Piggott City Council Talks Traffic, Hospital Sales Tax Ordinances

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Members of the Piggott City Council approved ordinances at Monday night's regular meeting to set a special election for July 10. On that date, city residents will go to the polls to decide whether to extend the local sales tax which benefits operations of Piggott Community Hospital. Mayor Jim Poole also informed council of a plan by the Arkansas Department of Transportation to construct three roundabouts along the highway right-of-ways in the city, and rehabilitate the intersection of U.S. Highways 49/1 and U.S. 62.

With all members in attendance, the meeting was called to order at city hall with over a dozen citizens in attendance. After dispensing with the usual matters, Poole opened the floor to comments from those in attendance. Bryan Allman inquired about the financial reports concerning PCH, which are to be submitted to the council monthly as part of their recent agreement to extend a lower electrical rate for the city-owned facility. Poole indicated the administration is still formulating the report, and noted the 2017 figures were still to be audited, so there is still no annual statement available for last year.

Allman commented he had other questions concerning the reports, but would wait until the numbers could be finalized.

Under old business, Poole reminded council and the public of the change of date for the May meeting due to the conflict with the Memorial Day holiday. As a result, the meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 21, at city hall.

The mayor also re-visited an issue which had been tabled at an earlier gathering concerning the paving of alleys in the city. He indicated Joe Cole had requested council take action concerning the alley which runs from West Main to West Clay, behind the buildings on the west side of the square.

At an earlier meeting Poole had informed council of the request to pave the ally, and a petition from a number of concerned citizens. At the time council discussed the long-standing policy of the city not paying for the paving of alleys, although they will maintain those who are paved by private owners, and tabled the issue.

Monday night they echoed the sentiment, “it'd be ridiculous to pave that alley, we've got our utilities through there and all,” councilman Jeff Benbrook noted. “But, we can make sure they drag it on a regular basis.”

“We'd have to pave every gravel road in the city,” councilman Mike Cook offered. “Just like with any annexation, the way its been on the books for year, they pave and we keep it up.”

The council members did note there were a number of alleys in the city which could use more attention and maintenance.

Under new business, Poole informed council of a plan by ArDOT to construct three roundabouts in Piggott. “They're planning to build three roundabouts—one at the intersection of Highway 62 and North Street, there at the corner of the Winton Addition, one at the corner of 62 and West Jackson, there at the old convenience store and one at the corner between Piggott State Bank and Regions Bank,” he reported.

The plans are in response to several decades of efforts by city leaders to formulate a plan for easing the flow of traffic through the city for semi-trucks, which are hampered by the sharp turns along U.S. 62 west.

“They've been working on this for the past couple of years, and they've got the drawings all worked-up,” Poole added. “They also plan to re-work the intersection at the stop light and will be removing some of the obstacles.”

He noted the state officials gave no time frame for when the work might commence.

Also under new business, council approved two ordinances concerning the special election on extension of the hospital sales tax.

Poole indicated there was a misconception concerning the sales tax, which stemmed from the first time it was extended, and due to the oversight time is of the essence.

“As it stands they're already going to miss two or three months of revenue,” he explained. “It runs out in September, and if we can get it on the ballot for July it will still be Jan. 1, before they can start collecting it again.”

He indicated two ordinances had been drafted for consideration, one to levy the one-cent sales tax and the other to refer the matter to the voters.

“This is not an increase, this is the same one-cent they've been collecting,” he added.

The ordinance was introduced for the first reading by councilman Jamey Parks, with a second from Benbrook. Noting it would be decided by the people, Cook then offered motions to waive the stipulation it be read on three separate occasions, and offered it up for the second and third readings, title only. Councilman Travis Williams joined the others in a 4-0 roll call vote, as they approved ordinance 644-18.

Council members then approved ordinance 645-18, which sets the special election for July 10, on the sales tax extension. Again, council agreed to waive the stipulation it be read on three separate occasions and approved it on a roll call vote of 4-0, along with the accompanying emergency clause allowing it to go into effect upon passage.

Later in the meeting Cook inquired if the hospital had paid their electric bill for the month, and was informed they had by utilities director Brian Haley. “I have the check on my desk,” he offered.

During his report to council, Haley noted two of the city's linemen had been attending training at Paragould through the Missouri Public Utility Alliance. He further reported the electric department is continuing tree trimming along right-of-ways. Haley also updated the effort to install radio-read meters, noting the electric meters should all be switched over by the end of 2019.

He indicated the water department is also still installing radio-read meters, but due to the higher cost and time of installation, that effort likely won't be completed until either 2021 or 2022. The department is also continuing to maintain and prepare for the summer months.

Haley also reported the water department would be flushing hydrants the third week of May, and indicated the city would be notifying residents ahead of time by way of the newspaper and social media. “We have to do it to keep sediment from forming, but it does stir it up a bit,” he explained. “We just encourage everyone to check their water before washing clothes and such.”

Prior to adjournment, a member of the audience inquired about the condition of the batting cages at Independence Park. Poole indicated he would have city staff check out the situation and report back to him on any needed repairs.

In other business the council--

Approved the budget for the airport commission for 2018 on a vote of 4-0.

Were informed of a proclamation signed by Poole which designates the month of May as National Historic Preservation Month and Arkansas Heritage Month in the city.

Heard an update on the Arkansas Municipal League's Municipal Health Benefits Fund insurance rates, which reflected no increases in premiums for the coming year.

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