Piggott Council Updated on Projects

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Piggott City Council heard updates on several ongoing projects at their regular meeting Monday night. Aldermen also addressed changes on two of the city's boards, heard good news concerning a new business coming to town and declined to submit a grant application for the local school district citing the need for more information on the matter.

The meeting was called to order at city hall by Mayor Jim Poole with aldermen Mike Cook, Jeff Benbrook and Travis Williams constituting a quorum. Alderman Jamey Parks arrived a short time later. Also on hand were city clerk Ramona Magee, attending her first gathering since recovering from medical issues, city attorney Kimberly Dale, police chief Don Poole and utilities director Brian Haley.

During the gathering Mayor Poole and Haley reported the long-planned effort to build a Sonic restaurant in the city has gained new life, and a variance hearing has been set.(see additional story)

Under the heading of old business, Mayor Poole provided an update on the community center roof project—which is running well behind schedule.

“They're still working on the roof, and they've been going slow on the project,” he noted. “They've already asked for additional days due to wind and rain and I'm going to be meeting with them to discuss it.”

The project was originally scheduled to be completed by April 1, but problems the past several months have hampered the construction crew. Currently, they're estimating a mid-May completion, although Poole indicated he would be asking them to take care of the matter as soon as possible.

He also reported a severe leak at the community center from the recent heavy rains, noting the repairs have since been completed.

Drainage issues were also reviewed, with Poole reporting several ditches and creeks on the east side have received attention. He also indicated two beaver dams were removed from the ditch near the football field, and added some of the surrounding trees will be removed to discourage future construction.

“We've worked on several of the big ditches and creeks, trying to remove the brush and foliage,” he added. “We've worked on some that ran north and south and some that run east and west, they've been working on it everyday.”

The mayor also provided an update on the recent meeting of the Northeast Arkansas Solid Waste Disposal District, of which Piggott and Clay County are members.

“We had to buy a new front end loader and it carried a price tag of more than $125,000, but we got a good trade-in on the the old one,” he explained. “We've also bought some additional land for future use, but I don't think we'll ever see it used in our lifetime.”

He noted the property was available at the fair market price for local farmland, and indicated the owner preferred to have the full amount paid over a period of five years at three percent interest.

Two matters concerning grants were discussed by council during the meeting, with Poole reporting the city's efforts to secure funds for work on West Clay were unsuccessful.

“Our grant application on Clay Street wasn't approved in this round, but we'll be up for consideration again later this year when they look at projects for next year,” he reported. “That's a busy street and a main route for a lot of folks west of town and it will need to be overlayed in the next two years.”

He indicated the city would be seeking grant funds such as the monies used for the North Fourth Avenue project completed several years ago.

After voting to amend the agenda, a grant application for the Piggott School District was also considered by council, although they voted not to approve the matter based on a lack of information—and a looming deadline.

“The school district cannot apply for this grant, we would have to like the Safe Routes to School grant they got for doing the lights and crosswalks and such,” Poole offered. “This one is a little different, and is seeking funds to improve drainage in front of the high school and do some work in front of the elementary school.”

The mayor noted the city would be responsible for providing the engineering fees, which he estimated at somewhere around $15,000, and voiced concern about the deadline.

“I did not get this resolution and information from their engineering firm until about 20 minutes before the meeting, and the deadline is May 1,” he offered.

Pointing to the issue of the short notice, and approaching deadline, the council chose not to approve the resolution to allow the grant application to proceed.

“There's just not enough information, I don't think it would be a good idea to pass it without knowing more,” Alderman Parks noted in offering the motion. The other councilmen agreed, voting 4-0 against passage of the resolution.

Council also considering several matters pertaining to city boards at the meeting, first voting to accept the resignation of Fred Ort from the Job Stimulus Board. Afterward they voted, based on the recommendation of the other board members, to appoint Amanda Simpson to the post.

At Poole's request, the agenda was also amended to consider a appointment to the city's adjustment board. The board currently consists of Planning and Zoning Chair Frank Staples and Tom Sneed, as former board member George Forrest has moved out of state. Based on the likelihood of a need for the board's review of a variance for the new Sonic, the council voted to name Jason Simpson to the post.

During his update to council, Haley reported the electric and water departments continue to install the new radio-read meters.

“Currently, there are 335 of the water meters in service and we have 140 more in stock,” he told council. “We've got 440 of the electric meters now in service and have 160 in stock.”

He also reported on changes in the electric marketplace, recently opened to private entities. He noted one such deal will impact the city, although there could also be a profit involved.

“We're saving somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000 a month since we adopted the network service system,” he explained. “As it now stands this could cost a couple of thousand dollars a month, but if more cities join we will actually make money from it.”

Haley also reported rates have remained steady, and indicated a small credit will included on the upcoming bills.

Late in the meeting Alderman Cook inquired about the continuing efforts to deal with dilapidated houses in the city. Poole reported on recent efforts, and noted several properties in the city have been acquired by an out-of-town interest.

“We're going to continue to go after them, and any time you know of a property that needs our attention just let me know,” he offered.

Council members then reviewed several properties which have been the subject of recent complaints, and instructed city attorney Dale to proceed with placing liens on those requiring upkeep.

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