Manila City Council worked through a lengthy agenda at the first meeting of 2009 on Monday, Jan. 19, with all council members present.
One of the first acts of business was to amend the 2008 budget following a budget comparison presented by Mayor Clifford Veach. The city finished the year needing amendments on nine accounts.
"It is the most accounts I've had to amend in my years as mayor," Veach said. "Even with the amendments, we had a good year financially. It is just the way it turned out. The auditors do not care about income but they do not want us to spend more than was budgeted. We had some extraordinary things happen last year. The water department and the sanitation department both lost money for the year."
City Attorney Wayne Wagner read Ordinance 2009-01, an ordinance to amend ordinance 2008-01, amending the 2008 budget reflecting the actual expenses of each department.
Council voted unanimously to pass the amendment ordinance.
Mayor Veach reported on the 2008 street paving. Council had agreed to loan up to $50,000 from the general fund to add to the available street funds for paving. Veach said the actual loan was $38,000.
"There may be little if any paving this year," Veach said.
Attorney Wagner updated the council on the annexation project underway.
"All but a couple of signatures have been acquired," Wagner said. "The next step will be to get with County Judge Steve McGuire and he will set up a hearing date. We should be ready by the March meeting to get everything in and ready for the 2010 Census."
The annexation project will include property north of town on Highway 77 to the Junior Wise property; property on Olympia near the school; and Highway 18 toward Douglas Electric and Oates property.
Mayor Veach stressed the importance of completing the annexation in 2009 in time for the 2010 census.
"It will help the city and the residents being annexed," Veach said.
After a discussion and review, the council passed an ordinance amending the water rates.
"We have not had a rate increase since 2001," Mayor Veach said. "This is not an increase for our average uses. It will only affect the big users."
Veach explained the water department lost money last year. The rates will remain the same at $5 for the first 1,000 gallons; and $1.25 per thousand for the next 4,000 gallons. The only increase will be for residents using over 5,000 gallons. The cost will be $1.25 per thousand gallons for all use over the first 1,000 gallons, as opposed to the former rate that decreased on usage over 5,000 gallons.
"We can't sell water less than it costs the city," Councilman Leroy Douglas said, as he made the motion to pass the ordinance.
"I would not ask for the raise if I did not think we really needed it," Mayor Veach said.
Mayor Veach spoke briefly about the needs of the sanitation department.
"We are at the point we had to loan the department money in 2008," he said. "I'm not asking you to pass an ordinance tonight. We can take a month and study it. I'm an advocate on departments standing on their own. Further down the road, maybe 10 years, we will need a new truck and we need to be laying money back now. I am only asking for $1 a month increase."
Mayor Veach informed the council he and Wagner had met with three representatives of the Buffalo Island Regional Water District and had a very productive meeting.
"They asked us to consider reducing our price from $3 to $2.50 per 1,000 gallons. I asked them to consider opening the west valve," Veach said. "They are using less than 1-1/2 million gallons on the south value."
They council voted unanimously to accept the agreement.
In other business:
*The council reviewed and adopted the 2009 operating budget presented by Mayor Veach.
*The council voted to rent Building 200 at the municipal airport to Buffalo Island Air Service Ag-Flying, owned by Joe Lawrence and Ronnie Skaggs.
*The council approved a resolution to allow Mayor Veach to proceed with an application for a grant from the Arkansas Natural Resources to fund a sewer extension project for the Costner Addition.
*Councilman Linda Donovan presented a thank you card from the Cooter Band to the city of Manila and the Manila Lions Club for the parade and pancake supper. Council members expressed their appreciation to the band for being part of the Christmas parade over the years.
*Councilman Donnie Wagner asked how the new ambulance service is doing. Mayor Veach said he had met with District Manager Benny Ford and it seems everything is going well.
*Mayor Veach updated the council on the Airport runway expansion project. Bids will soon be going out for the first phase of the work, widening the runway to 75 feet. It is expected to be finished this year.
"The money for the airport projects does not cost the city," Veach said. "The funding comes from the U.S. Government."
*Mayor Veach said the new fire station still had a few items to be completed. The city is holding final payment of $37,000 until all the work has been finished.
*The council adopted the operating budget for 2009 as presented by Mayor Veach.