Piggott City Council Handles Lengthy Agenda
Members of the Piggott City Council handled a veritable laundry list of items at their regular meeting Monday night. Drainage issues, street overlays, a grant for the hospital, new legislation dealing with ATVs and side-by-sides and an update on city department projects were all reviewed. Council also heard updates on the municipal utility systems, approved a resolution in support of a grant application for the airport and reviewed a letter from Congressman Rick Crawford concerning mail service. Late in the meeting they voted to enter into executive session, although the reason wasn't stated, only to reconvene a short time later and adjourn without taking any further action.
With all members in attendance the meeting was called to order at city hall by Mayor Jim Poole. After approving the minutes of the previous meeting and financials, they reviewed reports on the solid waste disposal district.
“Recently there was a lawsuit in Lawrence County concerning trash pick-up, and Baxter County's landfill went bankrupt over some of the issues addressed,” Poole indicated.
He noted the rules for the Northeast Arkansas district require all haulers to utilize the landfill north of Paragould, which provides the tipping fees which fund the operations.
“There were guys in some areas hauling to other landfills, and that's what got them in financial trouble,” he offered.
A member of the solid waste board, Poole indicated the landfill is large enough to maintain the current usage for 70 to 80 years. “We added 80 acres more, but it also cost us about $900,000 each time we open a cell-or new section of the landfill.”
Council also discussed at great length drainage issues along North 12th Avenue at the intersection with Pleasant View—north of Highway 62. Mayor Poole reported the city had tried to address some of the drainage problems with a larger culvert, noting the issues arose after the highway improvements were completed.
The discussion prompted yet another review of easements in the area, which have been in question since the platting of Ballard Heights in the early 1960s. At the time the area was developed, a buffer was retained by the Ballard family along the north side of the property. In subsequent years plans were made to deed the land to the city, but the addition of homes and out-buildings has complicated the matter.
Council instructed city attorney Kimberly Dale to review the matter and draft the necessary paperwork to resolve ownership of the right-of-way and tabled further discussion until the next regular meeting.
Poole also reported on the street overlay program, which is near complete for this year. He noted a total of $239,196 had been spent for sweeping, tack coat, leveling course and a two-inch overlay on several streets. Those completed included—Heritage Park Road from Carpenter Lane to Sycamore; Heritage Park Road from Willow; Heritage Park Road from Baja Lane to North 12th Avenue; Marcia Drive from Heritage Park Road to First Drive; North 12th Avenue from Houston Avenue to 1610 South 12th Avenue; Houston Avenue from Lincoln to Kay Street; West North Street from North Fourth Avenue to U.S. Highway 62 and Johnson Avenue from Castleberry to Jackson.
He also reported the project involving West Clay has been bid, but the effort is not ready to proceed at this time.
Council then considered, and approved, a resolution in support of a USDA grant application for Piggott Community Hospital. If approved the monies would be used toward the purchase of an ambulance.
Mayor Poole also reviewed a list of locations where trees have been trimmed at the request of Shelton Sanitation. The trimming was a joint effort between the electric and street departments, as they worked together to remedy the problem areas. Councilman Jeff Benbrook also noted the limbs which had been causing issues for the garbage trucks would also have an affect on local school buses.
The council then re-visited the issue of ATVs and side-by-sides on the streets of the city. Recently, council passed an ordinance which regulates such vehicles and sets specific guidelines for their use. Passage of state legislation concerning the usage of such vehicles outside the city limits were also approved, and went into affect this year, which has caused some confusion.
After reviewing the city ordinance, and state law, city attorney Dale noted she felt the local law still provides the means to enforce use of the vehicles within the city limits—as the new state law only covers roadways in the county.
Council also reviewed ordinances which were passed by Marmaduke and Rector to regulate such vehicles, and agreed to have Dale draft similar legislation. Under those new rules, the city would sell a $25 permit and a number of strict stipulations would be in place.
No vehicle would be allowed that doesn't have a steering wheel, meaning four-wheelers and such would never be allowed on streets. Requirements of an inspection, proof of liability insurance and installation of “slow moving vehicle” placards would also be included in the ordinance. As with the other cities and state, no one under the age of 18 would be allowed to operate any such vehicle on city streets—or county roads for that matter.
“Our police officers have needed clarification, they're not sure when they can write someone a ticket,” Mayor Poole added. “At least we know now the new law doesn't apply to city streets, only county roads, and they can enforce the current ordinance as needed.”
