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GRAVETTE -- Members of the Gravette city council held their regular monthly committee of the whole meeting Thursday, Jan. 18, at city hall. They heard reports from several city department heads, met a prospective candidate for the vacant council position and discussed several items of business which will be on the agenda for the Jan. 25 council meeting. The meeting was postponed one week to avoid conflicting with the Arkansas Municipal League meeting the previous week.

Lonnie Mullen, fire chief, reported responding to 32 fire calls year-to-date in 2018. He also reported turnout time for the department has been reduced from over two minutes to less than a minute. He urged council members to move forward quickly with financing for air packs for the department since five units have failed.

Police chief Chuck Skaggs reported 304 police department calls year-to-date. He reported on the recent apprehension of an armed suspect with outstanding warrants and praised the professionalism of the officers involved. He said they handled the situation very well, doing their best to ensure the safety of persons nearby, and he planned to prepare letters of commendation for all involved.

Corey Reardon, water and sewer department manager, reported both sewer line projects had been completed and came in $84,167 under budget. He said this was partially due to having less than half the water services on El Paso Street than had been anticipated and said shortening the manholes had resulted in a savings of $45 per foot. Reardon said the city had a year guarantee on all work done and any repairs needed during that time would be made at no charge.

Tim Dewitt, streets and parks department manager, reported he and Mallory Weaver, assistant to the mayor, had attended a meeting earlier in the day regarding applying for grants through the regional planning commission. They have submitted an application for a grant to expand the city's walking trail system. Dewitt said work on the main trail should begin in about two weeks and, if the grant is received, it would allow tying that into the west trails in Pop Allum Park and extending them east to the school.

Karen Benson, the library supervisor, reported the first evening GED class had been held Jan. 16 with 11 students in attendance. Classes will continue through May 8 and attendance is expected to increase next week when the weather is warmer. Benson reported that she had attended a computer coding class recently and she has received 11 children's coding books and nine robotic toys she plans to use in the library's Saturday Scientists program.

A letter was submitted from Melissa Smith, resigning from her position as alderman for Ward 1, Position 2. Since Smith has served as chair of the committee of the whole meetings, members elected Melissa Burnett to assume that responsibility and she immediately began to chair the meeting.

Council members discussed declaring as surplus two old ambulances and an old fire engine in Hiwasse. Chief Mullen said the vehicles were no longer needed and have not been in use since he arrived. A vote to take them out of service will be on the agenda for the Jan. 25 council meeting.

Carl Rabey, finance director, reported the need for establishing a non-interest bearing bank account solely dedicated to funds for the community room. A vote to approve establishing such an account will be on the agenda for the Jan. 25 council meeting. Also on the agenda will be a vote on a resolution approving budget adjustments and closing of the 2017 budget.

Council members reviewed two proposals from BiLD Architects for remodeling the Gravette Civic Center. One option would remodel, with the exterior and interior layout remaining as it is now, at a cost of $9,600. The second option would leave the exterior the same but modify the interior layout to create a lobby area, at a cost of $12,600. Councilman Richard Carver recommended soliciting further bids for both options.

Two bids were submitted by Republic First National for 19 life packs for the fire department, one quote with financing and one without. Mayor Maddox noted the down payment of $15,151.30 is in the budget, but the five annual payments of $30,149.37 are not. Maddox had some questions about the financing figures and suggested seeking to finance through local banks. Chief Mullen said he would contact Republic and report back.

Council members considered three bids from Sand Creek Engineering for paving of the road from Highway 72 to the Hiwasse Park. All three center around the community building and park. The first phase would provide an access road from Highway 72, at an estimated cost of $26,036. Phase two would cover street preparation and overlay on Firehouse Lane at an estimated cost of $19,790; and phase three would provide a paved circle, gravel parking lot and an 8-foot-wide walking trail at an estimated cost of $79,930. All will be paid out of the parks and streets portion of the bond money.

Mayor Maddox said he and Tim Dewitt had attended a meeting with Hiwasse residents recently and they are excited about the progress being made. He reported that an investigation had revealed significant termite damage under the community building, and two large sections of flooring had to be replaced.

Council members discussed the proposed new contract for a cell tower on Akron Street owned by Jason Steele. Also proposed is an amendment to the lease agreement rescinding a 2011 resolution reducing the amount of monthly rent and reinstating the original rental amount. A vote on the contract and amendment will be on the agenda for the Jan. 25 council meeting.

Mayor Maddox reminded council members that all elected officials must complete a new financial interest disclosure form for 2018. Forms were provided for each members' use.

Jeff Davis was present and expressed an interest in filling the vacant city council position. He provided a resume of his education, work experience and civic involvement. Davis is a member of the planning commission, secretary/treasurer of the Gravette Lions Club and a member of the Old Town String Band. A vote to accept him as a council member will be on the agenda for the Jan. 25 council meeting.

John E. Lykins submitted a letter asking to be considered for membership on the planning commission. Lykins owns several businesses in town and is involved in a large development in Centerton. Mayor Maddox reported that Lykins is interested in the position being vacated by Patti Bertschy which runs through June 2018.

Council members considered Jerry Hawkins' request to rezone property at 109 Second Avenue S.W. from R-1, single family residential, to R-3, multi-family residential. Hawkins proposes to build a two-story, six-unit apartment building behind Amark. Two responses received from adjoining property owners voiced no objections to the rezoning. A public hearing to consider the rezoning will be held preceding the Jan. 25 city council meeting.

Carl Rabey, city finance director, gave an update on bond fund expenditures and remaining available balances. He also presented a detailed financial report showing revenue and expenditures for the month of December.

Mayor Maddox urged anyone who had not been to Hiwasse recently to go check on the work being done there.

Council member Ron Theis expressed thanks to Corey Reardon and the water department employees for their quick response to a request for removal of a fire hydrant from a yard on Birmingham Street.

General News on 01/25/2018

Print Headline: Gravette council committee hears reports, application for council seat

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