Leachville council discusses lawsuits, industry

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

The Leachville City Council met in regular business session on Jan. 6, and again on Jan. 13 to discuss the standing of the Leachville Industrial Development Commission.

City Attorney Mike Bearden and 2003 city aldermen were present at the first meeting. New city councilmen include Shelia Spurlock, Karen Wallace and Rick Hamilton, with incumbent councilmen Monte Grimes, Bill Hetler and Estus Williams.

Mayor Ralph Wells and Bearden gave an update on pending lawsuits involving the city.

The City of Leachville lost the lawsuit brought by engineer John Archer, with total cost to date of $10,200.44. The city discussed the feasibility of appealing. The council agreed to appeal the decision and to offer $7,500 in maximum settlement.

The council discussed the city uniform supply case in which the city and the mayor were both sued. The potential liability was listed at $7,315.74.

Attorney Bearden suggested offering to settle for 50 percent, which would be $3,657.87. Ten old uniforms still remain at city hall, and have not been picked up, and another uniform company is currently being used.

After a discussion, the council voted to offer $1,828.98 as their part in the settlement.

An ordinance, seeking to prevent backwash, is being completed by Bearden for presentation by the council at the February meeting.

"The city pays $100 a month retainer fee (to Bearden) so that we can be able to get hold of him, if we need him," Wells said.

"I have been the city attorney for 23 years," Bearden said. "I do not represent the mayor and do not represent the council, but I do represent the city. Please feel free to call me if you need me."

Bearden also discussed the half cent sales tax proposal and its effect on the city.

Mayor Wells discussed city committee appointments.

"We don't need different council members telling all the employees different things to be done, as that is confusing," said Wells. "Things need to be brought to the mayor or department heads, in order to be completed."

"Do we have job descriptions?" asked councilman Spurlock.

"We don't, as of now," said Wells.

"How much authority does the council have on the city clerk/recorder?" asked councilman councilman Hamilton.

"You have no authority over an elected official," Bearden said. "The state law determines her job description. You may be able to check the job description not set by state law."

"I talked to Don Zinmerman (Arkansas Municipal League) about setting hours for the city clerk and was told the only reason this should be done is under the law about a citizen coming in during business hours," Wells said. Treasa (Austin) is very smart and capable of doing her job."

"I asked because I have had people complain about Treasa not being at city hall,"Hamilton said.

"Recommendations can be made but mandates cannot be made by council," Bearden said.

Alderman Hetler asked Bearden to see if hours can be set and advise the council.Bearden agreed to check.

"We need to try to cut expenses this year," Mayor Wells said. "Don't order anything that is not necessary. Anything over $100 has to have a purchase order issued. Invoices need to be approved by department heads.

The council discussed problems with the theater roof. Cost to repair with hot tar was estimated at $2,400. Replacement of the roof was discussed.

The council voted unanimously to take bids on replacing the existing roof with a metal one.

A public meeting of the Leachville Industrial Development Commission was announced for 7 p.m. Jan. 13 concerning the discussion of reuse funds.

"How long has it been since the LIDC has given a report to the city council, or brought anything to the city council?" Councilman Hetler asked.

"About seven years ago," said Mayor Wells.

"How often does the LIDC meet?" asked alderman Hamilton.

"About every three months," Alderman Grimes stated.

"Is the money in the LIDC account the city's money?" asked Chuck Brown.

"The money belongs to the city of Leachville," said Wells. "The money can be frozen and control given back to the city, if need be."

"If the LIDC makes loans, are they secured," asked Alderman Hamilton.

"Yes, they are usually partially secured," said Alderman Wells.

"How does the LIDC know if the loan is going to be repaid?" Hamilton asked.

"A loan application is made with expectations of being entered in application with very little control over repayment and conditions," Wells said.

"All in all, it is the city council's responsibility to make sure the guidelines are carried out," Hamilton said.

Securing of park grant money was discussed.

"Court job work, done by Rebecca (Clowers), should be taken care of after water office hours," said alderman Spurlock. "Also the water office hours are 7 1/2 hours and they are being paid for 8 hours.

