation of new steel structures. Haley estimated the cost at $40 to 45 thousand dollars based on how many of the steel structures are required. He explained the lines are the main feeders from the substation, and loss of any of the structures would cut the city off from the grid.

Haley also noted the cost of living index used to calculate increases to the city's water rates was nominal, and would be reflected by increases of just a few cents per month.

At the conclusion of the meeting Mayor Poole informed the council members, and staff on hand, the city had received an FOI (Freedom of Information Act) request from Julie McMillon. The request was for a listing of all city officers, department heads and employees and their current salaries. Poole indicated the city would provide the requested information, which is public record, but noted he felt all city personnel should, and will, be notified of the request.

McMillon, who was in attendance, offered no comment on the matter.

Afterward, council members voted to adjourn.

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