Piggott City Council Hears Good News on Electric Rates

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Condemnation proceedings on a parcel of property on East Locust Street, and discussion of another, dominated Monday night's meeting of the Piggott City Council. Two resolutions were also introduced, and approved, allowing the MLWS to seek a loan to pay for additional radio-read water meters. During the update on utilities, council members also heard good news concerning electric costs and rates for the current bill, as well as in future months.

With all members in attendance, as well as key staff members, the meeting began with a public hearing on the proposed condemnation of property at 748 East Locust Street.

The public hearing had been set to seek input on the property, as the city begins the process of condemnation. With no one on hand to represent the owners, last listed as Melba Purl, the council members offered a variety of reasons for proceeding with the effort.

Afterward, the public meeting was closed and the regular meeting opened. After dispensing with the usual consent agenda items, including the approval of the clerk's reports and financials, the council turned their attention back to the property on East Locust.

Citing safety, the fact its an eyesore and how it affects area property rates, the motion was offered by council member Mike Cook to proceed, with a second from councilman Jeff Benbrook. The matter passed on a vote of 4-0, allowing city attorney Kimberly Dale to continue with the legal process.

Council also discussed the Bell property, which is located at 647 East Locust, and reviewed the chain of title--which is lacking in some information. Noting Clay County Abstract would not issue a clear title, council voted to allow Dale to proceed with efforts to seek recourse through the court system.

She noted the circuit court judge would appoint an attorney to oversee the effort, insuring there is no future recourse from the owners or their heirs. After discussing all of the options, Cook offered the motion to allow Dale to proceed with Benbrook again providing the second. The motion passed without dissent.

“There is just not a good chain of title, it's not good,” Dale explained. “This route is a little more expensive, but it's the only way we have.”

During his update to council, utilities director Brian Haley had good news concerning the fuel adjustment on the current bills. He indicated the recent “true up” of costs had netted customers about a $51,000 credit which will be reflected on this month's bills.

“The fuel adjustment was just shy of two cents per kilowatt-hour, which will mean an effective rate of about 10.5 cents each for the average customer of around 2,000 kw hours a month,” he explained. “This was based on the true-up period in June, and thanks to lower costs.”

Haley noted the efforts of the city-owned utility to seek lower rates are beginning to pay-off, and he forecasts better rates in the months to come. He indicated the city had been paying about $260,000 a year in transmission costs to SPP, which will drop to around $93,000 a year beginning in 2019. The agreement with the City of Benton (Ark.) will also expire in April, meaning an additional savings of about $18,000 a month.

He also provided an update on customers, something which had been requested in the past by council members. He noted during the month of September there were 16 new customers, 15 transfers and 14 finals—or customers ending their service. “This also includes those we shut-off due to lack of payment, who haven't been hooked back up yet,” he added.

For the month of October there were 15 new customers, eight transfers and 10 finals—for a net of seven new customers for the two month period.

“Currently, we have 1,805 residential customers,” he offered.

Haley also noted the installation of the new radio-read meters has helped, as the period between the time the meter is read and the bill issued has been reduced. “If someone doesn't pay their bill it's a shorter period of time before we can react,” he added.

Projecting the savings into the coming year, Haley estimated that costs for electric would continue to fall with the savings passed on to the customer.

He also reported two members of the electric department are attending school for their journeyman license, including Tim Boyd and Colton Poole.

During the update on the water and sewer department, Haley indicated two large cast iron lines had broken in the past week—thanks in part to the drop in temperature. He noted one of the mains was located on 14th Street while the other was on Fifth Street—adding that other regional water systems had also experienced similar problems with the cooler weather.

Late in the meeting Haley presented council with two resolutions pertaining to a loan opportunity. He asked council to consider allow the MLWS to seek a low interest $250,000 loan with the proceeds to be used to purchase 1,000 additional radio-read water meters.

He indicated the loan would be for 10-years at one-half of one percent, but could be paid-off early.

“We're spending about $20,000 a year on the meters, and this would purchase most of the ones we need to completely change them out,” he offered. “It will speed the process and reduce mistakes.”

According to Haley, the loan would cover the costs of replacing all but 500 of the old meters still in service.

Mayor Jim Poole also pointed out the savings should cover the debt service.

“We should save enough in labor alone to pay the note,” he added. “And, the cost of the meters are going up by about 10-percent next year.”

Council member Parks offered the motion to introduce the first resolution, with Cook providing the second. It was approved, allowing the city to proceed with the grant application. Next, council approved a resolution allowing Mayor Poole to act as the city's agent in the grant proceedings. The resolution was introduced by Benbrook, with Parks offering the second, and passed on a vote of 4-0.

Prior to adjourning, Mayor Poole also informed council the new on-line bill paying system for the MLWS will be operational by the end of the year. He noted the bills could then be paid online at no additional charge to the customer.

Afterward, council voted to adjourn.

In addition to Poole, Cook, Parks, Benbrook, Dale and Haley those present included councilman Travis Williams, clerk Ramona Magee, police chief Don Poole, city clerk candidate Julie McMillon and two city residents.

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