Piggott Council Reviews Parks and Recreation

Thursday, August 27, 2015
The Piggott Fire Department is scheduled to accept delivery Thursday on their new service/rescue truck. The new unit is pictured as it awaited delivery in Memphis, and will soon be pressed into service to replace the aged van which has been used for a number of years.(courtesy photo)

An update on the parks and recreation department dominated Monday night's Piggott City Council meeting. The aldermen were informed of recent efforts by the department, and discussed several of the facilities and future needs. During the regular monthly gathering, council members also heard updates on the MLWS, police department and street department. Fire Chief Brian Haley also reported the new truck for his department is scheduled to be delivered this week.

Prior to the start of the meeting, the council heard from Diane Dodge and several local residents who took advantage of the adult swim sessions offered at the public pool. The group presented Mayor Jim Poole, and the council, with a large thank you card and offered their appreciation for the opportunity to have the special swimming sessions. Dodge, and the others on hand, also asked the council members to consider holding the adult swim sessions next season as well.

Although the sessions didn't begin into well into the swimming season, the adult swim sessions proved to be popular. Held prior to the regular opening of the pool, the sessions were restricted to only those over 18 and drew a mature crowd.

Parks and Recreation

During the business session City Treasurer Jamie Cluck, and Mayor Poole, updated the council members on what has transpired within the parks and recreation department in the past several months. Earlier this year the council voted to dissolve the Parks and Recreation Commission, prompting the resignation of longtime secretary Shannon Williams. The operation of the department was then placed under the control of city hall.

During the update, Poole told the council members the city was still addressing a Freedom of Information Act request by Julie McMillon, wife of former commissioner Brett McMillon. He noted council approval was not necessary, and indicated he would keep the aldermen abreast of the situation based on the fact there may be possible future litigation involving the city.

The request was filed shortly after the commission was dissolved, and requested specific payroll and other financial information concerning the department. At the time city officials noted some of the information requested was difficult to glean, based on the type of bookkeeping system used by the department under the prior leadership.

Cluck told the council members Penny Ballard had been hired to oversee the department, and research the records and paperwork from years past. She indicated all payroll, and accounts payable, were now being handled through her office at city hall. "Recently all we've been doing is just keeping the bills paid, and keeping things going," she noted. "We are currently not doing any projects."

She reported Independence Park has been secured for the winter, and noted several minor repair jobs are needed at the pool. Cluck also updated the aldermen on efforts to document all previous grants and grant applications, noting they were looking for additional paperwork on some of the efforts.

Rehabilitation projects are also planned at Heritage Park, including the repair and painting of the fishing pier. The lighting along the pier is also to be addressed by the Parks Department maintenance man, Andy Dixon.

She also noted the department has received a grant for use at the park, and indicated they're currently discussing a plan to extend the sidewalk around the amphitheater. Additional grant monies have also been secured for improvements at Independence Park and the swimming pool.

The greatest issue within the parks department at this point, according to Cluck, is the community center. She reported continuing problems with the roof of the center, and noted past efforts had only served to temporarily patch leaks. "If we have a bad winter we're really in trouble," she explained. Initial estimates of the cost to repair the roof fall in the range of $200,000 to $300,000.

Cluck also reported two of the air conditioning units are down, and two are low on Freon. She noted the past maintenance schedule had been sporadic, and indicated industry experts suggested the units be serviced twice a year.

She also reviewed a spread sheet of visitors to the community center, noting there are times of the week when there is little or no activity. Cluck indicated Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings were the slowest times, although the center still had to maintain the same costs for manpower and electric as during busy times.

Poole added the center uses about $3,600 a month in electric.

Council members agreed to allow the department to adjust the community center hours of operation in the future, as needed.

Street Department

The aldermen were informed the paving projects on Veteran's Drive and North 12th Street were proceeding. According to Street Superintendent Gary Chronister, Veteran's Drive was scheduled to be paved Tuesday. The paving company was also scheduled to overlay a section of North 12th, adjacent to Gordon Duckworth Drive near the hospital.

Chronister also indicated the city had cut the mowing costs in half, thanks to changes made this summer.

Piggott PD

Chief Don Poole reported on personnel changes within the police department, as one patrolman resigned and two new officers have been hired. He noted local native Sam Yates had resigned to take a job with the Paragould Police Department, and was already on the job in Greene County. Poole also noted he had hired Michael Thompson, most recently of the Corning Police Department, and he was now on the job. The chief added another recent member of the Corning PD had also been hired, but won't be starting until mid-September. "I didn't go looking to hire two guys from the same department, but he contacted me and said he had already resigned," Poole explained. "His name is John Wilburn, and he said after farming season he was going to try to find a job in law enforcement-and with Sam leaving I went ahead and hired him to start next month."

Poole noted the department had been shorthanded since the retirement of Chief Bill Alstadt, around the first of the year.

MLWS

Haley indicated both the electric, and water and sewer, departments were primarily in a maintenance mode. He noted the replacement of the poles at the corner of Royal Road and Castleberry also turned-up a stuck switch, which has since been addressed.

Meanwhile, the water and sewer department has been installing some of the new radio-read meters.

Haley also reported a 1.7 percent fuel adjustment on the upcoming bills. He noted consumption was up, but thanks to the purchase of hydro power costs were steady. "Our consumption is up though," he explained. "Last year we billed $3.6 million for this period, and this year it stands at $4.3 million."

He also indicated the two new employees are working out well, and both supervisors were happy with their performances. Earlier this year Colton Poole was hired by the electric department, and recently Garrett Cook was hired by the water department.

New Fire Truck

Haley, in his role as fire chief, also reported on the efforts to purchase a new service/rescue truck for the department. He indicated the new truck was in Memphis, and if the proper paperwork can be taken care of it will be delivered on Thursday.

The truck was purchased with grant funds, and a low interest loan which will be paid by the department's regular reimbursement from the state. It replaces the aged van which has been used several years, and which has fallen into a state of disrepair.

During Monday night's meeting the council also voted to allow the department to give the old van to one of the smaller departments in the area, if they chose to accept the unit in its current state.

In other business the council-

* Were informed of upcoming ditch work at the corner of Castleberry and North Templeton.

* Adjusted the city personnel party to allow employees to carry over vacation time, as opposed to losing it if it's not utilized. The change brings the city policy into alignment with the state.

* Agreed to extend the contract for the Code Red service for another year at a cost of $2,040.

* Amended the agenda, and authorized the mayor to sign a grant application with the FAA for the Piggott Airport. If approved, the grant funds would be used for a planning study for a run-off at the south end of the local runway.

* Agreed to enter into a farm rental contract with Brock Russell for 70+ acres on the southeast edge of the city. The agreement was established to begin immediately and will run through Dec. 31, 2016.

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