Piggott Council Discusses PCC Project, Hiring a Dog Catcher

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Members of the Piggott City Council handled a fairly light agenda at Monday night's regular meeting. Councilmen were updated on the community center project, discussed purchasing a side-mount mower for the street department and heard a request to pave an alley off the courtsquare. An ordinance pertaining to the hiring of a new animal control officer was also placed on its first reading, although it was introduced on a split vote.

With council member Jeff Benbrook absent due to being out of town, the meeting was called to order by Mayor Jim Poole at city hall. Also on hand were city clerk Ramona Magee, city attorney Kimberly Dale, utilities director Brian Haley and street superintendent Gary Chronister.

After dispensing with the minutes of the previous meeting, and financial reports, the council heard from Chuck Schulte and Betty Parks concerning the possible paving of an alley. Schulte, speaking for the property owners of the buildings along South Third Avenue, between West Main and West Court Streets, presented a petition with over 300 signatures requesting the alley be paved.

Parks, who collected some 250 of the signatures, was on hand to represent the First Baptist Church Mission House, which is located along the alley-way.

Schulte noted there was heavy traffic along the alley due to the variety of businesses, with regular travel by cable trucks, food service company vehicles and others. He indicated there had been several efforts to patch the problem areas, although they generally wash-out the first time there is a heavy rain.

Parks added that there was a great deal of travel down the alley to the Mission House, including people in wheelchairs and the elderly.

Schulte presented council members with an estimate he had gotten from a regional contractor, which set the cost for the 14 x 336 foot run at $9,680.

“We appreciate the input, but the city has never blacktopped an alley, or street, without it being paid for,” Poole said of the matter. “And, we have a lot of streets in town we haven't been able to pave, too. Several big streets.”

Councilman Mike Cook echoed the sentiment, adding “we've got streets that need to be paved, and some alleys too. It's a question of who pays for it.”

The mayor noted the recent paving project behind the First United Methodist Church and Hoggard and Sons Funeral Home, which included the alley, was paid for by the landowners. He also noted the city is still trying to find ways to pay for much-needed paving, such as West Clay Street.

“We've applied for a grant to try to get West Clay paved, it carries a lot of traffic and is really getting in bad shape,” he concluded. “And, if we start paving alleys the one that runs behind Cox Lumber Company has needed it for years.”

Following the discussion Cook offered a motion to table the matter to allow the city to gather more information on the project. The motion to table passed on a vote of 3-0.

“They're still wrapping up work on the community center,” Poole informed the council. “We still owe them a partial payment of around $57,000, but the job still hasn't been inspected by the USDA and there are a few things which need to be taken care of.”

He indicated the city would retain 10-percent of the cost, or around $27,000, until the “punch list” inspections are completed. Among the issues still to be addressed are the installation of cabinets in the kitchen and some tile work on the ceiling.

The mayor also provided some positive news concerning the recent improvements at the center, which has substantially cut power consumption.

“One of the bright spots is how much we've been able to cut the electric bill for the center,” he explained. “Thanks to the new AC and heat system, new thermostats and such we've cut the average annual bill from $45,000 to $47,000 a year to somewhere around $24,000 a year.”

The mayor also expects additional savings in the months and years to come, as additional insulation should continue to lower heating and cooling costs.

“We've also replaced the old alarm system, and that's saving us money too,” he reported.

Poole indicated the original fire alarm system was still in place, and the city was paying $1,600 a year just to have it inspected.

“We went out and found a new state-of-the-art system at a cost of just $1,800, just a little more than the annual inspection fee for the other,” he added. “The old system would just call someone if it thought there was a fire, but didn't alert police or fire. This new system will contact the fire department, police department and city employees.”

The system will also trigger if one of the motion detectors is activated after hours, and the fire department would be summoned if it recorded a rapid rise in temperature within the building.

“It's a modern, up-to-date system and it cost just a little more than we were paying for the annual inspections on the old one,” he concluded.

Council members then turned their attention to an ordinance allowing the city to do business with an employee. The measure involves Colton Poole, who had sought to be contracted to serve as the city's animal control officer.

Earlier this year the animal control officer resigned, and the job has been vacant since. At that time Poole pitched an idea to council to replace the position by contracting the to have the job done.

In making the earlier request, he indicated the city was paying about $1,600 a month and providing a truck and all the needed supplies. He proposed only providing loan of the dart gun, having the person contracted to do the job supply all the necessities. City oversight was also mandated.

“He's the only person who showed an interest, and his wife loves animals and is training to be a veterinarian,” the mayor reported.

Following a brief discussion on the issue, councilman Cook offered the motion to place the ordinance on its first of three required readings. On a roll call vote the ordinance was introduced, with Cook and councilman Jamey Parks voting yes and councilman Travis Williams voting no.

When asked about his issue with the matter, Williams indicated he was opposed to city employees working as contract labor.

On the split vote, the ordinance was introduced and read by Atty. Dale.

Based on Williams' issue, and the absence of councilman Benbrook, Cook then chose not to offer the measure for a second reading, instead choosing to wait until the August gathering.

“It's your prerogative, but you know we'll be without a dog catcher for another 30 days,” Poole offered. “Do you still want to hire someone? Do you want to hire someone else?”

“That's fine, we just need to see if anybody has a problem with it,” Cook explained. “We can put it on the second reading in August.”

In other business the council--

--Discussed the possible purchase of a side-mount mower for the street department. Poole indicated they were looking at a Tiger brand with an estimated cost of $28,000 to $29,000.

–Heard an update on efforts to have the local fireman's pension plan moved into the LOFPI through the state.

--Were informed work has begun on the new Sonic Restaurant site, as the building permit was issued on Monday.

--Reviewed an update on the recent demonstration of a water-powered boring machine.

--Heard from Poole that the 2010 electric bond had reached the point it would be feasible to re-finance, saving the city an estimated $5,000 per year.

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