Caraway Council holds first meeting of 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Caraway Mayor Barry Riley gives the state of the city address.

Caraway City Council members discussed budget, utility increases, backhoe purchase/lease, and heard the state of the city address from Mayor Barry Riley at the first meeting of 2015 held Thursday, Jan. 8.

Mike Gosha with JA Riggs Tractor Co. in Jonesboro addressed the council informing them on the cost and finance options of a Caterpillar front bucket backhoe. The purchase cost was a little over $84,000.

Gosha talked about the different purchase/lease options available to the city including 12 month rent; 36 month lease with the option to purchase at the end of the lease; purchase with a 60 month finance plan, and more.

The purchase price for 60 months would be approximately $1539.08 a month. The lease price would run approximately $1,000 a month.

He went on to say the state law prohibits allowing a municipality to purchase the same machine leased for 12 months.

Terry Couch, water superintendent, said he was not for a lease.

"We have used our present backhoe for 15 years and have less than $100,000 in it total," Couch said. "We can sell it now and get back $25,000 to $30,000. Maybe if we were larger and needed it more hours we could justify a lease. In my opinion we do not put enough hours in to lease."

Everyone was in agreement the city has to have a backhoe.

Alderman Bo James asked why it was necessary to get rid of the old backhoe.

Mayor Riley said $11,000 had been spent on maintenance this past year.

Council members asked about the price and financing of a used backhoe that had been brought back after a year or two. Riley asked Gosha to get back with him on the information the council inquired about.

Following a lengthy discussion, the council decided to table the decision until the next meeting.

Jim Dedman with Dedman's Sanitation, Caraway's trash pick-up service, addressed the council about an increase of $1 per household raising the fee to $13.

Dedman said there had been increases through the years and he had carried the extra expenses, but with everything going up they needed the increase.

Alderman Mitchell Tipton said the raise sounded high but he was not sure of the expenses.

Discussion was held on the stops, tons and tipping fees for trash pick-up, etc.

"I am not saying we are not happy with your service," Alderman James said. "I do think we need to look at all of our options and compare. We are paying you $81,000 a year. I think we need to look at the cost of leasing a truck and keeping it in the city. If it doesn't add up, it doesn't add up but I think we need to look at the options before we make a decision.

Mayor Riley asked Mr. Dedman to let the council look into it and get back with him.

Mayor Riley gave the state of the city address saying there is a new sporting store, car wash and a business will soon open downtown. In July the city acquired the 22,800 square foot Basler building, and the city received grants for fire equipment and grants for a police car.

"We had a tornado that damaged main street followed by wind damage causing our bank to close," he said. "I have sent out letters to several banks asking them to come to Caraway. We have land for new businesses. We will continue to move forward and to rebuild.

The council reviewed the 2014 budget passing Ordinance 2015-1 to revise the budget for the actual expenses incurred.

Mayor Riley said most of the over budgeted expenses were insurance and repairs.

The council voted unanimously to pass Ordinance 2015-1.

Increase in sewer rates from a minimum of $9 to $12 with an annual two percent increase was the topic of another lengthy discussion.

The $3 increase would be on the first 1,000 gallons with $2.50 for the next 4,000 gallons. All meters would have the $3 increase. The larger water users would have more after 5,000 gallons.

Alderman James said he saw in the 2015 budget an increase of $30,000 in the water department and asked where it would be going.

Mayor Riley said the department lost almost $27,000 last year just to keep the city in compliance.

Couch said the water plant is 20 years old.

"I will keep doing what I do to keep the city in compliance," Couch said. "I don't worry about having the bells and whistles, I just do what has to be done to keep the water safe for the citizens and keep the city in compliance."

A resident attending the meeting said he felt there are people in Caraway on fixed incomes that cannot pay the increases.

The city bookkeeper was present at the meeting and presented the income and expenses for each month in 2014.

Alderman James asked if the city could go with the $3 raise and not the two percent increase each year. He also said he wants to know where the increase money would be used.

Mr. Couch was asked to give advice on what he would do.

"You could ask for a rate study from the Rural Arkansas Water," he said. "At least you would have the proof on why it is necessary to raise rates."

The ordinance for the sewer increase rate was tabled until a rate study can be scheduled.

Removing the projected sewer increase from the income on the proposed 2015 budget, the council reviewed the budget submitted by Mayor Riley.

The Council voted unanimously to approve the proposed 2015 budget.

Mayor Riley said he will meet with Risk Management Group to see if they can get the insurance down.

Mayor Riley asked about selling a Ford police car, old work truck, fire truck and a Nissan.

It was decided the work truck would be pulled in and sold for scrap; sealed bids would be taken on the police car and the fire truck; and the Nissan would be put up for sale.

In comments, Alderman Marvin Browning asked about street lights out on main street and alderman Tipton asked about a pothole at the end of main street, and a brush pile that needed to be removed.

Alderman James talked about a dog problem he had encountered and wanted to know about the dog catcher. James said he was stopped by a loose dog and when the dog catcher came he took the dog to the owner's father who brought the dog back. He had a second encounter with the same dog and it was not on a leash either time.

Couch said he had a problem while reading meters with a pit bull, also.

"We have a leash law in this town and while I was reading a meter, the owner let the dog out," Couch said.

Couch and James said the Chief of Police did his job but they are concerned about the dogs running loose.

Mayor Riley said he would look into it.

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