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— Council members, at their Nov. 14 meeting, unanimously approved the expenditure of up to $12,000 from the city's general savings account to cover fuel reimbursement costs for the members of the Highfill Volunteer Fire Department for the current year.

According to Gene Holland, Highfill's fire chief, his department was already over budget on the line item by $8,500 and he didn't have the money to pay his firefighters for their fuel reimbursement for responding to fire calls. He anticipated that adding up to $12,000 to his budget line item would safely cover expenditures to the end of the year.

Holland said the expenditures were up to $19,408 for the year last week, with another month and a half to go. The budget line item had been cut at the beginning of the year to balance the budget, with the understanding that money would be added if it was needed. With the volume of calls this year, the department needed to request additional money for the expense.

Stacy Digby, Highfill's mayor, presented a 2018 budget to the council and requested adoption of the budget, which is not yet balanced, be tabled until council working sessions can review the budget proposal and make necessary adjustments before adopting it. A budget working session was set for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

Digby said the council may have to make further cuts to balance the budget before it is adopted -- probably at the December council meeting.

Also approved by the council (with rules suspended and on three readings with a single vote) was an ordinance calling for a special election for the purpose of financing and refinancing bonds for the city's water system. If approved by the voters, the city would refinance existing water bonds for substantial savings to the city and also use the new bond funding to extend water lines on the north and east side of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.

Two plans were shared with the council on Oct. 10. One would expand water service along Hutchens Road, to the north of the airport, with a 6-inch line. The other would include an 8-inch line along Orchid and Insco Roads, on the east side of the airport.

The estimated cost of both projects is $1.1 million, according to information provided to the council by James "Butch" Wiand, Highfill's water and sewer department supervisor.

According to Wiand, the projects could be paid for by refinancing an existing Arkansas Natural Resources Commission 2015 bond for $4.4 million, resulting in savings to the city of more than $763,000 over the life of the loan. Refinancing the existing bond and including the costs of the new projects into that bond would only increase the city's water bond payments by $3,000 per month, according to Wiand.

According to Wiand and Stacy Digby, Highfill's mayor, not to provide water service and utilities in the area east of the airport could lead to the areas leaving Highfill and annexing into adjacent larger cities that can provide the services. Digby called the project a must if Highfill wishes to preserve the integrity of its current borders.

The bond refinancing requires approval by voters, hence the need for a special election.

General News on 11/22/2017

Print Headline: Council calls for special election, approves additional fire department funds

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