All Manila City Council members were present Monday night as they worked through a full agenda including reviewing the budget, reinstating an airport commission, approving airport commissioners, hiring an animal control officer, and listening to concerns from residents on drainage, ball park, and swimming pool funds.
Mayor Clifford Veach presented an ordinance recommending the reestablishing of an airport commission. The airport commission was disbanded by a vote of the city council eight years ago under the term of former Mayor Jimmy White.
Veach explained that an airport commission would be responsible for running the day to day operation of the airport.
He also said Manila is one of very few cities with a municipal airport that does not have an airport commission. The commission is governed under state law. He pointed out that grant applications would still have to be approved by the city council and checks would still be written through the mayor's office.
"If you agree to undertake this and you are not happy, the only thing it takes is a majority vote to change it back," Veach said.
The airport has some major grants coming and that will require long term planning, Veach said.
Following the reading of the ordinance and discussion, council members, Dean Cherry, Tony Hawkins, Dwight Booth, Gaylon Gammill, Larry "Whiz" Davis and Linda Donovan, voted unanimously to reestablish the airport commission.
"I've picked seven people to serve on the commission that I think will work well together," Veach said.
He explained that it takes three fourths of the council's vote (five votes) to approve the appointment for commissioners. Each appointee was voted on individually and was approved unanimously by the council.
Members of the Manila Airport Commission are Woody Townsend for a one-year term; David Wildy for a two-year term; Donnie Wagner for a three-year term; Ray Benson and Mackie Fleeman, each for four-year terms; and Jerry Hitchcock and Gene Adams, each for five-year terms.
"I think this is a good mixture and I appreciate the council's support," Veach said.
Mayor Veach informed the council that their efforts were successful in doing away with the debt that the general fund owed the street fund. The general fund had to repay monies that should have gone to the street department. The general fund still owed the street department $90,000 after two years of payments. During the January meeting, Veach presented past financial records from his prior service as mayor that indicated money had been transferred from the general account to the street fund to supplement paving expenses with at least five years recorded as "loans" from the general fund.
"We cannot only quit making payments, we can recover the overpayments made in 2001 and 2002," Veach said.
"I've had numerous dog complaints over the last few weeks. We don't have a good situation right now. This is no reflection on our part-time worker, Sandra Sparks, as she works out of town during the day," Veach said.
Veach explained that he had been talking to Leachville officials about a joint effort that would allow their full time animal control officer, Steve Bowman, to service both Manila and Leachville. Leachville would continue to pay his full time salary and Manila could pay an additional $900 to $1,000 per month to Bowman. Manila will allow him to use Manila's animal control truck and Manila's animal shelter for both communities. Veach pointed out that Bowman would be working more hours servicing both communities.
"I think it could be a good situation. We can get someone on the complaints within 15 to 20 minutes. Bowman is certified. We can try it and see if it works if the council is in agreement," Veach said.
Veach said he and the city attorneys for Manila and Leachville would work out all liability issues before a final agreement is reached. The council voted unanimously to the arrangement once all issues are finalized to the satisfaction of both communities.
Veach said Sparks had requested to be allowed to continue her volunteer pet adoption program through the pound. There were no objections.
Manila Fire Chief Don Nunnally addressed the council saying he had "bad news and worse news."
Chief Nunnally explained that Engine 1 is down because the transfer case will not go into pump gear. The truck was taken to Damascus for repairs. He said the estimate for repairs on the transfer case was $3,500 for parts alone. A new transfer case cost $5,024. He estimated that with shipping, labor and parts the cost of repair would be between $7,000 to $7,500. He said that if the council approves the repairs, the truck could be back in service in two weeks.
"The truck is 12 years old and with repairs we should get 15 more years out of it. It is one of the two newest trucks," Nunnally said.
Council agreed unanimously to repair the truck with new parts.
Veach requested that the council consider providing city sewer to houses on Lake Street that currently do not have sewer service.
"We have about seven hook-ups on Lake Street that do not have access to city sewer right here in the middle of town. I want to recommend that we do something. It is one of those situations where we will never recover our money but these people deserve sewer," Veach said.
Veach said he had talked to Henry Ford, Manila Water and Sewer Superintendent, and the sewer can be expanded at an estimated cost of $30,000 to $40,000.
"I think the sewer department can handle the expense," Veach said.
Dan Gamble, Manila businessman and developer, said developers have to pay to install sewer lines when they construct subdivisions. He said people have built homes in neighborhoods knowing that sewer service is not available and he does not feel it is fair to developers for the city to pay for sewer hookups for these residents.
"In my mind, houses that have been here a long time are not the same as new subdivisions," Veach said.
The council voted unanimously to go forward with the sewer project on Lake Street.
Council voted to take bids to replace the current city hall roof with a new metal roof.
"During the current rains, the entire city hall looked like a `bucket brigade.' The police department has been suffering through this for years. I was asked if we could we buy more buckets if we couldn't fix it. Oates Construction Company has put together a set of specifications for a metal roof that will resemble others on main street," Veach said.
