Piggott Council Introduces "Golf Cart" Ordinance

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Councilmen heard the first reading of an ordinance at Monday night's Piggott City Council meeting, which if approved would allow the use of side-by-sides and golf carts on city streets. Council also reviewed the issue of a right-of-way in Ballard Heights, approved a resolution allowing for a grant application for the parks department and discussed the city-owned rental properties. Operations of the city's municipal electric, water and sewer departments were also updated.

With all members in attendance, along with key personnel, the meeting was called to order at city hall. After dispensing with the clerk reports and previous minutes, the council turned its attention to an easement along one side of Ballard Heights.

“We have an easement, but we've got a problem due to a lot of intrusions,” Mayor Jim Poole explained. He suggested the city have the area surveyed in an attempt to determine where the easement is, but warned it would be difficult to try to deal with the intrusions.

“There's one shed along there that's been there for 25 years, and the owner has already indicated he would take the city to court if needed,” he added. “The attorney (city attorney Kimberly Dale) agrees that we have a right-of-way due to the amount of time we've been in there. But, there's not a lot else we can do but define our part, take and maintain that and basically let the rest go.”

Council members agreed with the summation, and voted to allow Poole to arrange for the survey.

The council then turned its attention to the first reading of the “golf cart” ordinance, which is designed to allow certain vehicles to be operated on city streets under a strict set of guidelines.

“We've already had several other cities call us and ask about this, they're waiting to see how it works out and what we do,” Poole explained.

He also indicated there have been state lawmakers who have implied the recently-relaxed rules concerning side-by-sides and other ATVs on county roads may be rescinded in the upcoming general assembly. Currently, such vehicles may be used on county roads but are restricted from all state highways.

Councilman Travis Williams asked Piggott Police Chief Don Poole if he had any input on the matter, noting “otherwise we can put it on the first reading and that will give us a chance to absorb it before the next meeting.

Chief Poole indicated he had no further input, adding “once you put it in black and white we'll enforce it.”

Council agreed to place the measure on the first reading, allowing them the chance to review the ordinance further and gain public insight before the next meeting.

The ordinance stipulates that only vehicles with a steering wheel, and designed to be used by two or more people, would be included. It also sets the maximum speed for use of such vehicles at 20 miles per hour, or less, and requires an orange “slow moving vehicle” sign or an orange flag.

The vehicles may only be operated by someone 18 or older with a valid driver's license, liability insurance is required along with a permit sticker which will cost $25 per year. Use is also prohibited on any state highway or county road. The ordinance also continues to prohibit the use of ATVs, such as four-wheelers, go carts and other such vehicles from city streets as well as state highways.

The fines for not adhering to the guidelines of the ordinance is a minimum of $100 and a maximum of $2,500.

On a roll call vote of 4-0, the council then agreed to have the second reading placed on the agenda for the August meeting.

Later in the meeting, Poole updated council members on the city-owned rental properties which were completed in the late 1990s. “We've been informed by the ADFA (Arkansas Development Finance Authority) that the duplexes are free, and the houses should be released in October.”

At a meeting earlier this year, Poole informed council that the contract would be expiring and the city would have full ownership of the properties. The consensus at that time was to get out of the real estate business and sell the properties as soon as allowable by the agreements.

“They're 20 years old, and we're starting to have to put in more air conditioners and refrigerators and such, and the roofs are also 20 years old now,” Poole added.

The council members voiced similar sentiments Monday night, instructing the mayor to have the properties appraised and prepared for sale.

Council also approved a resolution Monday night which allows the city to seek a recreational grant to be used to fund improvements within the park system. The city is seeking $35,000 in grant funding, which if approved would be used to place lighting around the walking trail at Heritage Park and to add lighting along the fence at the Piggott Public Pool.

Mayor Poole reported the city had researched wireless lights for the park, saving them from the chore of digging some 4,500 feet of trench. He indicated they were unsure what the city's share of the matching grant would be, but hoped it could be covered by “in kind” labor on the project.

Council voted 4-0 to approve the resolution and allow the grant process to proceed. The matter will also be the subject of a public hearing on local parks and recreation to be held Thursday, July 26, at the Piggott Community Center. (see separate story this edition)

During his report to council, utilities director Brian Haley reported the city is in the process of purchasing a newer bucket truck to replace one of the aged models. He noted the MLWS has been using their larger two-bucket truck since one of the smaller ones was having mechanical problems, but felt a newer one would be well worth the money.

“We have the bid opening set for Wednesday at noon,” he offered. “The money is in the budget in the vehicle replacement fund.”

Haley estimated the cost at $140,000 to $150,000 and expected several bids to be submitted.

“On the other hand, the big bucket truck would cost us between $350,000 and $400,000 to replace,” he added. “We really need a newer truck to be able to provide our customers with the best service possible.”

He also updated council on several efforts by the electric department, including the installation of the “radio read” meters. Haley indicated all but 400 of the electric meters have been switched out, with an estimated cost of about $20,000 to finish the project. “We hope to have all the commercial and residential electric meters switched by some time in 2019.”

As for the more-expensive water meters, less than 100 have been installed so far—all on the east side of town. “Not only do they cost about $250 each, but it also takes about twice as long to install,” he added.

Haley also updated council on the recent smoke testing conducted in parts of the city, indicating some problems were found which was allowing run-off to leech into the sewer—but no major problems surfaced.

Replacement of key utility poles was also discussed, with Haley indicating the MLWS was planning to use steel poles. He noted they had estimated costs on the job several months back, but indicated the price of the poles had climbed from less than $4,000 to around $10,000 due to price fluctuations. The poles involved are key to providing main power to much of the west side of the city, including Piggott Community Hospital. Haley added the project is in the budget for this year and noted they may look at contracting the work.

He also reported the city has acquired emissions control equipment for the water and wastewater treatment plant, allowing closer oversight to operations. Haley noted the system would alert the operator quickly if there was a problem, saving the city and customers money in the process.

Late in the meeting Mayor Poole also informed council of a windfall thanks to the retirement of MLWS bond money which had been in an escrow account. He indicated a shift in the national debt allowed the city to take advantage of the situation and the result was an additional $11,000 over the original amount.

In other business the council-

Continued to allow the local Make-A-Wish Foundation volunteers to utilize the community center at no charge for their annual February fundraiser.

Was informed the city had generated $2,964.89 in liens from properties which were mowed and maintained.

Heard an update on a mapping system for the city, which will keep an accurate record of utilities, streets and other infrastructure.

Was provided with details on training programs for city employees in conjunction with the mapping system.

Were informed that three dilapidated structures had been torn down in the last month. Mayor Poole also noted he had discussed the burned-out former restaurant building on East Main Street with the owner in an effort to have that structure addressed.

Were presented with copies of the police report and hospital profit and loss statement.

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