Manila Mayor Melvin Browning announced at the Thursday night city council meeting that the Buffalo Island towns had been certified as an ACE (Arkansas Community of Excellence) community through the Buffalo Island Partnership.
"This group of people have worked hard on this project. It has taken a ton of paper work. I've worked with them for the last three years on it and it is good for our town and Buffalo Island to be ACE certified. This project not only united five towns, it has crossed two county lines. The qualifications for ACE certification are set by the Arkansas Department of Economic Development," Browning said.
Browning told council members that several headstones at the Manila cemetery had recently sustained damage from a vehicle. He commended the Manila Police officers for their quick action apprehending the suspect within 30 minutes. He said he had asked Clell Castleman, president of the cemetery board, to explain to the members the role of the cemetery board.
Castleman said the cemetery has its own board and the city has nothing to do with the upkeep or planning of the cemetery.
"We lay off graves, plots, bury people, show the companies where to place the stones and take care of the upkeep. When damage occurs, I don't know what we can do about it. When the stones are messed up it is a private matter between family members and the stone companies," he explained.
Browning asked Castleman if the board would have any objections to the cemetery being closed to traffic at night.
Councilman Linda Donovan, who lives near the cemetery, said most of the problems happen at night.
"Living near there, we see cars going through through very fast late at night," she said. "If the cemetery is closed to vehicles at night, people wanting to walk through and exercise would still have access."
Castleman said he did not think there would be any objections to closing the cemetery at night, but it would be difficult for him to make sure it was roped off at night and opened in the mornings. He also said a fence would be helpful as long as there was room left to get to the houses on the east end of the cemetery. He also said posts would need to be put up to keep the vehicles from going around the chained off area.
Browning said the city crew could unlock the cemetery every morning at 7 and make sure it was locked at night.
Castleman said he would talk to the property owners about the fencing.
Donovan said she is in favor of publicizing the cemetery will be closed to traffic at night and set a date.
Jeremy Gamble of Manila addressed the council about street paving at a subdivision he is developing off Highway 18 behind Roadmart. There will be 16 lots.
Councilman Terry Carr said the city would have to look at the money at the end of December.
"I don't think we can make a commitment tonight," Carr said. "The first two things we will have to do is get the specs, bid it out, and make sure you are next in line for paving."
The council voted to leave building permits at the current rate.
The council also agreed to have Attorney Wayne Wagner prepare an ordinance to set fees for privilege licenses.
Browning explained that the city quit charging for privilege licenses in 1995.
"There are 95 businesses in town. It takes my time, Susie's time and Jackie's time to prepare the licenses and this is money that could be generated for the city," Browning said.
"We are looking at some tough times coming up, but we are probably the only place in America that does not charge for privilege licenses," Carr said.
The council agreed to begin with a $20 charge. The licenses will be from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
Browning also informed the council that the landfill charges to the city had increased approximately 10 percent. He said right now the city is paying an average of $4,500 a month.
No action was taken on increasing the trash pickup. Carr said he thought that needed to be looked at when the city is preparing next year's budget.
The council also discussed repairs or moving the transfer station.
City superintendent Henry Ford said he would like to see the transfer station closed to the public until it is repaired.
"Someone is going to get hurt," Ford said.
Carr asked if a large dumpster could be placed inside the fence so citizens would not have to go to the "hill" that is in need of repair.
The council asked Ford to get estimates on repairing the present transfer station and estimates on moving it to the waste water treatment area.
In other business:
*The council agreed to have Attorney Wagner prepare an ordinance to raise Buffalo Island Water charges from $1 to $1.50 per 1,000 gallons.
*Mayor Browning announced that the city had been notified of an increase in the health benefit funds going from $201.50 a month to $221.35 for employees and $511.35 for family coverage.
*The council passed a resolution for the Great River Road supporting the addition of the Herman Davis Memorial Park and Big Lake to be added to the scenic byway.
*Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution to do business with Jewell Engineers and Friday Law Firm for the upcoming water project.
*A motion was passed to prepare an ordinance to redistrict the wards to be in line with the Quorum Court lines. The lines were moved from Baltimore to Boston. Browning said the redistricting does give the wards a better proportion and balances the population.
*Browning said a citizen had complained about his neighbor having a horse. He found in the records an ordinance that had been passed in 1997 making it unlawful to keep horses, cows and other animals inside the city limits. Browning said he would talk to the homeowner and show him the ordinance.
*Councilman Dean Cherry said an old house has rats and is creating a health problem.
"I understand that it is tied up with IRS but there should be something we can do," he said.
Wagner suggested they get a court order to remove the debris on the property.
*Council agreed to hire Jerry Bates at $7 an hour effective Dec. 16.