Leachville City Council approves raise in sanitation rates
Newly elected Leachville Mayor Ralph Wells opened the January City Council meeting Monday, Jan. 19, with a full house in attendance.
Eddie Bolar with Bolar's Sanitation, addressed the council about an increase in rates from $10 to $10.75 per household.
Bolar contracts the trash pick-up in the city of Leachville. He explained the tipping fees are going up from $27.50 to $32 at the Mississippi County Lanfill.
"If that is what he has to have to continue service, then I make the motion to raise the rate to $10.75," newly elected councilwoman Lisa Baldridge said.
The council voted unanimously for the increase. In addition to Baldridge, other council members are Ethel Hetler, Karen Wallace, Teresa Johnson, Michael Webster and Tommy Stone.
Mayor Wells talked about the three man schedule for the police department with two officers and newly appointed Chief Steve Lancaster being a floater.
"I asked him to try it and let me know," Mayor Wells said. "If the city was rolling in money we would try to hire another officer."
Chief Lancaster said they will do their best but he did ask how the vacation hours would be covered.
"Each officer receives vacation hours by check paid October, November and December or compensation," he said. "It is the law each officer receives three weeks a year. When I accepted the Mayors appointment I said citizens will get a Leachville officer when a call comes in. There might be a problem covering while officers are on vacation."
"We do not want our officers burned out and overworked," Councilwoman Wallace said.
Wells talked about officers being at home but on call.
He received several comments from people including a spouse of an officer saying when her husband is on call they can't plan any normal activities and it is not like being off duty.
Several citizens expressed their displeasure with cutting the numbers in the police department.
One remark was, "We are expecting 24 hours coverage, but cutting hours?"
"Many nights I have driven around town where there was no one out there," Mayor Wells said. "We've been a police department on call for a long time. I am sure any one of them will be there if we call."
One citizen asked about a state mandate requiring one police officer for every 500 citizens.
Mayor Wells said there is no such mandate.
Several more residents, including spouses of police officers, expressed their displeasure with the cutbacks in the police department. One stated her objections and left the meeting.
Mayor Wells and former Police Chief Keith Evans exchanged words after Wells talked about officers misusing the police vehicles and insinuating Evans had been seen at an auction in Cardwell in the police vehicle.
Evans said he did drive the police vehicle to Cardwell to participate in the Christmas parade and did stop by the auction after the parade. He said it was a lie that he had taken his family out to eat in the police vehicle.
"That is not why I am here," Evans said. "I want you to know I did not call the labor board. I like all of these guys (police officers). I worked with them. The city has taken in a major highway and expanded and expect them to work it with less officers. These guys do an excellent job. I'll take care of my own family but there is no way these police officers can work the hours they will have to work with only three officers. I don't want to see anyone get broken into and hurt. You have a good police department and I ask the council to look at what they do," Evans said. "Three men will not cut it."
Mrs. Lancaster commented she was sure her husband would try to do his best to go with the three man schedule but said call time is not going home.
"I don't want to be a slave driver," Wells said. "I talked to Steve about what is going on."
Richard Sills asked the people to give Chief Lancaster a chance to try it. He said he is sure if it does not work Lancaster will come back and let the council know.
Councilman Webster asked Chief Lancaster to look at the salaries for four full time officers and compare to last year's salaries.
The council agreed they want to work together and do what they can for the citizens of Leachville.
Chief Lancaster gave the December activity report with 28 traffic arrests, 25 misdemeanor criminal arrests, nine reports taken; two felonies; four and three others, and four accident reports. From Jan. 1 to date, there have been 14 reports taken, five felonies and nine misdemeanors/others.
Robert Ballard gave the street and water report saying covers for the man holes had been ordered. Crosswalks at the corner of 11th Street will be repainted. A three-way stop sign was requested on Elm and Chestnut Streets.
Fire Chief Mark Johnson gave a report on the fire department. Applications for grants for the First Responders through the Arkansas Department of Rural Development, and GIF were given to Drake Brown who will work on the application process.
The council passed an ordinance establishing a nepotism policy and discussed updating the employee handbook.
The council discussed codification of city ordinances.
Ruth Ann Keith, city clerk/treasurer, explained the process through the Municipal League. All of the city ordinances from the first are organized into a book, which is divided into departments and updated for easy reference for the council or citizens looking for ordinances.
New ordinances are added keeping everything organized.
"I saw the finished book from a town about the same size of ours while I was at the Municipal League meeting," Keith said. "It would be helpful. They also offer the ordinances on CDs."
The estimated was cost $3,600, half to be paid up front and half when it is completed. She also said here is a small fee for adding future ordinances.
"If we can afford it, it would be well worth it," Councilwoman Wallace said.
"I think we need it for future officials and our citizens," Councilwoman Johnson said.
The council asked Mrs. Keith to get all of the information and maybe a sample book to present to them at the next meeting.
The Mayor read a list from the Mayor's comments on the agenda.
"The following will not be allowed to continue because of insurance and expense to the city and taxpayers," Mayor Wells said. "Driving city vehicles out of town for personal business (this has been done a lot); transporting family members and others in city vehicles (unless there is an emergency); speeding in city vehicles; city vehicles not allowed for personal business; no person will be allowed behind the counter in the water office unless bonded by the city."
Mayor Wells said disciplinary action will be taken if violated.
Mayor Wells presented his goals for 2015 with attracting more businesses and industry to Leachville, including a food market, first on the list. Other goals included working with businesses, homes and rental property owners to clean up the town; extended city sewer lines to Highway 18 as funds become available east and west on Highway 18.
"Businesses are looking to located on Highway 18," he said. "We need city sewer there when we can."
On his list of goals were reorganizing street, water, and police departments to be more efficient and economical.
"I want and need the help of the City Council on the day to day operation of the city," he said. "I want all employees to know if a city councilman tells them there is a need they need to listen. We are all in this together. I am very pleased with our City Council and ask the department supervisors and employees to work with them to help promote and cleanup our city. I expect all city employees to be courteous to our citizens. Remember, they pay our salaries."
During the citizen comments, Marlyn Looney said she was pleased to live in Leachville. She will work with the mayor and volunteers to help where she can. She talked about services and ways to improve the city. She also talked about working together to keep their school.
"Every school building has been condemned," she said. "I know a tax will hit me hard, I own land. Rumors of 45 percent increase is not correct. The only kids I have here are the ones I taught but we need to work together to keep our school."
In other business:
*Mayor Wells suggested the job description be revised and updated. Councilman Webster said they can look at having that done when they work on the employee handbook.
*Mayor Wells suggested a raise to $15 an hour for Robert Ballard who will be working in two positions, the street and water departments. "He will be a working supervisor," Mayor Wells said. The council voted unanimously to raise Ballard's salary to $15 an hour.
*Councilman Webster said the Leachville Foundation has painted the former Girl Scout building which will be a food pantry. He went on to say JoAnn Cardin has worked on cleaning it up. Hopefully when the heaters are installed food can be stocked. Representatives of the Leachville Foundation will work with the school on organizing community projects. He also praised the street workers for doing a good job.