Monette Council/Cemetery Board to share street repair cost

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Shirley Bronaugh, Monette Cemetery Board chairman, addressed the Monette City Council concerning improvements on cemetery roadways at the regular council meeting Oct. 25.

"The cemetery is owned by the city, and our board was set up to take care of it," Bronaugh said. "In 1959 we purchased eight acres, adjacent to the Goss and Gipson portions of the cemetery, to form the Monette Memorial Cemetery. We borrowed the money and paid it off in eight or nine years by selling graves sites. We built up a reserve and managed to build the roads through the cemetery, a utility building and maintain the upkeep of the grounds. With additional funds we purchased eight more acres south of the existing cemetery, for later expansion.

"The Monette Extension Homemakers took care of the Goss and Gipson portions until about 12 years ago, and we took care of the remainder. No money was appropriated for the maintenance for the two additions, no income is derived from them, and no records exist."

"We took over an expensive item, which doubled the size of the cemetery we had been taking care of," Bronaugh said. "Annual expenses increase every year for maintenance. Keeping the cemetery in good shape is very labor intensive. In spite of all this we have always paid our way, and the city never contributed anything for the upkeep.

"Our budget is $15,000 a year, most of which goes to our caretaker. We send out letters each year asking for donations. Sales of plots and donations are our only source of revenue. We have about $19,000 in our account at this time."

"For 45 years we have given our time to make sure we have permanent records, and can find graves when needed. We are proud of our cemetery, as it is a final resting place for our loved ones.

"The cemetery roads need resurfacing or repairing, and we can't afford to do that. Since the city owns the cemetery, we are asking for your help in fixing the streets."

Council members inquired about sections of old cemetery an unmarked graves.

Janet Rolland maintains the Monette Cemetery database and census, and responded to the questions.

"There is no way to find out who is buried in the unmarked graves in the old sections of the cemetery, except by word of mouth from loved ones and relatives," Rolland said. "From the time the 1968 cemetery census was done, until the 1998 census, over 200 grave markers had vanished in the old cemeteries. Another 35 have disappeared since then. Temporary markers were never meant to last and either get removed or just decay from age.

"We have excellent records of the new section of the cemetery, and make every effort to keep all information about graves in the old portion on record also," Rolland said.

"Keeping these records is critical for the future of the city in trying to identify people," said Monette Mayor David Fletcher. "Since families help with contributions, we want to help everywhere we can."

"We have gone through all names possible to get mailing address to send donation letters to," Rolland said. "We sent out 400 this year. Only about half the people contacted actually donate.

"Other surrounding cities take care of their cemeteries, by using city employees for maintenance," Rolland said.

"Just because one city does it one way, doesn't mean we can't do it another," Fletcher said. "I think you'll have the best system going for you, the way it is."

"As of today, the city has not spent one cent for the cemetery," Bronaugh said. "After all the repairs we are asking for are for city streets."

"No, they are not city streets, at the cemetery, they are roads," Fletcher said.

"They may be roads, but they belong to the city," Bronaugh said. "Please discuss it and try to come up with something. We don't mind helping on it but we can't pay for all of it. If we had received a basic donation from the city of $2,000 a year for 12 years, we would have $24,000 now to do the work. I know you will soon be working on your budget for next year, and we are asking you to see what you can afford to do."

"If they are willing to split the cost on this, let's do it now," Alderman Steve Suber said.

After a brief discussion the council voted to share the cost of street repair with the cemetery board and get the job done as soon as possible.

Fire Chief Bob Blankenship addressed the council about repairing or replacing fire hydrants throughout the city in order to request an Insurance Service Organisation (ISO) inspection, to hopefully lower city rating for insurance purposes.

"Many of our fire hydrants have no shut off valves," David Moore, Water superintendent, said. "You have to work on them under pressure, which takes a special truck. There are two companies in Texas that do that work. It will take them about a week to do all the hydrants.

"If we do them, we would have to shut off the city water, each time we do a hydrant, and issue a boil order. We made sure all our new fire hydrants have shut off valves. It will cost about $600 to repair a fire hydrant and $900 to $1,050 to replace one."

