Town Crier News Staff
Monette councilmen worked through a lengthy agenda consisting of accepting resignation of policeman, approving purchase of fire department rescue truck, and enforcement of ordinance banning pit-bull dogs at the regular city council meeting July 23.
The council went into executive session to discuss discipline of a police officer. After a 30 minute session, the council emerged to accept the resignation of officer Aaron Davis, effective Aug. 3. When asked why Davis was leaving, Police Chief Brian Carmichael said Davis had decided to join the Air Force. Duties of the officer pertaining to use of the new drug dog will be passed along to another officer. No other details for Davis change in career choices were given.
Monette Mayor Chub Qualls introduced Fire Chief Bob Blankenship, who addressed the council concerning the need for a new department rescue truck
"We have outgrown ours," Blankenship said. "It is not as safe as before. We have shopped for about a year and a half and can't find a good price on any used equipment. We have decided to buy a chassis and build one ourselves. We would move all our equipment to that truck and use the old truck for first responder runs, generator transport, etc."
"We found a 2008 F450 diesel with four wheel drive from state purchasing for $35,000," he said. "To build it and put it into service we estimate the total cost as being around $45,000. We can use money from our department account and our Act 833 money and be able to pay for it and still have money to operate. No city funds will be needed.
"We have accomplished a lot in the last 15 years. We have built two buildings, purchased a tanker truck, have rescue equipment, and secured a great rating classification. We were able to secure a grant in 2004.
"We need to look at purchasing a new fire truck within the next two years. There are small grants out there, but no large ones. We currently have 1971, 1986 and 1996 fire trucks. A new pumper/tanker truck will run about $175,000. We can look at lease purchasing if necessary. Some cities have used revenue from their Act 833 money to make payments on one, and we could do that."
The council voted to allow the fire department to purchase the rescue truck and for the department to work with the council to review choices for future purchasing of a new fire truck.
Alderman Jamie Strickland reviewed needs for repairs on city tennis courts.
"The courts need to be resurfaced, new nets and the lights fixed," Strickland said.
"We can hopefully get by this year with fixing the lights," Qualls said.
"Terry Edwards has fixed our lights in the past," City Clerk Vickki Carroll said. "Perhaps he can help us with that again. As far as the resurfacing, it cost $3,000 the last time we had that done."
"The courts are well used," Councilman Joyce Read said.
Strickland agreed to look into fixing lights and measuring nets for placing a purchase order.
"The Monette Youth Association has asked for the city's help with funds in starting the brick memorial at the sports park," Qualls said. "They need $3,000 to get started, with us paying $1,500 and them paying $1,500. This will be seed money until they receive funding from the sale of bricks."
The council approved the donation to start the memorial brick project at the ballpark.
"Billy Watson has been concerned about security at the ballpark," Qualls said. "There is no way to secure the park unless a gate is put up. The school (Buffalo Island Central) and the park have agreed to placement of a fence and gate between the two fields. The MYA requests the use of $1,100 to do the work."
"The park will still not be secured," Alderman Steve Suber said, "as it has open access from other areas."
"They would have to cross the school yard," Strickland said. "It would be secured from any existing roads."
"Will you be getting any other bids, other than the one you have?" Suber asked." I would like to see competitive bidding on this."
"I'm against taking this out of the maintenance fund," Alderman Tom Carroll said. "We have been tapping in on this fund ever since we gave MYA permission to use it."
"They worked for this money and got it, and it is theirs to spend," Alderman Martha Jane Hout said. "I think that it is awful that they have to come to us all the time."
"We have an agreement on this," Qualls said. "They are not asking for anything unreasonable. This is a one-time thing."
"Everything so far has been a one-time thing, fencing, tarps and such," Caroll said. "Our agreement was to have a certain amount set aside to pay matching grant. One of these days this fund will be gone."
"This is supposed to be for long-term maintenance." Alderman Joyce Read said.
"We all believe in security," Suber said. "They (MYA) will get their gate and get maintenance, but we just want to get comp funds."
The council agreed to get bids on gate and fencing for park security project.
Mayor Qualls addressed the council about proposed annexation project. Plans include: West to the Highway 18 crossroads, then back to church on south Reeves Street; north to former Jim Steele home, and west to north Reeves Street; East on Highway 18 to Mike Ashley's home and houses on Highway 139 to first crossroads.
