City Councils Address Issues

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Both the Piggott and Marmaduke city councils handled on-going issues at their recent meetings.

Piggott Council

By Tim Blair

New hours of operations, and rental rates, for the Piggott Community Center were approved at Monday night's regular city council meeting. The aldermen also discussed placing liens on dilapidated properties, accepted the high bid on the sale of the city-owned building on South Third Avenue and approved two appointments to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

With all members in attendance, along with other key personnel, the meeting was called to order by Mayor Jim Poole. After approving the previous minutes, financials and clerk reports the council turned their attention to the community center. "We're still haggling-out all the issues on the community center roof," Poole noted. "All the plans have been submitted to the USDA for review, and when they're returned we'll start the bid process."

The city is borrowing $300,000 to pay for the project, although Poole noted any funds not used would immediately be applied toward the principle without penalty.

Later in the meeting the council also reviewed, and approved, suggested changes in the hours of operation and rental rates for the center. Currently, the center is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, while the hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday's to accommodate existing programs. The center is closed both Saturday and Sunday.

Based on the recommendations made by center staff, the hours will also be extended on Tuesdays until 7:30 p.m. for the winter months. There are also new rental rates for the facility.

The rentals are available for four hours at a time, either 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 2 to 6 p.m. The meeting rooms are available for $40 with a $15 deposit; kitchen and dining room are $100 with a $30 deposit; the executive meeting room is available for $50 with no deposit, although no parties or meals are allowed. The gym is available for $200, with a $100 deposit, and anything over four hours is an additional $50 per hour.

Meanwhile, the memberships remain the same at $55 for adults and $25 for children, as well as the exercise room monthly fee of $30.

"Those are the recommendations for now, but you can always go back and change any of it in the future," Poole offered. "Hopefully, after we get the roof repaired we can do more to promote the use of the center."

The aldermen agreed to the new rates and hours on a vote of 4-0.

Poole also updated council on the Safe Routes to School effort, paid for by a grant acquired in conjunction with the Piggott School District. He noted the speed bump has been installed on South Garfield, and work continued on the crosswalk access on East Main Street. New lights are also being installed at both locations, with the work expected to be complete in the next two weeks.

Council members also agreed to continue the contract to provide the Code Red service to residents for another year. The program is designed to alert residents in the event of severe weather, but can also be used to inform citizens of other pertinent information. The city was considering dropping the service due to the availability of other such alert systems through private parties, such as the one provided by KAIT.

"I think we should do it one more year to allow people a chance to find another source," Alderman Mike Cook offered. "That gives us time to let them know this is the last year for it and time for them to find other options."

Cook then offered a motion to extend the contract for an additional year, and the measure passed without dissent. Total cost of the annual contract with ECN is for $2,040.

The aldermen then considered placing liens on three properties which have been maintained by the city. The effort is being done under Poole's city clean-up program, which has led to the demolition of more than a dozen dilapidated properties.

City Attorney Kimberly Dale provided the information on the properties, and explained the process of posting a legal notice in the newspaper. She also set a public hearing on the properties in question for 5:45 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 26, prior to the regular city council meeting at city hall. The three properties in question were approved on a vote of 4-0.

The aldermen also voted to accept the high bid for the sale of a city-owned building located on South Third Avenue. In light of the acquisition of the former Woodhall building, which is earmarked to include storage and a satellite fire station, council recently decided to sell the building. It had been purchased several years ago from Jerry Morgan, and was used for storage.

High bid was submitted by Frankie Faulk in the amount of $50,001. The bid was accepted by unanimous vote.

Council also agreed to waive the rental fee, and deposit, for use of the community center on Saturday, Sept. 10, for the Face in the Crowd 60th Anniversary Celebration. The two-day observance will wrap-up at the community center on Saturday evening, with a special banquet and showing of the iconic movie. The event also serves to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the formation of the PHS Mohawk Band, and will be used to raise funds for the band program.

The alderman also approved one resignation, and two appointments, to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Cathy Norred submitted her resignation, which was accepted on a vote of 4-0. The council then appointed Sean Martin to complete her unexpired term, which concludes at the end of December of this year. Shawn Parker was also appointed to complete a term on the commission, and will serve through the end of December of 2022. Both of the appointments were approved without dissent.

Late in the meeting Poole requested an amendment to the agenda, as he provided information on a recent rate increase on housing prisoners in the Clay County Detention Center. Currently, the city pays $10 a day to house male inmate, and $25 a day for females, in an agreement which is nearly 30 years old. Under the new plan, the same $30-a-day rate would be charged for all inmates housed in the facility, according to a letter sent to local municipalities by Sheriff Terry Miller.

Poole indicated the request will likely impact a long-standing contract between the city and county which provides $7,500 in electric and $28,000 toward salaries, toward operations of the center. He noted the matter would be discussed in the weeks to come, as the new rates are scheduled to go into effect the first of the year.

During his update, Utilities Director Brian Haley noted the electric department has been busy trimming trees. He also reported Justin Welch will soon graduate from the MPUA lineman program, and Colton Poole has begun the program. "We have several employees approaching retirement age, and I feel fortunate to have the guys we do have," he offered. "They're good guys, and hard workers, and do a good job for us."

He also reported the new fluoridation equipment would be in by the end of September, and the process is beginning to plan and construct a building to contain the unit. He also updated council on the lift station and water tower painting projects, and noted they are in the pre-construction mode.

Marmaduke Council,

By Jeremy Hall

Following advice from legal experts, the Marmaduke City Council last week voted to continue providing water service to the city's largest employer.

At issue had been continued expansion by American Railcar Indistries (ARI) and whether water service should be provided by the host city or the increasingly proficient St. Francis Water District.

The council voted last Thursday to continue servicing ARI.

"It was several months long getting it all lined up and getting legal opinions," Marmaduke mayor Steve Dixon said Tuesday. "We made the decision based on attorneys with the Arkansas Municipal League."

According to Times-Democrat archives, the city council approved an agreement with the St. Francis Water District in March which read:

*The City Of Marmaduke will not connect or sell any new water for any new expansions including the current building project in the St. Francis district.

*The City of Marmaduke will discontinue the sale of water to what is considered the "East" plant at the end of the fiscal year 2016.

*The St. Francis district will share billing information with the city for water sold in the "East "plant and all other future water meters on the property for waste water billing purposes.

*The St. Francis River Regional Water District will relinquish all water rights to the ARI property from the East plant westward between Highway 34 and 49, including the Delta Coop property to the city of Marmaduke."

However, location of the bulk of the factory in Marmaduke eventually led to a change of heart by the city council, especially after seeking and receiving legal advice.

"They felt we had to do it for the fact we have the factory here," said Marmaduke city clerk Betty Jackson.

In other action at Thursday's meeting, the council announced it would approve additional street lights to help darker areas of the town. Jackson said work will begin when electrical and utilities departments are able to fit the project into their schedules.

Jackson also said current construction on North Street should be complete within the next couple of weeks.

The council also decided to appoint Lucas Schultz to the volunteer fire department.

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