Piggott City Council Meets, Approves Budgets

Thursday, January 31, 2019
Piggott City Clerk Julie McMillon (lefts) administers the oath of office to Tracy Cole as she is sworn-in as the newest member of Piggott City Council. Cole was chosen to fill out the unexpired term of Mayor Travis Williams at last Thursday's regular council meeting.
TD photo/Tim Blair

History was made at the regular meeting of the Piggott City Council, held Thursday, Jan. 24, at city hall. In addressing the vacancy in the North Ward, created when Mayor Travis Williams was elected this past November, council chose local business owner Tracy Cole to fill out the unexpired term. A Piggott native and PHS grad, she boasts a wealth of business experience and currently co-owns and operates The Inn at Piggott and the Piggott City Market with husband Joe.

Cole is believed to be the first woman to serve on council, as she was selected from among the three suggested candidates.

With a crowd of more than 50 citizens and city employees on hand, Williams called the meeting to order and dispensed with the consent agenda items. Under old business council then turned its attention to the 2018 Amended Budget, and approved a resolution to accept it as presented.

Williams then addressed the vacancy, and turned to City Attorney Kimberly Dale for an explanation of the process. Dale indicated the empty seat could be filled by appointment, requiring a majority vote, or be subject to a special election. She noted the vacancy had been publicized, and three names had been submitted for consideration. Included were Cole, Debby Haywood and Michael Harrell. Haywood is a retired former member of the administration at PCH and Harrell is the Mohawk head football coach. All three were also deemed to meet the requirements, including residence in the North Ward.

Dale then asked if anyone in the audience would like to be considered for the position, without response.

Afterward, councilman Jamey Parks offered the motion to name Cole to the vacancy, with the newest member of council, Kevin Jones, providing the second. Councilman Jeff Benbrook joined in voting yes on the nomination, as the appointment was approved.

Williams then invited Cole to move to the council table, although she wouldn't be sworn-in until after the meeting adjourned. She'll fill out the remaining two years of Williams' term, and would be eligible to seek re-election if she chose.

The next order of business was to consider a resolution to accept the 2019 Proposed Budget, which was also approved on a vote of 3-0.

Under new business, council next heard an appeal for a Planning and Zoning Conditional Use Permit for the property at 724 Madison Avenue. Enforcement officer Nathan Blakeley indicated the owner, Chris Reed, had requested a change to commercial from residential. The parcel is located at the corner of Madison Avenue and Lincoln, adjacent to the railroad tracks.

Blakeley reported the commission had denied the request due to the impact it would have on the neighborhood, and based on a variety of complaints. He noted the effort had begun as a hobby, but had grown to the point the commission felt it would have too much negative impact.

Following the hearing, the council voted to stand by the earlier decision and deny the request on a vote of 3-0.

The council was also presented with the Job Stimulus Board budget, after first hearing from chairman Jerrod Lowe. Going over the particulars of the budget was Amanda Simpson, one of the newest members of the board. She reported the actual budget for the past year showed $532,170.47 on hand, with $1,297.60 in interest income and $17,653.25 in loan payment income for a total of $557,121.52.

Costs for administrative fees was set at $4,316.25 which netted $552,805.27 available as of Jan. 1.

Current forecast of expenditures was set at around $221,000 with a remainder of $342,805.27.

The next order of business was the continuation of condemnation proceedings on two properties in the city. Dale explained that the effort continues on the Purl property at 759 East Locust and the Bell property at 647 Est Locust. She noted an attorney must be secured to complete the process on both parcels, and indicated she was getting quotes. She also requested a bid deadline of 2 p.m. on Feb. 22, on having demolition completed.

Dale also reported the effort continues, and indicated there were 23 properties which have required city attention and subject to liens. She indicated certified letters would be sent to the owners, and a public hearing held prior to the regular February meeting.

In response, the council voted without dissent to allow her to proceed.

The agenda was then amended to allow consideration of an ordinance which would allow the city to continue to do business with Jones in his capacity as owner of Jones Furniture. Council then voted to waive the stipulation the ordinance be read on three separate occasions, and approved the measure.

The legislation is required any time the city does business with an employee, elected official or a close relative of such.

In utility business, council accepted the MLWS budget for the coming year. Director Ted Bellers indicated there was about $316,000 in carryover and about $168,000 was earmarked for equipment. He noted things looked good financially, and indicated there would be no rate increases in the year to come. In fact, we're looking a decrease in electric rates, he added. We should be in good shape on water and sewer too.

He also reported on the possibility of securing additional funding for the effort to replace the water and electric meters with the radio-read units.

Brian Haley offered additional information, reviewing the one-half-percent, 10-year, loan recently acquired. He noted the remainder may be paid through the ANRC, which should cover the full costs.

Williams also noted the city may contract to have the meters changed, saving manpower and costs in the process. Haley added the firms which specialize in the installations also provide the city with a detailed map of the GPS coordinates of each meter, fully documented.

During his regular update, Haley noted there was a maintenance issue with a switch in the industrial park which will require a brief outage to repair. He noted the main line along South Taylor would be affected for a short time, and only a single residence would be out for the estimated four hours it will take to complete the job. He said they hoped to be able to do the job one weekend some time in the next several weeks. Otherwise, he noted the electric and water and sewer departments have remained in a maintenance mode.

Councilman Parks also inquired about recent work at Fire Station #2, in the former Woodhall building on the south edge of the city. Williams indicated he was having city employees clean-out the building in order to move all of the MLWS operations to one location. Parks then inquired about how the job was budgeted, and was informed by the mayor that he was working out the particulars.

Parks, also a member of the fire department, noted I just didn't know anything about itit would have been nice to know what's going on.

Late in the meeting, Bellers also asked council permission to proceed with drafting an ordinance to set up a new formula for calculating certain portions of energy costs. He noted the fluctuations in the fuel adjustment could be addressed on an annual basis, allowing for less of a swing on a month-to-month basis. He indicated this system was much more efficient than averaging bills, and urged council to allow it to progress. Council voted 3-0 to allow Attorney Dale to draft the measure.

During the meeting several appointments, and re-appointments, were also approved. Beth Daffron, Matt Lamborn and Jim Parks were reappointed to terms on the Planning and Zoning Commission while Bradley Dunlap was appointed to serve the remaining year of the term of Sean Martin. Meanwhile, J.C. Helms and Dr. Steve White were reappointed to three year terms on the airport commission.

Following the meeting, Piggott City Clerk Julie McMillon administered the oath of office as Cole was sworn-in as the newest member of the Piggott City Council.

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