Monette Council OKs fire truck purchase

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Town Crier News Staff

Fire equipment and annexation were the dominant topics of discussion when the Monette City Council met Jan. 21.

Monette Mayor Jerry Qualls gave his State of the City address at the beginning of the council meeting.

"This first year has been a learning experience for me," Qualls said. "We have met many challenges. I appreciate you very much, and have felt I had one hundred percent support from all of you.

"When I took office there was an ongoing problem and misunderstanding with the Monette Youth Association, and that has all been settled. We are now completing our final ball field and the fence will be up soon."

"Bob Blankenship and the fire department are a true asset to the city," he said. "We have bought a rescue truck this past year and plan to buy a new fire truck this year.

"We opened a new street, and named it Edna Mae Way, after Mrs. Freeman. That meant a lot to all of us and especially to Mrs. Freeman."

Qualls detailed the beautification and landscaping at the intersection downtown and future plans for the old bank building.

"That historic building would have been just another building to tear down, until it was donated to us," Qualls said. "We have plans to get a grant and completely restore it for a museum. We have three grants in process now.

"Now we are working toward annexation and growth."

The council passed Ordinance 2008-2 to close the alley on the north side of the home of Bob and Marsha Chambers. The alley reportedly has not been used in years and divided the Chambers' two pieces of property.

Fire Chief Bob Blankenship gave an update on the merger of the Monette and Black Oak fire departments.

"The merger is complete," Blankenship said. "Now it goes to the County Judge and the council of mayors to sign."

"Our new rescue truck has arrived and is being put together," he said. "Now we can concentrate on a new fire truck. We have had a five-person team working on the truck specifications for three months. We have received four bids."

Bids included: Pierce Pro-Fire, $189,499; Deep South Fire Trucks Inc., $201,160; KME Fire Apparatus, $197,087; and Rosenbauer of Arkansas, $195,354. Blankenship recommended the council accept the bid from Pierce Pro-Fire.

"The truck won't arrive for eight to 10 months, and we don't have to pay for it until it is delivered," Blankenship said. "That will give us time to decide how to pay for it. We receive money from Act 833 funds, subscriptions, annual dinners, and auctions. We also have money in savings. We checked with three different banking institutions and Dickie Pace at Liberty Bank gave us the lowest rate of interest."

"You will be saving $8,000 to $10,000 by not paying until the truck is delivered," Pace said. "I have talked to the team about different loans available. And we talked about a potential loan of $190,000 at 4.10 interest rate for 12 or 15 years. You don't have to borrow the money until the delivery of the truck grows near. That would give you time to see what comes in from fundraisers and such, and could change the amount you need to borrow."

After a brief discussion the council voted to accept Chief Blankenship's recommendation to purchase the fire truck from Pierce Pro-Fire for $189,499 and work out details of the loan from Liberty at the time of delivery.

The council passed Ordinance 2008-1, which regulates door-to-door solicitors, peddlers, hawkers, itinerant merchants or transient vendors of merchandise in the City of Monette. The ordinance declares it to be a nuisance and there will be penalties for violation of the ordinance.

Brookland Mayor Joe McKeel addressed the council concerning the process of annexation.

"Annexation can mean a lot to your city and to the people being annexed," McKeel said. "There are benefits both ways, as this is a positive thing. We are down to putting annexation on the ballot but still have a lot of work between now and then. Our annexation proposal will give Brookland financial stability and enable us to offer more to our citizens.

"We had two working meetings to bring people in to discuss the feasibility of annexation. At first they were opposed but have come to see the benefits of being in the city. Communication is the key. You need to tell people what you can offer them, and explain the benefits overall."

Qualls explained that Monette could not offer the people water or sewer, but they would have police protection, garbage pick up, and street lights, plus a reduction on their insurance because of Monette's good ISO rating.

"We just have to do what we can do as we can do it," Alderman Tom Carroll said.

Qualls displayed the proposed annexation map and explained that the area involved 87 houses, estimating an average of 2.5 people per household. This would mean a possible increase of 218 people.

"Whatever we promise them we have to deliver in four years," Qualls said.

Public annexation meetings were set for 7 p.m. March 3 and April 14, at BIC West Elementary.

No other annexation action was taken.

Qualls reported the Museum project had gone as far as it could go, until more grant money was received.

Alderman Steve Suber requested that the Museum project have a budget page listing donations and expenditures like the other projects.

"I agree, at a later day," Qualls said.

Suber proposed a separate account for the Museum.

"The museum needs to be in with the parks," Alderman Carroll said.

"The park and the museum are separate things," Alderman Joyce Read said.

"We shouldn't treat it any differently than any other account," Suber said. "Then we could set a budget and be prepared later down the road."

"That would show donations for the museum," Read said.

The council approved Suber's budget page recommendation.

The council passed Resolution 2008-1 to allow the city to apply for another museum grant, and Resolution 2008-1 for application of water and sewer grant.

The council approved the 2008 budget as presented.

"We are working to establish a Christmas parade committee, rather than just have two," Qualls said.

The council approved new Monette Youth Association officers, which include President Michael McFarlin, Vice President Billy Watson, Treasurer Nikki Dewitt, Concession Stand Director Kristina Petty, Fundraising Director Tina Matheny, Equipment Director Brian Carmichael, Field Manager David Clark, and City Official Member Jamie Strickland.

City Recorder Vickki Carroll reported the MYA maintenance payment for 2007 had been paid.

Streetlights needing replacement were reported.

Five properties were listed for clean up. The former Tool-Tech property has been deeded to the city, and clean up is underway.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25, at city hall.

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