Once the permit system has been approved the licenses will be available at the police department in city hall.
Among the handful of citizens in attendance, Mark Trout addressed the matter and suggested council ban all such vehicles from city streets. His wife, Karen Trout, also weighed-in on the issue and shared a story if seeing small children riding four-wheelers on city streets, and implored the council members to see the law is enforced before a tragedy can occur.
In other business, without dissent council approved a resolution in support of a grant application for the municipal airport. The grant seeks some $143,049 to rehabilitate the runway, taxiway and apron with 90-percent provided by the Federal Aviation Administration. The city also hopes to recoup the other 10-percent from the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics.
Mayor Poole also shared a letter from Congressman Rick Crawford concerning the quality of mail service in the area, which indicated it was addressing correspondence about issues—although Poole noted he hadn't reached out to the lawmaker on the matter. (see additional story this edition)
Afterward, he provided an update on a number of projects. He noted the city's sales tax numbers are holding steady, but observed the impending closure of the Corning Walmart will have an impact on the county. He also reported the police and fire departments are at full strength.
Mayor Poole also prompted a discussion concerning the city-owned housing, of which the long-term agreement is soon to expire.
“The air conditioners and roofs on all of the city-owned houses and apartments are 20 years old now, and they're going to start costing us some money,” he explained. “I think we need to think about getting out of the housing business.”
The houses and apartments were built in 1998 and 1999, at a cost of nearly $500,000 in federal funds. At the time, the city entered into an agreement to keep and maintain them for 20 years, at which time they would be deeded to the city.
“There is some disagreement on when the contract expires, we think it's in July of this year and they say it's in January of 2019,” Poole added. “Either way, we need to be thinking about putting them on the market.”
He also reported the “Movies in the Park” program was a big hit, and thanked sponsors Piggott State Bank and Mann Land Leveling for their assistance. Heritage Park will also be the site for the second-annual Lakeside Market, set for Oct. 13 and Mayor Poole reported the municipal swimming pool is open for business.
The mayor also indicated one industrial prospect is still interested in locating in Piggott, and at last report the city was still number-one on their list of possible locations.
During his update to council, utilities director Brian Haley reported the electric department is doing a count on street lights, security lights and poles. He noted some lights have been converted to LED, and others are being metered to gauge consumption.
“With an accurate pole count we can also be sure we're getting paid the correct amount for our pole fees,” he explained.
Under contract, the city-owned utility poles are utilized by the local cable and telephone companies for their lines and a fee is paid each year.
Haley also reported the water and sewer department has been in maintenance mode. He also reminded council that the cost of doing street overlays also included raising manholes and valve boxes, and noted he is compiling cost figures to share with council.
Late in the meeting councilman Mike Cook offered a motion to amend the agenda, and broached the issue of the improvements along North 12th Avenue, just south of U.S. 62.
Poole indicated the project has hit a stumbling block, and more meetings with the engineer are required. He noted the project was expected to cost in excess of $100,000, and an additional $17,000 in engineering fees will be required to re-route the run-off. A further update will be provided at the July meeting.
Cook also inquired about the monthly report to council about the financial stability of Piggott Community Hospital, something which had been requested earlier this year. Poole indicated the hospital could provide council with a report of the monthly figures, but noted they would have no way of reflecting Medicare reimbursements and such.
“They're turning things around, but they still won't make money,” the mayor offered. “the Kennett hospital proved that, but those people over there that lost their hospital they would be glad to pay even three cents on the dollar in sales tax to save it—they don't want an urgent care center, they want a hospital.”
The mayor also indicated the closure of Twin Rivers Regional Medical Center, in favor of consolidation with another corporate owned hospital in Poplar Bluff, has afforded PCH new opportunities.
“We've got doctors from Kennett making the rounds here now, and others that are wanting to come here,” he added. “All the clinic numbers are up, and now they're getting ready to add a pediatric clinic too. We had over 21,000 clinic visits last year and we're already on a better pace this year,”
The hospital's electric bill, which had been a point for a great deal of discussion at previous meetings, was also mentioned with Haley reporting it was paid in full.
“I keep each month's copy in a binder in my office if you ever want to see them,” he offered.
At Cook's request, council then voted to enter into the executive session, only to reconvene and adjourn without action about 15 minutes later.
In closing, Poole reminded council about the public meeting hosted by ArDOT Tuesday evening at the community center concerning the construction of roundabouts in the city.