Piggott City Council Approves Condemnation Resolutions

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Condemnation proceedings on two properties were advanced at Monday night's regular monthly meeting of the Piggott City Council, held at city hall. Council also accepted the 2019 proposed budget for review, but chose not to amend the current one; discussed the city-owned housing and voted to waive the consumer price index increase on electric usage at the gathering.

With all members in attendance, the meeting was called to order by Mayor Jim Poole. After dispensing with the usual consent agenda items, the council turned their attention to a pair of resolutions dealing with condemnation of dilapidated properties.

The first dealt with the property at 647 East Locust Street, referred to as the Norma Bell property. City Attorney Kimberly Dale reviewed the matter, noting the public hearing on the issue had been held in late August. She indicated there was a “cloud” on the title, which had delayed the action, but noted the paperwork had been filed last week.

The resolution to allow the process to proceed was introduced, and passed on a vote of 4-0.

Council then addressed a second property, located at 758 East Locust Street, which is referred to as the Linda Purl property. Poole noted the burned-out house had been a problem for some time, as the city had sought to have it demolished.

Dale reviewed the particulars in introducing the resolution, which was passed without dissent. She noted once the process has been completed the city will be seeking bids to have the property razed. The public hearing on this parcel was held Oct. 22, prior to the regular council meeting.

This resolution was also passed on a vote of 4-0, allowing the city to proceed.

Under new business, Poole presented council with a resolution to amend the 2018 budget to include the final weeks of the year. The resolution was introduced, but was not put to a vote after it failed to gain a second.

The 2019 budget draft was then presented to council for review, at which point councilman Mike Cook offered a motion to table it until the next meeting. Mayor Poole noted the budget was only being proposed at the meeting, and would not be acted upon until at least next month, prompting Cook to rescind the motion.

A lengthy discussion was held concerning the city-owned rental properties, a matter which had been reviewed at meetings earlier this year. At the earlier meetings, Poole had warned the council that the aged rental units were beginning to cost the city thousands of dollars in maintenance and upkeep, as he sought their guidance in proceeding.

“All of them are 20 years old, and we're starting to see a lot of expenses for AC units and roofs and such,” he offered.

In response, council had concurred that selling the properties would be the best course of action for the future. At Monday night's meeting, Poole sought guidance on how the city should move forward.

“Do you want to continue to rent them, or just try to sell them? If you're going to sell them you'll need to disclose to the tenants,” he explained.

He indicated the units are primarily rented through HUD, which is a month-to-month agreement.

Following the discussion, councilman Jamey Parks offered the motion to continue to rent the units while seeking to sell them—adding that all parties should be informed of the process. The other council members agreed, and approved the plan of action.

There are five houses and two apartment buildings involved, and according to Poole there has already been some $15,000 in expenses incurred this calendar year.

During his update to council, utilities director Brian Haley offered a pair of resolutions dealing with the MLWS as it relates to electric transmission. He noted both pertain to the recent change by the city from transmission to network service, and aligned the various contracts with the SWPA.

Both resolutions were introduced, and approved without dissent.

Haley also presented the proposed 2019 budget for the MLWS, and indicated to council members that he would be available to answer any questions concerning the issue. In a related matter, Haley asked council members what their thoughts were on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as it relates to electric, water and sewage rates.

Several years ago council approved an ordinance which ties local rates to the CPI, and mandated increases in rates which mirrored the standards. In more recent years the council has voted to waive the CPI on electric, allowing the rate to remain the same despite increased costs.

Haley noted the CPI has been running between 2.4 and 2.5 percent, and reminded the council that the increase would go into effect automatically unless they take action. He indicated his recommendation would be to allow the increase to go into effect on at least water and sewer rates, as he pointed to increase costs for materials and operations.

Cook, who has opposed the CPI increases in the past, noted that although he was a “lame duck” he would offer the motion to waive the increase on electric but allow it to go into effect on the water and sewer rates. Parks offered the second, and the matter was approved on a vote of 4-0.

Haley also reported on the loan the department is seeking to pay for the radio-read meters, and indicated the process is continuing. He noted the prospects were good, and hope to have the funds by early next year.

Haley also called on Sandy Low to report on the effort to modernize the billing system. She noted the credit card and check scanners are being added to the system, and indicated the online payments are also being utilized. She also noted the online payments are without charge, while credit and debit card fees will be added to the customer's bill when they utilize those methods.

In other business the council--

Waived the rental fee for the community center for the PHS Band Booster's upcoming Supper With Santa fundraiser.

Were informed of an update on the NEARK Regional Solid Waste Disposal District statement of operations.

Heard an update from Mayor Poole on the affects of the high winds over the weekend, which “wreaked havoc” on some of the Christmas decorations

Agreed to cancel the regular December meeting, with the opportunity to hold a special meeting if needed.

Were updated on opinions issued by the Attorney General, which advises that the city no longer provide meals at commission and committee meetings.

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