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GRAVETTE -- Members of the Gravette City Council, at their regular meeting Thursday, July 23, heard from Jennifer Fagan, manager of municipal sales for Republic Trash Services, giving a covid-19 update. She said the company normally asks for a 2.9% increase on July 1 but, this year it is asking for an additional 1.1% which will amount to $10.42 or an increase of 11 cents per household.

Fagan said the request is being made because, with more people staying at home, the amount of residential waste picked up the last few months has been up 30%, which means more trips to the landfill and more hours, up to an additional 28 hours per month. There is also an additional cost for sanitizing trucks, and she said some predictions indicate it will be two years before this trend changes.

Mayor Kurt Maddox replied that the city had seen an initial increase in household discards also, as people cleaned up their houses and yards, but that increase has slowed down considerably in the last 30 days. He said commercial customers are already commenting that they are paying the highest rates they have ever encountered. Fagan asked if the city would be willing to take over billing commercial customers rather than Republic billing them directly as they now do. Maddox said the matter would be placed on the agenda for the August committee of the whole meeting.

An open public hearing was held preceding the council meeting to consider a rezoning request for property in Hiwasse owned by Luther and Jessica Pike. No one was present to speak for or against the rezoning.

During the council meeting, members passed a resolution authorizing Mayor Maddox to apply for a 50/50 matching grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism's Outdoor Recreation Grant Program. Grant funds would be used to develop recreational facilities in Kindley Park. Other resolutions were passed declaring as surplus a heavy-duty equipment trailer owned by the city and closing a capital improvement vehicle depreciation bank account. Funds in the account will be transferred to the sales and use tax account in the capital improvement fund.

In other business, council members voted to issue a conditional use permit to Rox Radio Group LLC, to construct and install a wireless radio tower at 1200 First Ave. S.E. The tower has been approved by the planning commission and the property is already zoned C-2 Commercial.

Council members voted to accept a proposal from the Elizabeth Richardson Center to develop the old Presbyterian Church as a location for providing services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The city will rent the building to ERC for $1 a year and give it two six-month renewable periods in which to raise money for the project.

Council members passed an ordinance rezoning property at 13855 Holloway Road in Hiwasse, owned by Luther and Jessica Pike, from A-1 Agricultural to R-1 Single Family Residential. The owners intend to build a new home on the property.

Council members voted to approve the purchase of a 2020 Ram 2500 Tradesman 4x4 crew cab for the fire department. The purchase price with added equipment will be $34,329. Also approved was the purchase of a 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe utility vehicle with a police upgrade for the police department. The purchase price will be $44,837.

Council members voted to approve appointments to the planning commission of Michael Deniston as a member and Natalie Singh as an alternate. They also accepted the resignation of Ashley Harris from the city council and from the planning commission. Ashley and her family are moving to Bentonville.

Finance director Carl Rabey said there had been no changes in the financial report since the July 9 committee of the whole meeting. He reminded council members that budget adjustments would now be done quarterly.

In comments at the conclusion of the meeting, council member Margo Thomas asked if any progress had been made discouraging speeding on streets in residential areas. Mayor Maddox said that the police department had stopped one of the worst offenders and, since that time, most drivers seemed to be abiding by the rules. However, the police department is preparing some material for consideration by the council. Thomas said traffic had not slowed down during the night in her neighborhood, and Maddox noted that the new noise ordinance that was recently passed should help with that.

Mayor Maddox thanked Ashley Harris for her service to the city and wished her well in her future endeavors. Councilmember Jeff Davis also thanked Harris for her service, saying he felt she had been an asset to the city through her service on the council, on the planning commission, and in the Lions Club, and that she will be missed. Harris thanked the council for giving her the opportunity to serve and said it had been an honor and a pleasure to do so.

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