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GRAVETTE -- Jim Brooks, who lives at 108 Boston Street N.E. in Gravette, spoke to members of the Gravette city council during the statement period at the May 9 Committee of the Whole meeting. He summarized a statement he made at the April council meeting and said he is mowing his property to the street but a five-foot deep trench in front of his property allows debris to wash down from several blocks away and is eroding his driveway. He requested that the city honor a previous precedent of maintaining the trench and asked that driveway repairs be added to the city's Second Street project.

A short special council meeting was held at the beginning of the COW meeting to consider a mutual aid agreement between the city and Northwest Health Systems. Denton Park, CEO for Northwest, was present and explained the proposed agreement. Park said he felt the agreement might not be in the city's best interest and might be too costly but council members voted to accept the agreement on a trial basis and re-evaluate it after six months.

A brief discussion was held on the high consumption water rate and Mayor Kurt Maddox said some consideration is being given to price breaks for agricultural customers, particularly during heavy-use periods.

Brief reports were heard from several department heads. Tim Dewitt, street and parks department supervisor, reported work is being done on washed out dirt roads, and almost all of them are back in shape. He also reported the city pool is almost ready for its Memorial Day weekend opening.

Karen Benson, library manager, reported the library has received a $1,500 grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. New furniture has arrived for the teen room at the library. Enrollment was at near capacity for Maker Monday, and attendance was good at the first computer class Wednesday despite rainy weather. Sign-up for the summer reading program begins this week. The library will be one of the sites visited by Glenn Duffy second graders on their walking tour May 14.

Water department supervisor Corey Reardon reported he would be meeting with Morrison Shipley consulting engineers Friday morning to determine the location of leaks in the sewer plant lagoon. He also reported there has been a 10 cent per customer hike in rates imposed by the Arkansas Department of Health to cover costs of administering the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Lieutenant Jared Weston reported that the fire department has answered 261 calls so far this year and has reached 1,354 training hours, including a couple of firefighters who have just completed training courses.

Police Chief Chuck Skaggs reported the police department has made over 3,000 incident reports, many of which are business checks. He said officers will be participating in spike strip training soon and all spike strips will be made the same. Members of the department will teach a class in Gentry and conduct a building clearing in Decatur this month.

Code enforcement officer David Keck reported there is much interest in commercial development in the city, including from representatives of Casey's General Stores. He said work is being done on the city's master street plan, and right-of-way clearing is almost finished in the Hiwasse area. Keck reported the Arkansas Department of Transportation recently cleaned out the ditch in front of Teasley Drug and all trails in the city will soon be poured.

A discussion was held on a new trails grant, and council members voted to approve authorizing grant writer Cassie Elliott to apply for another grant. A resolution expressing the city's willingness to utilize Federal Aid Recreational Trails Program Funds will be on the agenda for the May 23 council meeting.

Fees for using trash dumpsters at the city shop were discussed, and council members agreed to discount the rate for residents inside the city and increase the rate for customers outside the city limits. This will allow residents to dump at a lower rate throughout the year and should help prevent the dumpsters from filling up so quickly during cleanup weeks. It also hopes to discourage overuse of the dumpsters by county residents, which sometimes prevents city residents from dumping. Some changes in fees will be made and a new ordinance regulating rates and usage of the city dumpster will be on the agenda for the May 23 council meeting.

A letter from the state water/wastewater advisory committee was discussed. The letter advised that the committee approves the city's pre-application plans for a Hiwasse sewer system and recommends funding be provided by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Rural Development. Water department supervisor Corey Reardon pointed out that preliminary approval is for one main trunk line, no feeder lines. Mayor Maddox said USDA funding will be investigated but, without Centerton water, the project will be impractical. The issue over the Centerton water service area is now before the Arkansas Supreme Court.

A proposed ordinance providing regulations for proper maintenance of yards in Gravette and requiring mowing and trash removal where the yard is deemed a public health hazard was discussed. A vote on the ordinance will be on the agenda for the May council meeting. Also on the agenda will be an ordinance prohibiting the use of marijuana, including medical marijuana, in all public places within the city.

A partnership agreement for a new school resource officer was presented. A full-time SRO will be added on the Gravette school campus, with the city providing a police car and the school paying for the officer's salary, equipment and training. Payments will be made in September 2019, and March 2020.

Finance director Carl Rabey reported the city has copier contracts with three different companies now. He recommends awarding a contract to Professional Business Systems of Bentonville for all seven city copiers, three at City Hall and one each for the fire department, police department, water department and library.

An application was submitted for rezoning of property owned by Christopher and Julie Ralph in Hiwasse. The Ralphs plan to sell the house and one acre for a residence and propose to rezone the property from A-1, Agricultural, to R-1, Residential. The request for rezoning will be placed on the planning commission agenda.

Mayor Maddox noted the city will be turning their LOPFI pension funds over to LOPFI. They will manage the funds now since Gravette has less than the required five members.

Finance director Rabey presented the monthly financial report. There was no bond update since a statement has not yet been received.

Community on 05/15/2019

Print Headline: Special council session opens monthly COW meeting

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