Mayor Veach informed the council that the city had been overpaying the water sales tax for three and a half years.
"I've been negotiating with the state for a refund. I was expecting credit but it looks as if the money will be reimbursed. It is approximately $30,000. All of the funds will have to go back into the water department. That is dedicated monies. It is just one of those things. Everyone makes mistakes and I am just glad we caught it and will be able to recover the bulk of it," Veach said.
Veach presented the state of the city report commenting that the year was started with a negative balance in the general fund but working in the right direction the city will get back on the positive side. All other departments are in good shape.
"The sewer expansion project is upcoming. I went through an expansion in 1990 and know this will require quite a bit of my attention, but I have the time and hope to get it started soon," Veach said.
He also said the water improvement projects will be started this year.
"It is time to make the improvements in the water system. If we get a good, excellent water system and a good, excellent sewer system this town will grow," Veach said.
Veach said the recent rains had created drainage problems.
"We will work with crews to clean out culverts and clearing and digging out ditches. Some residents in the Buttercup subdivision must wear boots to get from their house to their vehicles because of the water in that area," Veach said.
Veach called himself a grant man. He said he would be working on acquiring grants in the area of parks and recreation.
"If we don't get them, someone else will," Veach said.
Veach said he would be looking into funds to help construct a new swimming pool in addition to the current sales tax dedicated to parks and recreation/swimming pool.
He said the county will soon vote on a one-half cent sales tax. The state is looking at a sales tax hike of between five-eighths cent and three cents. In the next year or two, total sales tax rates could go up to as much as 10 cents on the dollar. Revenue is down.
"We may have to do more with less in the future," Veach said. "The overall outlook for Manila is good. I have been on the job for a month a half and it looks like we have a dedicated group working hard," Veach said.
In other business:
--Veach said he had received notice that Manila will be sued, along with other cities in the county, involved in the Mississippi County Jail fee controversy. He said he thought the city attorneys and county attorney would plead the case in front of judge that will make a ruling on the proposed jail fees.
--Veach informed council that the bids for the sewer project will be opened Tuesday. He said the city had to pay the state a $500 payment to renew the sewer construction permit that had expired.
--The exit audit for 2001 will be on Tuesday. Veach said it is not as bad as 2000.
"I don't think I've ever seen a perfect audit. If we can make corrections, we will not be written up for it in 2002," Veach said.
--Veach said he still had not received payment tickets from Delta Asphalt for recent paving done on city streets.
--Councilman Linda Donovan asked if the city could replace a door at the Girl Scout hut explaining that they have the door. Councilman Cherry said he would take care of it.
--Donovan also announced that the Manila Business Women will host a bean dinner to help purchase a special car seat for Sarena Halfacre to help her parents transport her. The dinner will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 20 at the Depot Center.
--Councilman Cherry asked about digging a ditch to drain water that is coming down from Jr. Food Mart to the business next door. Veach asked Cherry to work with Ford on the matter.
--Councilman Booth asked about storm sirens. He explained that the residents living on the southwest area of town cannot hear the siren. Mayor Veach said he would have police officers out there with sirens until something more can be done.
--Jim Cheadle, who has been serving as chairman of the swimming pool committee, spoke to the officials recapping the work that had been done on acquiring a swimming pool.
"I hope the mayor and council will give the pool a higher priority. It is something the people want. I'm optimistic hearing what the mayor said about pursuing available funds for a grant. I was disappointed when the city council split the tax revenue from the pool and parks. I think the intent of the tax was to use the money for the pool and once it was paid for, to use the money for the parks," Cheadle said.
--Tracey Reinhart with the Manila Youth Association, and also on the pool committee, said he appreciated all of the work and effort Cheadle had put on the pool.
"When we were passing the tax, I had people ask me if money could be used at the park. I was told by the council members yes it could be used in the park system, also.
Darrell Birmingham commended the Lions and the city for the progress at the city park.
"The Lions recently completed an $18,000 rest room project for the park. I want to see a swimming pool, but I would hate to see the parks get nO money. We have a lot of young people using the ball park and a lot of different towns come to Manila and they like what they see at our park.
Gary Perkins, Lions Club president, spoke on the swimming pool/tax issue.
"We were hoping to use the sales tax money to generate enough funds for a matching grant. No one was expecting the sales tax to generate enough money to build a pool. I like the idea of a grant, but I hate for us to say no, we won't look at a loan. I campaigned hard for the tax for a pool. I think we owe it to our youth," Perkins said.
--Complaints were made that the adult men and women softball teams that play after the youth season are having trouble with a place to play. The large ball field has been turned into a baseball field only and the smaller fields are too small for men and women. Mayor Veach said it was obvious there is a problem there and asked everyone to work together and see what can be done.
--Council members voted to change the regular city council meeting date and time. Regular city council meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. on the third Monday of each month.