Former Manila Mayor Jimmy White addressed the Manila City Council Monday, April 19, discussing airport projects and possible future options for the community. Mayor Clifford Veach had asked White to assist in updating the city officials on airport projects.
"I think it is absolutely critical to the community. We have a pile of federal and state money available for improvements. It will enhance the city and it would be foolish of us to not take advantage of this," White said. "All of you know Clifford and I don't always see eye to eye but the point is, we are in a situation where we are in an environment within this country and in this state where we need to press on with needed projects that we can obtain at no cost to us or this community. The aviation tax fuel money will be used in aviation somewhere and so it is better we use it here."
White said that with the available money, the airport could install lights around the airport's helipad.
White said there is not a huge number of major projects that need to be done at the airport.
"We can finish the extension of the runway, put the lights on the helipad and at some point in time we want to widen the runway. Widening the runway is highly desirable but not absolutely critical," White said. "Lights on the helipad are important if we need a helicopter at night.
"Some feel that there should be a conversion of some of the facilities at the airport from aviation activities over to, for example, a building for the youth association. When I was Mayor I pushed for the youth association and I will do anything to help our youth.
"It would be nice if the ag hangar could be converted over to the youth association but there would be a fight with the FAA and Arkansas Aeronautics. Don't think that the Manila Pilot's Association is opposed to the youth. Go back and check the rules. Anyone using the facility has the right to ask and receive the services they need and also to complain about service. Each of you knows that we have to uphold the law of the land. The law of the land is that you do not convert allocated assets to something else. That is the first obstacle you have to get by. Plus, if you go east of the fence along the drive, you immediately have confrontation."
White talked about possibilities to get facilities to benefit the community. White said by going north of the senior citizens' apartments, there could be ways to get facilities and do what is needed.
"We can't do it tomorrow, or maybe next year, but I ask the council to allow Mayor Veach and me to work together to get the work done. Let us look into the possibilities of what we can do for the youth of our community. I would like to see us go north of the nursing home and have a freestanding four-field complex. That could be tied into the future swimming pool that I hope we get. I'd like to know that we have the support of the council," White said.
"You don't want to get closer to the runway than we are," White said.
Councilman Tony Hawkins said Manila has three ball fields and they are all overcrowded.
"Now you are saying to go north away from where we are now. It looks like it would be easier to move the building and go east," Hawkins said. "Fences can be moved."
"When you cross the street on the east you will have a fight with FAA and Arkansas Aeronautics. We would be fighting an uphill battle. If we had no other options we might try to go that route but we do have options," White said.
Councilman Larry "Whiz" Davis pointed out that every time an acre of productive farmland is taken away from the airport, income is being taken away.
"We also have to match 25 percent of the grant money," Davis said. "Every time you take an acre, that is less money the airport has to work with."
"I understand that," White said. "We are fortunate to have the acreage. It could be in the best interest of the community to use the acreage in that area."
Council Gammill asked how much money is available for the airport that the city does not have to match.
Mayor Veach replied, $600,000.
"The council has the authority to make airport decisions. It is a matter of what you want to do. It may not be easy but I'm here to fight for the city," Mayor Veach said. "I'll come up with recommendations. I went to Jimmy and asked for his input and he was willing to offer it."
As the council reviewed the budget, Mayor Veach pointed out that the monthly report was done in house.
"This has been a goal of mine since I took office," Veach said. When I started we were paying $900 a month for the service, then went to $400, and then down to $200. Now we have graduated to doing it in house and that is where it should be. Susan Jackson (city treasurer) has done a great job. I think we can expect an accurate report each month and I'm proud of what she has done."
Veach recommended the council consider giving her an increase in salary.
Councilman Linda Donovan made a motion to give her an additional $200 a month.
"She has taken on a separate job in addition to what she has been doing," Donovan said. The motion passed unanimously 6-0.
Council members voted unanimously to hire police officer Delbert Carter full time under a one-year probationary contract. Carter has been working part time with the Manila Police Department and Chief of Police Jackie Hill said he has been doing a good job. Carter will fill the position formerly held by Steven Lancaster.
In other business:
*Mayor Veach updated the council on the sewer project commenting that all construction is complete and only a minimum amount of paper work left to do.
*Veach informed the council that the street paving began Monday. If the weather permits the work should be done by the end of the week.
*The council voted 6-0 to have property clean-up on the five Saturdays in May.
*Chief Hill gave the monthly report on the city clean up campaign. He reported that the residents that have received citations and letters are working on their property.
*Felicia Pierce, candidate for Mississippi County Circuit Clerk, was present at the meeting, introducing herself.
*Mayor Veach recommended that the city put no more money into new subdivisions.
"We have two big subdivisions now and a lot of lots available in town," Veach said.
The council voted 6-0 to prepare an ordinance and not accept any more subdivision requests until the ordinance is prepared. Veach pointed out this is something that can be changed back when needed.
*The council received a request from Boll Weevil Eradication to utilize the airport again this year. Last year's contract was reviewed and council voted 6-0 to allow Councilman Davis and Mayor Veach negotiate the contract.
*The council voted to tear down one building and part of another leaving only the office on the old T-hangar at the Airport.
*The council voted 6-0 to sponsor the 2004 American Cancer Relay for Life for $1,000 again this year.