Regional City Councils Meet
Members of the Piggott City Council approved budgets for 2016 at their regular meeting Monday night at city hall. The city general, MLWS and parks department budgets were all accepted as presented.
During the gathering aldermen also heard an update on efforts to replace the community center roof, reviewed an agreement with the local Little League organization concerning operations at Independence Park and discussed the downtown holiday lighting effort.
The utility reports were also offered by Brian Haley, and board reappointments were approved.
With all members in attendance, along with key personnel, Mayor Jim Poole called the meeting to order. After dispensing with the usual agenda items the council turned their attention to budgetary matters.
"I'd just like to remind the council that this is not set in stone," Poole said of the city general budget. "It can be amended at any time during the coming year as needed."
Following a brief discussion the budget was approved, with Alderman Mike Cook offering the motion to do so with a second from Alderman Lester Edwards.
The budget for the Municipal Light, Water and Sewer Department was next offered for review. It was also approved, with Alderman Edwards offering the motion and a second from Alderman Jamey Parks.
"We're applying with Rural Development for a loan of $300,000, but we hope we're not going to need to borrow the full amount," Poole explained. "The first thing I wanted to know if there were any penalties for early pay-offs, but there aren't."
The mayor indicated an engineering firm has been contracted for the job, and is now in the process of working out the specifications. "The firm will not only oversee the bidding of the project, but also the installation," Poole explained.
He noted additional damage to the roof is being found after every rain, and added that he felt it was increasingly dangerous. He also informed the council the engineers had suggested leaving the old roof on the building for stability, with the new roof to be attached over the existing one.
"We've got it figured into the parks budget, and I'll keep you updated," he surmised.
The council then turned their attention to the budget for the parks department, with an update provided by City Treasurer Jamie Cluck.
"I'm sure this budget will be amended a number of times during the year," Poole explained. "There were a lot of funds listed under miscellaneous in previous budgets and we're converting everything to line-item. But, we feel we've covered everything for the parks, the community center, the swimming pool and ball fields."
Poole indicated repairs have been going on at Heritage Park in the past months, and more are budgeted for the coming year. "We've had to do a lot of repairs at Heritage Park, including work to the fishing pier, and we'll be doing some more work out there," he added. "But, we also have the option of amending the budget later, and shifting funds around to where they're needed. We're also discussing other needs, like possibly sealing the parking lot at the community center."
He noted the parks budget had earmarked lower amounts for mowing, and other such maintenance, than years in years past but still included some $53,000 in utilities.
The budget was approved on a vote of 4-0.
The council also reviewed a proposed agreement with the local Little League organization, concerning operations of Independence Park during the upcoming baseball and softball seasons.
"We have proposed that the local Little League folks take over all responsibility for preparing the fields, making the call on whether games are to be played or not, and notifying those involved," Poole noted. "We will keep the ball park mowed outside of the field areas, but they'll be responsible for dragging the fields and lining them, and such."
He also added the Little League organization will also be operating the concession stand again this year, allowing them to utilize the profits for the program.
"We're putting things a little more in line with the way things are done in most other cities," he explained. "We will still maintain the facility, and the infrastructure, and we'll still cover about $7,000 in utilities."
Poole also noted the city had paid about $4,300 in salary last year for an employee dedicated to preparing the fields. "Not to mention the street department and utility workers who worked down there at various times," he added.
Council members also reviewed, and approved, a change in the personnel policy concerning bereavement leave days. In the past employees were offered three days off in the event of the death of a close family member, although there was a loophole.
"Before, if someone didn't take the days off at the time they were considered accumulated leave time, and could be taken off later," Cluck informed the council. "We just want it clarified that the days are to be used the day before the funeral, the day of the funeral, and the day after--but only if they were scheduled to work on that specific day."
The council was also asked to clarify a matter on accumulated sick time. At Cluck's request they were asked to change the amount of time someone must be employed before they can be paid for unused days at the time they retire or leave the city. Under the new guidelines, an employee must have been with the city at least 20 years, and the number of days which may be accumulated were capped at 40.
Both changes were approved without dissent.
Late in the meeting Poole, along with Utilities Manager Brian Haley, updated the council on recent discussions involving the downtown lighting effort during the holidays.
"We've had several of the downtown building owners indicate they no longer want to be a part of the lighting program," Haley noted. "As it stands now, if we try to continue we'll have huge gaps in the lighting, unless we want to maintain and pay for them ourselves."
"We're looking at doing something different for next year," Poole explained. "We started working on those things in October, and it turned out to be a huge expense. We're talking about two or three men, one or two trucks, working on what is basically private property. I'll bet we wrapped up $20,000 in labor and such from October through the end of the year."
