Caraway Council talks water, sewer
Caraway had a well attended public meeting prior to the regular February Council meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9. Emily Hathcock, Economic and Community Development with East Arkansas Planning and Development District, addressed the council and the citizens of Caraway to discuss priority needs of Caraway with water sewer being number one and acquiring a bank and grocery store as the second priority.
Caraway workers have been putting in new sewer lines. Several of the streets are in need of repair. Council discussed the application process for a grant to fund street work.
Following the review of the financial report the council discussed property acquired by the city.
Mayor Barry Riley informed the council of a small lot with a shotgun house located on Tennessee Street that has been deeded to the city by Williams Baptist College.
"I have a gentleman wanting to purchase the property and he is ready to tear down the house," Mayor Riley said. "The lot is too small to build on. It is only 25' across."
One of the council member said if the city keeps it, they will be responsible for the upkeep and taking down the building. The council agreed to sell the property to Jerry Berry for $150 (37 cents a square foot, the same amount charged for other property sold.) They also put into motion the house be torn down within three months.
Mayor Riley said the council has been working on a clean up ordinance using the Arkansas code.
The proposed ordinance gives the procedure and fines to deal with property owners who do not comply with the clean-up regulations.
The ordinance covers cutting weeds, removing rubbish, removing stagnant pools of water, removal of vehicles not in use, etc.
The ordinance will allow officials to follow through with clean-up.
Councilman Jerry Martin said the citizens need to be made aware of the consequences of not complying with the clean-up ordinance.
Councilman Bo James said the ordinances needs to be enforced.
"I think we are moving forward," Councilman James said. "This clean-up goes toward our infrastructure."
Following the reading of Ordinance 2017-3 by Mayor Riley in its entirety on the first reading and suspending the rules and reading it by the second and third time by title only, the council unanimously passed the clean-up ordinance.
In conjunction with the town meeting the council passed three resolutions to move the grant process forward selecting Mayor Riley and the city clerk as grant administrators for the street improvement block grant program, authorized ADEC to be the administrator if the grant is approved, and passed a fair housing practice as required.
Sealed bids were opened for several items the city council had voted to sell. It included items the city was no longer using. The city advertised for sealed bids.
The council approved the high bid for all items including an outboard motor, generator, spray paint, Johnson outboard motor, trimmer, lawn sweeper, trencher, trailer, 2x4s, Ford truck and fence.
A citizen asked city officials about the policy of charging 10 percent late fee on water only. He suggested other communities charge 10 percent on the entire bill and the extra late fees might help with some of the needed projects.
"Our water bills are high," Mayor Riley said. "I appreciate you checking on that, but I hate to raise the bills any more."
Water Superintendent Terry Couch said the city is saving a lot of money by doing work themselves.
"It breaks my heart when citizens call me about their bill," he said.
Councilmen Mitchell Tipton and Bo James both said they were not in favor of raises.
"I would like to see us reduce the rates," Tipton said. "A few bucks is a lot to some people."
Councilman James agreed.
"I am not for raising rates," he said. "I feel people in our town are not using water they need because they can't afford it. We have a lot of people on a fixed income. I'm asking tonight to see if we can look at getting the rates lower."
James asked Couch if he could do an analysis to see if the rate could be lowered.
"I'm not for a two percent increase in June," James said.
Couch suggested a one (water) and one (sewer) percent drop. Couch went on to say he would not want to reduce rates and then have to go up again.
Mayor Riley said they could not reduce the rates "tonight." It would have to be done with an ordinance.
"I want the citizens to know these people at this table want to do something," Councilman James said. Couch said with 600 households at $5 reduction is $3,000 a month. He said the work they have done cost $30,000 and he does not expect it to exceed that this next year.
One citizen said he did not know how the city could afford to reduce rates because if something happens, the city needs a little surplus.
"We are not here to make money," Councilman James said. "We hear the city is broke but we are making our bills every month. We are not for profit."
Councilman Martin agreed, a majority of people are struggling.
No action was taken at this time.
Mayor Riley said the fence is up at the park and a park clean-up date has been set for Feb. 25 beginning at 8 a.m. Plans are to paint equipment and clean up. Mayor Riley expressed his appreciation to the volunteers.
Mayor Riley informed the council the fire truck had been paid off with a $27,283 payment. He said representatives of the ISO were in town inspecting equipment and service.
"All three said they felt confident our rates will not go up and they said they could see improvement since their last inspection," Mayor Riley said.
A citizen at the meeting asked about the Caraway Volunteer Ambulance Service. He said a Caraway resident had called 911 and asked for the Caraway Ambulance but it did not come. The police arrived quickly but the Caraway Ambulance did not.
Mayor Riley said the city does not manage the ambulance service. It has its own board of directors.
Councilman James explained there are less EMTs in town and state regulations do hinder the volunteer services.
Councilman James reminded the council the Make A Wish volunteers will be manning a road block on Feb. 17 starting at 6 a.m. until 4:30 to 5 p.m. at the intersection of 135/158.
Twelve year old Lexie Roberson was recognized for being named to receive the Arkansas Humanitarian of the Year award, the youngest ever recipient.
The next regular council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 9.