Monette Council to explore annexation

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Town Crier News Staff

Monette City Council discussed annexation, city improvements to city buildings, ball parks and parks at the June 25 meeting.

Mayor Chub Qualls invited former Black Oak and Caraway Mayor Danny Dunigan to address the council concerning potential annexation.

"The easiest way for a city to annex is by a petition from property owners," Dunigan said. "That takes more than half of the acreage owners. They can petition with the county clerk and go through the court. You will need a good lawyer, an engineer and will need to hold hearings. This is the simplest way to do it.

"Another way is for the city to initiate the annexation by a resolution and ordinance. A referendum is then placed on the ballot for every resident in the city to vote on."

Dunigan cautioned the council to only promise what they can deliver, including services within three years. Newly annexed residents should not assume that they automatically get city water when they become citizens, as they may belong to the rural water association. County roads annexed are to be maintained by the city. Fire hydrants may need to be added.

"Benefits to the city will be turn back money based on population," Dunigan said. "Utility tax and franchise tax will be more, and the city will receive more Act 833 money.

"Benefits to the annexed people include good fire rating for insurance purposes, police protection, garbage pick-up, city water (if possible), and sometimes sewer service. The streets will be maintained and their land values will go up."

"With the new Highway 18 route through town, this will be a good time to consider annexation," Alderman Steve Suber said. "We are not going to disrupt the farming area, just capitalize on the land."

"You may not get your money back when you annex, but you will grow as a city, and everyone can benefit," Dunigan said.

The council agreed to look into possibilities of annexation, in several directions, and discuss the issue further at the July meeting.

Monette Youth Association officers Billy Watson and Tina Metheny addressed the council on Memorial Wall construction at the ballpark and the sale of engraved bricks as a fundraiser.

"We are proposing this memorial brick fundraiser to raise money to pay off our park grant," Watson said. "It will be centrally located at the park and be encircled with memorial bricks. They will be easy to read from three sides now, and possibly four if needed."

"We have 750 bricks to sell at $100 each," Metheny said. "After all the expenses are paid, the possibility for profit will be around $60,000. We can place an order online when we sell 25 bricks, then it takes three to four weeks for delivery."

Metheny passed around a sample of a regular sized brick with three lines of engraving.

Watson expressed concerns about responsibility of vandalism. The council discussed possibilities in the event some damage might be done. The council pledged their support to the project, with details to be agreed on at a later date.

MYA plans to pay for construction of the foundation for the bricks, poles for three flags, and lights inside the 3x24 foot wall. They will also hire a bricklayer to add the engraved bricks onto the wall for display.

Discussion of the ballparks having designated smoking areas, or non-smoking, was discussed. Concerns about state regulations banning smoking in public parks was discussed. The issue was tabled until July in order to give the council time to determine legalities.

City employee pay increases were discussed.

"Our people are wanting and willing to work hard for us, and they have to feel valued and appreciated," Suber said.

"Monette employees have been only receiving minimum increases," Councilman Jamie Strickland said. "The question is can we afford it?"

"We have to stay within limits," Qualls said.

The council passed a four percent increase to all salaried employees, to exclude aldermen, and a $55 increase on monthly expenses for Mayor Qualls.

The council discussed the existing city ordinance banning the pit bull breed of dogs. One city resident currently owns two pit bull dogs and keeps them contained in a fenced yard. The council agreed to review other city ordinances before making a decision to change or alter the ordinance.

David and Karen Wallace, of Leachville, have deeded the deed to the old downtown bank building to the city. A new roof has been added at a cost of $10,500. A fan has been placed inside for ventilation while work is being done to renovate and repair. An application has been made for the building to be placed on the National Historic Register. Plans are to move the current Buffalo Island Museum from the city park to the uptown bank building when it is completed. Application has been made for a matching grant from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

A new metal roof has been added to the Senior Citizen Building roof at a cost of $7,610.

Alderman Joyce Read gave an update on the intersection project. An irrigation system has been installed for a total cost of $2,750, which includes material and labor. Newly landscaped hedges are scheduled for trimming in August.

City police car has been sold for $1,800 and a truck has been purchased from Ronnie Bruce for use by the Water and Sewer Department.

A motor at the water plant has been replaced with a unit purchased from Gipson Well Drilling.

Three trailer loads of Christmas decorations have been received from Star Keil, of Manila, and include eight pre-lit trees, two 12-foot tall trees, large decorative items, and lights. The city expressed their appreciation for the generous gift.

Police Chief Brian Carmichael finalized plans for National Night Out.

"Our night out keeps growing and has been geared to the youth for the past two years," Carmichael said. "This year we plan to involve the total community in our plans. We will have live entertainment as well as karaoke, food, balloon recreation rides, and tee shirts. Skateboards as well as bicycles will be given away. Volunteers are still needed."

The city donated $1,000 to the National Night Out, which is slated for Aug. 2, from 6-9 p.m. at the city park.

Mayor Qualls expressed plans for the city to enforce the clean-up ordinance of 17 properties that are unsightly and unsanitary.

"The time has come for us to take care of this problem," Qualls said.

"We have a clean town and we want to keep it that way," Suber said.

Following the meeting Monette policeman Aaron Davis introduced the new Eastern District drug dog "Vox" to the council and explained details of the dog's training and capabilities.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be 7 p.m. July 23 at city hall.

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