"No farmland will be taken in, just road frontage," Qualls said. "We show this will involve about 87 households, with an average of three people per home. Lake City, Leachville, Caraway and Manila have annexed, but not Monette. For future growth, we just have to. We are the center of Paragould, Jonesboro and Blytheville and are a great asset. I am in favor of annexation.
"We can offer a lot to people being annexed," Qualls said. "We have police protection, fire, and garbage pick-up. We may have to annex in phases. We can't promise them city water or sewer."
"They already have police and fire protection and garbage pick-up now," Read said. "What can we offer them?"
"Right now people outside the city call 911 and they get the county," Qualls said. "Our city police can be there in minutes. Also their insurance rates will be better inside the city."
Discussion was held on fire department currently answering calls from outside the city, and city insurance rates being the same as the cities, within a certain range.
"Areas that will be cut off with the coming of the bypass to the north would be residents some day, and we need to look at that," Suber said. "A couple of 40 acre fields will be affected by the new highway."
"I am against annexation to just be grabbing a head count, but we need a plan in place for the future," Qualls said.
"At one point or another we have to look at it," Strickland said. "Will their taxes be higher if they are annexed?"
"No," Qualls said. "We have no city taxes."
"But what can we offer them?" Read asked.
"We can pick this up at another time," Qualls said.
"We need a planning committee to work on this," Tom Carroll said. "They can hammer this out and bring their recommendations to this table. Revis Stewart would be good to work on this, as he worked on it before in 1996. I don't mind to help."
Annexation action was tabled until more information could be obtained.
Mayor Qualls addressed the problem of pit bull dog ownership. A city ordinance bans pit bull dogs being kept inside the city.
"It is a law and needs to be enforced," Suber said.
"The ordinance is there." Strickland said.
"We have agreed to enforce the current ordinance, as the dogs are banned," Qualls said.
Mayor Qualls reviewed the problem of burning limbs and trees inside the city, saying the process is unlawful. Qualls agreed to talk with County Judge Dale Haas to see if the county shredder could be used in place of burning.
The council passed Ordinance 2007-2 restricting smoking in designated areas, such as city ballparks. A designated smoking area will be established at the ballpark, and policemen were asked to enforce the ordinance.
Unsightly and unsanitary Ordinance was discussed concerning abandoned vehicles in yards.
"There are 17 abandoned vehicles in yards throughout town, and the owners have been notified," Qualls said. "The vehicles can be picked up and secured. A fenced area owned by Fred Chrisman is near city hall and can be used as a secure impound. Jackson's Station has agreed to tow the vehicles fro $30 each and place in impound. This ordinance is not worth the paper it is written on unless enforced."
"We have 17 registered letters. Most have complied with request and others are in negotiations," Police Chief Brian Carmichael said.
Ordinance 1988-2 was updated to Ordinance 2007-3 and Ordinance 2002-5 was updated to 2007-4, to prepare for necessary legalities and fine compliance for enforcing abandoned car ordinances.
Qualls gave a report on city well problems last week and plans to flush lines for proper inspection.
Street paving projects and resurfacing have been completed.
The council discussed current water rates charged to Buffalo Island Regional Water.
"It costs us $2.82 to produce 1,000 gallons of water, and we are currently charging rural water $1.50," Qualls said. "We have not had a rate increase in six years."
After a brief discussion the council voted to raise rates from $1.50 to $2.00.
Mayor Qualls gave an update of progress made on securing easements for construction a new street south of BIC School to the ballparks.
"All four easements have been secured," Qualls said. "We are working with the county to begin preparation soon. This road is going to be an asset."
Chief Carmichael reviewed plans for National Night Out, planned for Tuesday, Aug. 7, from 6-8:30 p.m. at the city park.
"We have four balloon rides, live band, train, lots of food, and give away prizes," Carmichael said. "This year is going to be the best ever."
Several councilmen inquired about the use of the city's new mower to mow Highway 18 right-of-way.
"I have been asked why we are mowing ditches out of town with our new lawn mower," Carroll said.
"We have mad a few runs out to Bob Harper's and back to make the city look better," Qualls said. "The men won't get on the old mower to do that. The highway department is not mowing this and it looks bad. The state is not doing its job. We want it to look right, since the school looks so nice on the other side of the highway. It is low profile."
Qualls reported the city is spraying three nights a week for mosquitoes.