Piggott Council Talks Budget, Industrial Prospects at Meeting

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Members of the Piggott City Council met in regular session on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at city hall. The meeting, which had been scheduled a day later than usual at the October gathering, including a discussion on several projects, a review of the city's budget and an update on efforts to attract an industrial prospect. Council members also approved liens on several local properties which have required city upkeep. Late in the meeting council members had the chance to see the new MLWS utility bills, which will be put into use toward the end of the year. The mayor also reported on a civil suit brought against the city concerning the actions of a police officer.

Prior to the start of the regular meeting council held a public hearing on eight properties which have incurred upkeep costs. Of the eight, only one of the owners appeared before council and made arrangements to address the issues. Later, during the regular meeting, liens were approved on all eight.

Following the public hearing Mayor Jim Poole called the regular meeting to order with all members in attendance, along with key staff. After dispensing with the usual consent agenda items, council heard an update from Poole on two projects.

“The only thing left on the community center roof project is the final walk-through by the USDA man, and that will happen next week,” he reported. “We came to a settlement with the construction company on the remaining interior issues.”

He noted the cabinets and ceiling tiles damaged in the kitchen area had been replaced, and noted “they left it better than it was.”

Poole also indicated some issues with the awning at city hall are being addressed with the contractor, and adjustments are to be made.

Under new business, Poole reported the city is on a list to purchase one of 50 new Ford Explorer's from McLarty Motors. He noted the company had locked-in the same price for the new 2018 models as they had asked for the 2017 model, and would save the city a great deal of money.

“They won't be available right away, but we've got the price locked-in,” he explained. “We've got some grant money to be used, and we're applying for some more.”

The mayor then presented the 2017 amended, and 2018 proposed, city budgets.

“I want to you take the budget and review it and let us know your thoughts,” he offered. “We usually don't have it ready for review this early, but we wanted to try to get it approved in December.”

He indicated the state turnback funds would be near the same as the previous year, with the funds generated by the county tax amounting to around $27,000 a month. He also reported income from franchise fees are dropping, and that there would be no increase in health insurance costs.

“APERS (Arkansas Public Employee Retirement System) is going up from $14.75 to $15.32,” he added. “But, otherwise we don't plan any major equipment purchases, and we will have a balanced budget with no excessive spending.”

Also under new business, Poole informed council of the retirement resignation of Lt. Sam Williams, Jr., of the Piggott Police Department. He noted Williams had submitted his letter of resignation recently, and has since left the department.

Earlier this year Williams moved to Paragould, prompting Poole to question whether he was in compliance with the city's residency rules. At the time city attorney Kimberly Dale was instructed to clarify the matter, and Williams was to have 45 days from that point to either move back into the city or resign.

Following his resignation Williams indicated he would be accepting a position with the Arkansas State University Police.

The next order of business was to consider liens on the earlier-reviewed properties, which amounted to around $7,000. The properties included—309 South Thornton Avenue, 1191 West Court Street, 243 North Taylor Avenue, 365 South Houston, 857 East Orr Street, 489 North Taylor Avenue, 475 North Taylor Avenue and 361 South Moore.

The council voted 4-0 to allow the lien process to proceed.

The amounts levied against the properties represent the costs for city workers to maintain the parcels, providing mowing and trimming and other services.

Poole also gave council members an update on efforts to attract industrial prospects for the vacant buildings in the city. He indicated one possible tenant for the former Magee Company building, located on South Garfield, was scheduled to revisit the community.

“We've got the building they need, the sewer system meets their demands and its in a great location for them,” he offered. “We also have another company that we're talking to about either the old Magee building or another building.”

He reminded the council of the 99 year lease on the Magee building, entered into in the late 1980s when the project was first completed.

“The original lease was with the Tandycraft Corp., but later bankruptcy dealings left it with Pinnacle,” he added. “So, we're going to have to look into that. But, the good news is that we do have two strong prospects—it's a win-win situation for us.”

During his update, utilities director Brian Haley indicated electric department crews have been busy with the Christmas lighting in the downtown area. “And, we've been getting a lot of positive comments about the new lighting, and how the downtown square looks,” he offered.

He also noted the water department had been dealing with a few leaks, and a couple of sewer issues, but had resolved the problems.

Sandy Low then presented council with a copy of the new tri-fold utility bills which will be pressed into service soon. The new bills will replace the current cards, and will provide a number of features not found with the current system.

“Along with the usual information about usage, there will be a chart which shows the annual electric usage for comparison from month-to-month,” she explained. “We'll have the same for their water usage, and there are places for other information and messages.”

The change from a card to a tri-fold system is being outsourced, and will be done by a firm in Jonesboro. It replaces a system which was time-consuming, as city workers had to manually tear the individual cards from sheets which were three-wide. The change also addresses privacy issues.

“With the cards anyone can see your balance, and whether you're up to date on your payments,” Haley offered. “The tri-fold mailers also address the privacy issue.”

Low indicated MLWS hopes to use the new bills for the upcoming cycle, mailing them out later in December or in January. She asked council for the feedback on the effort, and noted they're continuing the refine the process.

Prior to adjourning, Poole reported to council members of a civil suit filed in Clay County Circuit Court concerning the actions of a former police officer. The lawsuit stemmed from actions taken by the patrolman, who he indicated was only on staff with the Piggott PD for a short period of time.

City attorney Kimberly Dale added the city would be represented by counsel with the Municipal League.

Afterward, the council members voted to adjourn.

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