Monette talks planning

Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Alderman Jason Stewart was sworn in during the Monette Council's regular meeting Jan. 26.

At the Monday, Jan. 26, regular meeting of the Monette City Council, aldermen discussed in length Ordinance 2014-3, which would create the position of building inspector, require building permits, require electrical and plumbing permits, set penalties for violations and more.

Members of the Monette Planning Commission were present to answer questions and try to clarify any misconceptions about the ordinance. The council read the ordinance the first time in December and after it was read by title only for a second time at this month's meeting a lengthy discussion followed.

"I'm getting a lot of feedback from people in town, mainly from people who have rental property," Alderman Larry Bibb said. "Does this ordinance mean they cannot do their own repair work?"

"I think this ordinance is too vague," Alderman Tom Carroll said.

Shawn Nance of the Planning Commission explained that the ordinance may look scary but it isn't. He said it just adopts the state codes that are required and nothing more. Nance said the state building inspector has said the city is way behind on state codes and Ordinance 2014-3 is the first phase in the process of bringing things up to where they need to be.

"After this ordinance is passed we will bring to the council an ordinance setting permit fees, building inspector compensation and everything else, but we have to have this first," Nance said.

Alderman Carroll disagreed saying he felt everything should be included in the ordinance but Nance explained the preliminary ordinance had to happen first. Nance along with Alderman Bob Hurst and others on the Planning Commission explained that minor repairs of plumbing, electrical and HVAC are allowed on both homes and rental property. Aldermen offered several scenarios to Nance and Hurst to see what would or wouldn't meet the criteria in the ordinance. Nance said in the next ordinance it would be recommended by the Planning Commission that permits would not be required unless it is a remodel of $15,000 or more or new construction such as a new home or new addition to an existing home.

"That amount is not set in stone," Nance said. "It will be brought to the council and you can raise or lower that, but this ordinance has to come first."

Nance said things like replacing ceiling fans, toilets, minor plumbing jobs, hot water heaters and many more would not be affected by Ordinance 2014-3, people could still do those things.

"So basically people can replace or repair what they have, but if its going to cost $15,000 or more they are going to need to think about it and get a permit," alderman Larry Bibb said.

Nance and Hurst said yes and added the Planning Commission is trying to put state codes in place to protect the citizens of Monette. Through this and other ordinances to follow contractors will have to register their license and information with the city before doing work. Hurst said when several homes sustained roof damage last year many roofers came into town and were paid for jobs that were not completed. He said citizens were left with no recourse because there was nothing in place that required those contractors to be registered with the city so they could be tracked down later if a job was not done properly.

"We are trying to prevent problems and protect the people of this community," Nance said.

The council approved the second reading of Ordinance 2014-3 but tabled the third reading until next month. Since there is already an ordinance in place from years ago creating the office of building inspector, the city wanted to check to make sure the new ordinance would supersede the old one.

In other business Mayor Chub Qualls gave the annual state of the city address where he outlined the city's work in 2014 and what is to come in 2015. He explained last year in January he said he would not seek a third term but upon the encouragement of his wife and citizens of Monette he decided to run again.

"I want to thank the citizens of this town for trusting and supporting me," Qualls said.

In 2014 the city purchased a new tractor, received a grant for a new blue bag truck, Joe Russell became chairman of the Christmas Parade, the city got a new sanitation truck, businesses were allowed $1,000 a year for three years to put signs at the ball fields, an ordinance limiting roadblocks at the signal light in Monette was adopted, paving was done, a new lift station pump purchased, fire chief Bob Blankenship resigned, water and sewer rates increased as planned and much more. The city's more than year long negotiation with the Highway Department came to an end in December 2014 when the city agreed to take on portions of Highway 18 and 139 when the new Highway 18 bypass around Monette is completed. Also in 2014 the city was told that its sewer treatment plant is out of compliance and would need to be replaced.

"In 2015 the city will undertake the biggest project that has been taken on by the city of Monette with the building of a new sewer plant," Qualls said. "The other big priority is a new police vehicle."

Qualls later in the meeting explained the city has a police car that recently broke down. Although the car is fixed now, it needs to be replaced. Money for a new police vehicle is in the city's budget but Mayor Qualls is in the process of filing for a grant that may help with the cost. Qualls said the land for the new sewer plant will be surveyed by the end of the week (Jan. 30). He said there has been a water line problem on Texie Street that has caused the street to close but the part has come in and that will be fixed before the end of the week as well.

Mayor Qualls said stripping of newly paved streets will also be done soon.

Before the council adjourned it voted to appoint a committee to review the city's employee handbook.

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