"Our fire department is up to date on everything, as far as equipment and training," Blankenship said. "Work on the hydrants is all we are lacking to improve our ISO rating. It will take six months to a year for them to actually come after we send in our request for an inspection."

The council voted to request an inspection and appointed Blankenship, Moore, and Alderman Tom Carroll to work as a committee on plans for fire hydrants.

Fletcher announced that the safe house is nearly completed, with hopes of holding an open house next month.

Police Chief Brian Carmichael talked to the council about the use of tasers by the police force, as a less lethal energy conducted weapon.

"The Sheriff's Department and Lake City policemen are currently using tasers," Carmichael said. "I sat in on a taser conference at a recent Chief's Convention in Little Rock. They are a safe alternative, and very effective."

Carmichael submitted himself as a recipient of a taser hit, during the convention, and spoke of their disabling power surge.

"I took a five second hit and came away as a true believer," Carmichael said. "When it is over you know that you don't want to be shot again. Two policemen held on me to keep me from falling when I was shot. It was very disabling.

"Use of tasers would give our policemen time to get the person under control, and handcuffed. This is not a toy. If you are going to trust our law enforcement officers with a weapon that can cause death, you can surly trust them with a weapon that does not cause death. The men would carry their primary weapon, a baton, chemical spray, and the taser gun, and make a choice to which one was necessary."

"A good example of the effect of a taser happened one night, up at the Liberty Bank, as about 13 people were starting to fight," Carmichael said. "Deputy Garland Tipton came up, pulled out his taser, and the group backed off, not wanting to get hit with the taser."

Carmichael requested the use of three tasers by the police force, the X-26 small variety. The X-26 lists for $800 each. Classes for certification will also be needed. Policeman Charles Garr is currently certified. One taser has already been purchased.

The council voted to adopt the use of tasers, as requested by Carmichael. No vote was taken to purchase additional tasers at this time. Carmichael also requested the consideration of purchasing of another set of spike strips, and additional shotguns.

Per request of Mayor Fletcher, the council voted to transfer $50,000 from the water account to safe room account until reimbursements could be filed for to replenish the general fund.

The council voted to observe Halloween on Saturday, Oct. 30, instead of Sunday, Oct. 31.

The Monette Christmas Parade was set for Monday, Dec. 6, beginning at 7 p.m.

Fletcher announced a Solid Waste Treatment meeting to be held on Thursday, October 28, in Jonesboro, which will concern recycling. Friday, November 12 has been set aside for America Recycling Day.

The council adopted a Mandatory Hazard Plan resolution, as requested by Craighead County Emergency Services. The Mayor of Monette was chosen as the cities representative to the committee.

End of year bonuses were set at $300 for full-time employees and $150 for part-time, to be given out the week of Thanksgiving.

The city will host a Business Appreciation Luncheon on Nov. 4, at the community building, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Mayor Fletcher announced that Liberty Bank had accepted their bid on the old flower shop building on main street.

Councilman Ernestine Harrell announced that the last piece of playground equipment had been installed at the city park. The Monette Housing Authority donated $1,000 worth of safety impact material for use at the park, also.

"The Monette Youth Association held its annual meeting last week to elect officers, but the attendance was low," Harrell said. "They put off the election until Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. at the BIC West cafeteria, in hopes more members and supporters would turn out to participate.

"The ball park project is a very big project, and we need all the help we can get. The parents of the children ned to get involved in the association and come to the meeting."

"We need them to help collect funds for our part of the $390,000 grant," Fletcher said. "Just a few people can't do all the work."

"The lights are the most expensive part of the project," Harrell said. "They are estimated to cost $100,000"

"The city can't do all of this by ourselves," Alderman Earl Read said.

"This committee needs to be a force with a plan, and committed," Fletcher said. "We urge people to come to the meeting."

Monette Youth Association treasurer, Vickki Carroll, gave the organization's monthly financial report, which listed $20,116.36 in income and $14,336.40 in expenses. Total available funds include 45,749.96.

Harrell announced that she and Carroll would be presenting their grant proposal in Jacksonville on Oct. 29. Confirmation of the requested grants will be announced later in the year.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be at 7 p.m Nov. 22, at city hall.

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