Utility payments for Entergy and Arkansas Western Gas Bills will no longer be taken at Manila City Hall. The elimination of the collection position will save the city approximately $12,000 a year.
The unanimous decision to forego the collections was made at the regular October meeting held Monday, Oct. 18, with all city council members present.
Following an executive session, Mayor Clifford Veach reported that no vote was taken in executive session but there was discussion on eliminating the collecting position at the city office.
Veach commented that the city started collecting the payments for the convenience of the residents and it had always been costly to the city.
Veach informed the council that 122 bills for the two companies came into city hall Friday, Oct. 15, and the city only received $16.80 for day's collection.
Veach also said that when the city took on the job the utility companies were having trouble getting anyone to take it, but now there is a private enterprise willing to accept the collections.
"This is a cost savings decision," Veach said. "It has nothing to do with the quality of work being performed in that office. We are cutting back on some other things, also. Chief Jackie Hill and Officer Jonie Isebell will be covering the police calls."
Veach said with the savings, the city can hire part-time help when and if it is needed.
The council also discussed a retirement plan for the city employees through CitiStreet. Councilman Dwight Booth distributed estimates on what it would cost if the city agreed to contribute four percent into the 457 (b) instead of the flat $50 a month that now goes into a savings for each employee.
Booth estimated that the percentage would cost the city approximately $205 more a month but said that would be an increase to each employee and they would get a much better return. Booth went on to add that the four percent would be entirely city contribution at no cost to the employees.
Veach said he would encourage employees to move their present retirement savings into the new program and they can start out fully vested. Veach added that with the four percent every employee will get an increase.
Veach said the city employees will have control over the money once it is contributed. He went on to explain that there are two plans and both are good. Employees can also contribute if they choose to, but that is a separate program.
Councilman Tony Hawkins said he would like to hear what the employees want.
Councilman Booth made a motion to start the four percent in the 457 (b) starting Jan. 1, 2005, and stop the $50 a month in savings at that time if the employees are in agreement.
The motion passed unanimously.
Veach said he would talk to the employees and if they want the plan, the city will proceed with the process.
In other business:
*Mayor Veach reviewed the budget to date.
*Veach informed the council that a preconstruction meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Administration Building of the airport with a contractor and engineer to discuss projects using the airport grant funding.
*Council members were updated on the water improvement project. Veach said that he and Henry Ford (water superintendent) had discussed the project and decided to wait on the exterior surfacing of the tank right now.
*Veach reported that the roof on the Girl Scout hut had been replaced.
*Councilman Linda Donovan said she had been asked by members of Manila Alumni Association about designating the triangle area in front of Farmer's Market as the Lion's Corner. She said they are wanting to place a plaque in the area. Mayor Veach said it belongs to the state highway department but as long as there was no obstructions to the corner, he did not see a problem with it.
*The Council agreed to have Halloween trick-or-treating on Saturday evening since Halloween falls on Sunday this year. The council did not set a beginning time, but agreed on an ending time of 8 p.m.