Caraway Council holds August meeting

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Police department and water department expenses were among topics of discussion at a meeting of the Caraway City Council held Thursday, Aug. 8.

After a review of finances prepared by city recorder Rick Stevens, aldermen Mitchell Tipton and Bo James asked about police salaries exceeding the budgeted amount.

"We had more officers during the fourth of July, plus we picked up officer Justin Faulkner and then Kevin Tucker was hired," said Mayor Barry Riley.

Stevens added the department had a lot of overtime in July, just prior to an increase in police salaries.

"We may need to revise the 2013 budget to balance out our current police salaries,"Riley said.

Tipton noted Faulkner returned to the department after he had been paid for annual vacation time and asked if Faulkner would get new vacation time for this year.

"Yes," Riley said. "That is state law."

Police chief Pete Hicks suggested if the council wants to change the policy handbook to 1.25 days per month earned rather than 15 days per year, that might take care of the issue for the future.

"State law says the chief of police is to arrange 15 days vacation for the officers per year," Riley said. "New officers are dealt with by those same guidelines."

Hicks agreed to do research and paperwork for potential handbook changes to avoid future problems.

"We have 40 vacation days to cover in four months by two officers," Riley said. "We have worked these two officers hard and they have remained steady."

Following a question by alderman Johnny Boatman about $1,827 in water department expenses, water superintendent Terry Couch said almost $1,700 of that amount was for chlorine and lines. Riley noted the city soon will pay $831 for a wastewater permit.

Alderman James asked about $500 listed for phone bills.

"This was for two cell phones, mine and Pete Hicks, as well as replacement of a damaged phone and the CenturyTel phone bill," Riley said.

Hicks noted the city has two land lines in the police department.

Council members reviewed a list submitted by alderman James of 33 properties which need to be cleaned up. Riley said the city has been unable to take care of a mounting number of properties because of recent rainfall, rapid grass growth and a shortage in the number of employees needed to get the job done quickly.

James requested that Hicks prepare a printout of people he had contacted about non-compliance with the city ordinance regarding unsightly and unsanitary properties. Hicks agreed to bring a list to the September council meeting.

"Why not use trustees to help?" asked Tipton.

"We can do that, but we need someone to stand over them," Riley responded. "Plus they are limited as to use of machinery, like weedeaters and mowers."

"We have got to prioritize mowing," said James. "I see a lot of traveling up and down the streets by employees. They need to weedeat then spray, not the other way around."

Park committee members Glenn Boone and Billy Pendergrass expressed their willingness to help take care of the ballpark mowing and trimming needs, but said they need equipment for the job. Fire chief Scotty Browning also expressed the need for weedeaters to do work at the fire station.

"First we hear about excess of salaries, and now we hear that we need to get people to help with the grass problem," said Riley. "We can't do both. We have to do the best we can with the people we have and what we can afford to work with. Balancing it all is not an easy task, but we are doing the best we can at the time until we come up with a better solution."

In other business the council:

* declined an offer to purchase property from Merett Emery for $10,000.

* agreed to hire an architect for completion of a supplemental grant for the community center.

* heard from Riley that he is seeking sponsorships for rental of bouncy houses for the upcoming Fall Festival. Letters will be sent to area churches and the fire department. The rental fee is $500 for two bouncy houses and $750 for three.

* agreed to set aside $500 in order to go ahead and book the needed equipment and port-a-potties for the Fall Festival. Future donations will then decrease the amount the city is obligated to pay.

* agreed to apply for upcoming GIF grants. These will include grants for construction of a veterans memorial, construction of a park concession stand and restrooms, a police car, and a fire department brush truck. Riley agreed to draw up a necessary resolution for grant applications and bring it back to the council.

* heard from Riley that seven more sections of bleachers for the arena have been ordered at a cost of $475. Lights have arrived and are in the process of being erected.

* discussed problems with overloaded electrical breakers and lighting at the ballpark. Terry Couch agreed to look into the problems and possible solutions.

* heard that area Cub Scouts have committed themselves to renovating playground equipment at the city park as a community service project.

The next scheduled council meeting will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 12 at city hall.

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