The Monette City Council accepted the resignation of two councilmen, redefined city wards, and gave merit raise for policeman at the city council meeting held Monday, Jan. 25.
The council accepted the resignations of two councilmen, Jamie Strickland, who moved out of his ward, and Martha Jane Hout, for health reasons.
The council passed Ordinance 2010-1 on the third reading to re-district the wards.
The council went into executive session to discuss appointing two aldermen to fill the vacancies. After reconvening the council agreed to table the selection until the March council meeting to allow publication of the open positions.
The council approved a merit raise of $760 for policeman Brandon Womack.
Mayor Chub Qualls reviewed the State of the City in his opening comments.
"In January of 2009 we moved into our nice museum uptown and have made the old museum available for use by the Boy Scouts and for storage," Qualls said. "Before the month was over we had the ice storm, and an extensive clean-up began."
Other updates included the purchase of garbage collection units for newly annexed residents; successful projects from the Monette Youth Association; city-wide clean-up, sat wards for newly annexed areas; spent $205,000 on ice storm clean-up; Mark Grisham held a book signing at Buffalo Island Museum; General Dollar Store began construction; new water hydrant installed at Kiech-Shauver-Miller Gin; purchase of new police car; gave 50 cent per hour raise to all employees; installed new street lights to newly annexed area; purchased two new generators; closed Flash Market alley; purchased two weather sirens; purchased aerator and three police cameras; purchased new city chipper; voted to apply for a $50,000 grant to build bathrooms at city ballpark; Kiech-Shauver-Miller purchased Tool Tech property for $12,000; Black Oak and Monette merged fire departments; addition and renovation of Christmas decorations; and discussion of outdoor grant began.
"We have had a good year overall, and we have made many purchases," Qualls said. "With the grant for $18,000 and $7,800 from sale of land, the new chipper has been totally paid for. Ray and Bill have been trained to operate it and are the only ones authorized to do so."
The new chipper has been placed at the city landfill. Limbs will be hauled to that location for disposal, after they have been placed at the curbside for pick up. No construction debris is to be placed on the curb, as disposal of that is the responsibility of the resident.
"I think we should make it mandatory to have two people out there when they are using the chipper," Alderman Perry Wood said. "They should never operate it alone, as it is risky."
"Dumping fees have increased 75 cents a ton," Qualls said. "Skip Layne is to be commended for his work on our behalf as Solid Waste Disposal board member. He has fought hard to keep the drop site at Lake City."
Labor to move an equipment shed from N. Nance Street to the south side of the city shop was listed at $750. The total cost of labor and material to reconstruct it for city use was $4,051.35. Tie downs are to be added at a later date.
"We are losing money on our sewer system," Qualls said. "We are doing a study on it, and it looks as if our receipts are only paying 45 percent of what it costs the city to operate it. The Water and Sewer Department together only lost $2,000 this year, with the Water Department making money, and the Sewer Department losing it."
"The USDA would not loan us money for the water tower unless our water rates were lower than the state's average," Alderman Tom Carroll said. "I'm sure we are back under the state average at this time. It costs us more to run a sewer plant than to deliver water. Work on this is past due, and we will have to do something."
"The sewer plant was built in 1978," Qualls said. "We have talked about different systems. We have been told it will take 25 acres of land for improvements. They are coming up with different types and designs of plants all the time. It costs us $1,600 in electricity to operate the sewer system now."
The council reviewed the past three years of Water and Sewer incomes and expenses.
"We are over spending every year," Woods said. "We have to make this our main priority this year. We are already behind $35,000 in the Water, Sewer, and Sanitation combined departments. We have to either raise rates or decrease spending."
"We need to do a rural water study and bring this before the new council to make a decision on what to do," Qualls said.
"We have to address the short term and long term needs of our city," Woods said. "We need to talk about the feasibility of a tax increase designated for the sewer plant."
"We are waiting on a GIF grant for ballpark bleachers," Qualls said. "We need to get a grant application for the sewer problem."
The council passed Resolution 2010-1 to apply for a $40,000 GIF grant for the city wastewater plant.
Qualls appointed aldermen Woods, Carroll, and Bob Blankenship to serve on a committee to study the sewer problem and report back to the council.
"A rate increase is not popular," Qualls said, "but it may the thing we have to do. It is a reality."
Qualls announced Dollar General store would be accepting applications after Feb. 15, to hire 10 to 12 employees. The Smithee Sandwich Shop has set March 4 as a target date for opening. No date has been set for the beginning of construction at Flash Market. The Taylor and Stuckey building will begin construction on March 1.
Alderman Woods addressed the need of building code enforcement for all new construction, and provision of proper drainage. Mayor Qualls agreed to work with Woods to supervise the construction.
The council discussed placement of the two weather sirens, with several potential sites.
The council voted to purchase a new Fire Department Cascade Unit at a cost of $15,000 from Act 833 funds and $6,000 city funds. The current cascade unit will be moved to Black Oak to upgrade their system there. A new 20 KW natural gas generator has been purchased for $3,834. It is manually operated with an emergency converter.
Monette Fire Chief Blankenship reported the department made 36 fire runs in 2009 with 72 First Responder responses.
Police Chief Bryan Carmichael reported Policeman Womack had been instrumental in apprehending Bobby Clayton, 55, last Thursday for operating a meth lab inside his home at 306 Gann Street. Womack worked with Craighead County Sheriff's Deputy Justin Rolland to make the arrest. Clayton had been tied with drug activity in Greene County. Clayton was arrested on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to manufacture and possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22, at city hall.