"It would be up to the individual building owners if they want us to leave the lights up, but they'll have to get an electrician to hook them up for them," Haley explained.
Poole added he would keep the council updated on what options were being discussed at future meetings.
During his update on the utility departments, Haley noted energy costs had remained fairly static, and also reviewed the process of re-setting the fuel adjustment factor for the coming year. He also reported on a ground problem which arose in Ballard Heights over the recent weekend, which resulted in a power outage in that area. He noted the problem was not associated with the winter storm, and indicated the local grid held up well under the ice which did accumulate.
Haley also informed the council about problems which are being addressed at the water tower in the industrial park. "We had some leakage problem, and had a company come in and check it out," he noted. "They drained it down and said we had some bad couplings and such, and it would only cost about $2,000 to fix."
He noted the company, which is the same firm which painted the tank in recent years, reported there were some rust issues on the outside which needed to be addressed.
"When they were here before they only put one coat of paint on the outside, because we're dealing with lead paint," he added. "And, as you know when you're dealing with lead paint you have to "tent" the tank and collect all the dust and old paint. Bottom line, they estimated we're looking at about $190,000 to repaint the outside."
He also told the aldermen the engineer had suggested painting the inside as well.
"For about $40,000 more we can get the inside painted too," Haley added. "The engineer said it would be cheaper to do if they were already here to do the outside, and they didn't think it was a good idea for there to be 10 years difference in age for the inside and outside paint jobs."
Haley informed the council the best time to address the project would be late summer, or early fall.
He also updated personnel matters, noting Bobby Wooten is no longer on call for the electric department, but added Justin Welch has taken up much of the slack. Welch just completed his third year of the lineman apprentice program, and will be a journeyman lineman by the end of 2016. Haley also reported Garrett Cook passed his first wastewater exam, and has proved to be a good asset for the water and sewer department. "He's a good worker, I know Bradley (Water Superintendent Bradley Scheffler) is glad to have him," he surmised.
In other business the council-
* Approved the destruction of housing files dating back to 2009.
* Tabled an update on the financial standing of the Job Stimulus Fund.
* Voted to reappoint Tim Boyd and Jim Parks to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
* Reappointed Vickie Carlton to a new term on the P&Z Commission.
* Approved the reappointments of Tom Sneed and George Forrest to the Board of Adjustments.
* Reappointed Jack Parrish and Kevin Jones to the Airport Commission.
* Were informed of a meeting with Piggott Schools Superintendent Charlie Powell at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 3, concerning the Safe Routes to Schools grant effort and various other matters of mutual importance.
* Heard from Haley the effort to have utility customers sign-up to pay their bills by bank draft, and E-mail billing, has been successful.
Rector Special Meeting
Rector's city council approved refinancing of the city's water and sewer revenue bonds at a special meeting Tuesday, Jan. 19, saving the city approximately $124,000.
Crews & Associates representative Bob Wright, who serves as the city's financial consultant, approached the council during the council's October meeting about refinancing. He said then about $118,000 could be saved over the next 13 years due to lower interest rates being available at the time.
The bonds were originally acquired in 2011, with an interest rate of 4.6 percent.
Refinancing lowered the interest rate to 3.6 percent, allowing the $124,000 to be saved.
"The interest rate is cheaper, the deadline for payoff didn't change and the payment amount remained the same," mayor Teresa Roofe said.
Aldermen Ryan Lawrence, David Romine, Lark Sigsby and Iva Fahr were present for the meeting.
Marmaduke city council discussed its new website, payment for fire trucks and moving of the public works office at its monthly meeting Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Mayor Steve Dixon is working in conjunction with municipalimpact.com, which specializes in setting up and running websites for cities and towns, to put together a brand new, more inviting website for Marmaduke. The new website will include information about the city departments and happenings around town. "The site should be up by the end of the week and the domain name is www.marmadukear.com," Dixon said.
The public works office was also approved to move into fire station number one. Public works is run by Jeremy Horton, who handles all water, sewer and street reports. His old office was deemed unsatisfactory as it would flood often, which is dangerous when using electrical equipment such as computers.
The final order of business was to approve Dixon writing a $12,000 check to pay for two fire trucks the city has possessed for about a year, 1978 and 1980 Ford pumper trucks on loan from Paragould. "The two trucks will make good back-up trucks and for county calls as we assist a lot of those," Dixon said.
Aldermen Roy Newsom, Keith DeFries, Bill Muse, Chuck Long, Tom Green and Chris Blackshear attended the meeting.