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GRAVETTE -- Dale Ayres spoke during the citizen comment period of the June 7 committee of the whole meeting and questioned the advisability of a land purchase the city is considering in Hiwasse. He asked whether the city really needs to spend the money when it already owns land there and asked if the proposed purchase will be large enough to allow for future expansion.

David Eaton, the water auditor, reported on the city water department audit for 2015. He explained the auditor's purpose is to check all transactions and express an opinion on the department's financial statement and whether everything was recorded correctly. He gave a favorable report and commended the city for paying down the bonded indebtedness so quickly.

Karen Benson, the library supervisor, reported that Saturday Scientists will meet on Saturday, June 16. The children will be navigating an obstacle course using Sphero Robots. On Saturday, June 30, Bella Vista author Gail Lee Cowdin, will hold a book signing at the library. Teens were invited to work on the Free Little Library project Tuesday evening as part of the Teen Tuesday Maker Space program.

Because the children's summer reading program doesn't begin until July 10, the library is currently offering children's summer reading bingo to encourage children to read until then. Summer reading registration for children, teens and adults will be held the week of June 18. Early registrations are being accepted now. The summer reading program for teens and adults will begin on Monday, June 25. A bingo theme is being used that includes both reading and non-reading activities. The children's summer reading club begins Tuesday, July 10. This year's program will combine literacy with presentations and activities that promote science, technology, engineering, art and math.

David Keck, building inspector and code enforcement officer, reported much building is going on and the city is experiencing a period of rapid growth with new houses being completed, sold and occupied promptly.

Corey Reardon, water and sewer department supervisor, reported it was time for the lead and copper sample on the water supply and that would be done soon. The city is on a reduced monitoring schedule and this test is done every three years. He also reported water pipe will be delivered soon for the new Stone Creek Subdivision.

Tim Dewitt, streets and parks department supervisor, reported Decco was to begin Monday milling the streets that will be paved. He said Firehouse Lane is ready to be paved and Hutchens has the roads in Hiwasse ready to chip and seal.

Lonnie Mullen, fire chief, reported 440 calls, year to date. Three hundred and thirty-three were EMS calls and 107 fire calls. The department has aided other departments 190 times. Turnout time is 1.24 minutes. Mullen said the firemen had worked four residential structure fires in the last week and had good control of the blazes in all instances. He has received one bid of $13,000 for repairs at the fire station. The Municipal League has made a payment of $9,500 and he is trying to get it down to that figure.

Sgt. Chris Kelley reported that the police department had made 58 arrests in May. Forty-eight were for misdemeanor offenses. All officers have completed their annual firearms training, and Officer Ingle has done some additional training out-of-state.

A special council meeting was convened to discuss the purchase of the Keith property in Hiwasse. Council members voted to bid up to $60,000 for the property which is being considered as a potential site for a new Hiwasse fire station. City Clerk Mike von Ree will attend the tax sale because Mayor Kurt Maddox and some council members will be at the Municipal League meeting in Little Rock.

Chief Mullen explained that the fire department needs to go to drive-through stations and there is no room for that at the current Hiwasse station. It is not large enough for future expansion, and accessibility is not good. He also says there is a problem with night runs disturbing neighbors.

David Keck said the current building needs a lot of work and Carl Rabey, city finance director, reported money had been set aside in May for the purchase. All agreed it was wise to buy the property if it could be had at a reasonable price. Council member Melinda Burnett asked if grants could be secured to help with the purchase. Mullen said grants were available for fire station construction but not for the purchase of the property.

An ordinance was passed setting new fees for ambulance service provided by the city of Gravette. The ordinance passed, with Melissa Burnett casting the one dissenting vote. Burnett said she wished the fees could be closer to the national average fees. Chief Mullen said that Marrs Billing, the ambulance billing service, made the recommendations on the new charges, commenting that fees must cover some who don't pay. He also noted that fuel costs and costs of medication are rising. Mayor Maddox commented that he didn't like to raise the fees but felt that cost of ambulance runs must be covered so the service didn't have to be supplemented with taxpayer dollars.

The special council meeting was adjourned and council members discussed a proposed meter fee ordinance. The ordinance has been revised so as not to conflict with Centerton's water service district and will be on the June 28 council meeting agenda.

Council members discussed sludge removal at the sewer plant lagoon. Corey Reardon reported this lagoon has had a leak twice already and he is working with engineers from the company which repaired it since they have already been paid over $300,000. Reardon said the sludge needs to be removed before a new liner is installed. It is an accumulation of 34 years of sludge. Reardon recommends that, after this cleaning, the sludge be removed whenever it reaches a depth of two feet, probably about every 10 years. An ordinance approving the removal will be on the agenda for the June council meeting.

Carl Rabey, the financial director, gave the May financial report and said the general fund is at 41.91 percent of the budget. He reported $91,000 in revenue in May, saying it was a good month for property tax collections, some fire department equipment was declared surplus, and a $50,000 Care and Share donation was received for the museum. He said the city also received a $45,000 payment the highway department has been holding for two years.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mayor Maddox reported a couple of bids have been received for repair work on the old Presbyterian Church. All the old carpet has been torn out and he is hopeful work will begin soon because the Chamber of Commerce has asked about having a meeting room there and the chapel can be rented as a wedding venue when restoration is complete. Maddox also reported a bid opening was scheduled Tuesday for the 1.4-mile trail and said there has been a lot of interest in bidding for city projects.

General News on 06/13/2018

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