Raises among council topics

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Monette City Council discussed a new parking ordinance, the 2011 proposed budget and employee raises at the council meeting held Monday, Dec. 20.

Mayor Chub Qualls passed out copies of a five page proposed city parking ordinance. The council discussed the ordinance at length.

"We have not revised our parking ordinance since 1953," Qualls said. "We have had instances on Texie and Finch Streets dealing with overnight parking. In order for the police to enforce a parking violation they need an ordinance to back it up. This ordinance will not allow parking on the streets after 11 p.m."

"We don't need to over-reach on this," Councilman Perry Wood said. "We don't want to do selective or arbratorial enforcement on this.

"We need to look at a copy of the old ordinance, and look at this in-depth," Alderman Tom Carroll said. "Our citizens will ensure that we enforce this equally. We need to table this and give us time to look deeper into it."

"We need to cover all the bases on this," Councilman Dick Pace said. "And consider if it is O.K. to park on the street at all."

"Is the point on this about public safety?" Councilman Bill Watson asked. "If so, then we should be concerned about it all times of the day. Right now there just seems to be two isolated cases."

"There will be circumstances that arise, like parking in front of the post office," Wood said. "People park the wrong way up there and on the sidewalk."

"That is against the law, and when parking is wrong, they have the right to get a ticket," Pace said.

The 2011 proposed budget was discussed.

"We looked at line expenses for a 12 month period, September 2009 through October 2010," Pace said. "We estimate a $100,000 increase overall due to annexation, with $60,000 for 2011. We should break even next year."

"We spend 50 percent of our total income on salaries and benefits," Pace said. "We haven't talked to any other towns to see how this compares."

"We have three things to consider, annexation, census, and the Water Department increases and losses due to rates and rural water," Alderman Bob Blankenship said.

"Rural water is not anywhere in this money consideration," Pace said. "We just looked at revenue and expenses. This is just a conservative figure."

"This budget looks very professional," Wood said.

"Why are the Christmas Parade expenses under Beautification?" Alderman Joyce Read asked.

"That is were it has always been put, along with holiday decorations," Qualls said. "A certain amount needed to be allocated for this. They had $1,000 but needed more for the Santa float, meals for judges, awards and such. They always checked with me to see if expenditures were O.K. before they spent money. They went over about $200."

The council agreed to list the parade as a line item of $1,500 separate from holiday decorations of $2,500.

"We are very conservative in spending on holiday decorations," Read said. "We spent less than $200 refurbishing the hanging decorations. These would have cost from $400 to $550 each if ordered new. We want to add more nativity characters to our manger scene."

The council passed the 2011 budget as proposed.

The parking ordinance was tabled until the January meeting.

The council discussed the resignation of Sanitation employee Ray Wycoff.

"I have been working Dilbert Clayton in Ray's place," Qualls said. "Right now he is just part time, working for $8 an hour. Bill (Benham) is filling in with the Sanitation Department. We got the truck worked on and it is in good shape now. We can run it another couple of years."

Salary increases have not been implemented since July 2009 and were listed as a topic of discussion on the night's agenda.

Concerns about unknown revenue from April and May annexation revenue were listed as reasons to wait on salary decision, with possibility of giving more increases.

Mayor Qualls said he had given Bill Benham a $1.50 hourly increase, since he has assumed more duties after Ray Wycoff's retirement.

"The council should have discussed this," Carroll said.

"This is a temporary raise," Qualls said. "He asked for an increase."

"What if the other employees asked for a raise?" Carroll asked. "Bill (Benham) has not assumed more duties, as he has already been doing that job."

The council agreed to wait and discuss raises after the census and annexation revenue is revealed.

"Why should we wait, if the Mayor is going to give raises at will," Carroll said.

"I feel like he needs this raise," Qualls said. "This is the first time I have done it. I think the circumstances were there this time. There will not be another instance of this, and you can take my word on it. I may have been out of place. Can you understand this?"

"I understand," Carroll said. "You give raises at will. Would you want to be the one to tell Bill (Benham) that we can't continue that raise, after we find out about the results of our annexation report?"

"Yes, I will be the one to tell him," Qualls said.

"Hopefully, we can give even bigger raises that originally hoped," Blankenship said. "We might be able to give 5 percent instead of 3 percent."

"We will need to look at the overall picture on this before we make a decision," Wood said.

Mayor Qualls reported on placement of three new culverts behind the feed store, the opening of Farmers Market and the construction of a new multi-million dollar gin at Kiech-Shauver.

"We had from $10 to $12 million dollars spent in Monette in the last two years," Wood said. "This is very good."

Watson requested the city look into help with Economic Development for the city, with help from Jerry Smith of Arkansas State University.

"Smith can help us with ideas and resources," Watson said. "This can help us stay alive and be a vibrant community."

"We need to be pro-active," Pace said.

"We need to grow out to the new bypass as well as preserve our downtown business district," Carroll said.

Fire Chief Bob Blankenship gave an update on the Fire Department's proposed budget. The balance at the beginning of year 2010 was $73,000. Revenues were $31,100, and expenditures for equipment and fire truck payment of $45,000 leaving an end of year balance of $59,100.

The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17, at city hall.

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