"Rebecca told me that in lieu of getting a raise one year, the council voted to let her work on court work during water time," said Hamilton.

Council agreed that the court work should be taken care of after water office hours.

"Marcia's (Davis) time needs to be freed up to where she can work on grants," Ken Womack said.

"Marcia was hired to write grants and work part time for the water office," Hetler said.

"Did the council vote for Teresa's health insurance to be paid by city," asked councilman Spurlock.

"Yes," said Mayor Wells.

"People need to stop loading in every department, so the departments can do their jobs." Wells said.

The three new aldermen asked for copies of the 2003 proposed city budget, which is to be approved by council by the first of February.

The called public meeting of the LIDC and the Leachville Council took place on January 13, beginning at 7 p.m. Mayor Wells opened the meeting.

"I was in Little Rock last week and talked to David Meadows," Wells said. "He had Leachville's LIDC papers out on his desk, and said he was just about to contact us about refunding the $75,000, as no reports had been received. He had not received a low to moderate income report since 1995. He didn't show that we had been having our January public meetings as required and mandated, and that we had not sent in a LIDC audit since 1995."

"That information is incorrect," said Gilda Hultquist, LIDC chairman. "We have a professional audit done each year, and send it in.

"Sandra Kennett keeps our records and is a perfectionist about her work," Hultquist said. "She lists all businesses, all loans, all checks, and we can have access to them at anytime, in case there is a question. Our end of year balance for 2002 is $161,441, and it is all accounted in detail."

Hultquist presented her report to have copies made to council.

"I have a form for Bobby Williams to fill out concerning the names of people hired and the salaries paid," Wells said. "Pass this on to him, so he can fill it out. There is no money for us until we get this straightened out."

"I can assure you that our audit is done regularly, and professionally, and I'll be glad to make the call myself to see what has happened," Hultquist said.

"There are several things that the LIDC is required to do each year," Wells said.

Wells read the list of LIDC requirements, which follow:

1. Report of use of funds and results achieved.

2. Current balance and anticipated income of 2003.

3. Review current AIDC rules and regulations.

4. Receive citizens response and input concerning LIDC funds.

5. To prioritize goals for 2003.

6. Begin documentation of all proposed activities.

"We often lose sight of our objectives and get in a rut," Wells said. "I want us to regroup and get input.

"Mississippi County is proposing a 1/2 cent county sales tax, to be used for county development. Personally, I don't have a lot of confidence in them for the east part of the county getting our fair share. If it is per-capata, I would feel better about that."

When asked who has existing loans with LIDC, Hultquist quickly reviewed the names and amounts of businesses receiving loans. A business contract on each exist, with interest below the average bank loan amount, and with partial collateral secured.

"A lot of people do not know about the Leachville LIDC, and how we got started," Hultquist said. "In 1978 Lee Bearden, having served as LIDC president since 1957, was ready to retire. Bill Fields was then elected president, and I served on the board. He later handed the job down to me. We are all volunteers.

"In 1983 Brown Shoe Factory went out, and we learned that LIDC owned the building," Hultquist said. "Oscar Fendler was able to locate the original contact with the plant. We ended up renting the building to Arlee. When they moved out we were able to secure a buy out, from them, for $75,000.

"We have helped with loans to several businesses in town, for industry grow," Hultquist said. "We continue in that capacity, reaching out and trying to find people interested in locating in Leachville.

"We are currently working with a concrete housing firm, to locate a new business in Leachville, that will hire 30 people," Hultquist said. "We keep the Arlee plant in good shape, hoping to find a business to rent it.

"We have loan money, not grant money, and it has to be repaid," Hultquist said. "We always try to secure buildings, machinery and vehicles as collateral.

"We could use more volunteers to help us," Hultquist said. "Please let us know if you are interested and we will let you know when we meet, which is usually on a as-needed basis."

Hultquist welcomed questions from the audience and council, as the meeting drew to a close. Hultquist agreed to continue to comply with all state and city requirements, as to reporting, and agreed to furnish any copies of reports requested by the council.

Several citizens present expressed appreciation for the work done by the LIDC volunteers.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be on February 3, beginning at 7 p.m.

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