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GRAVETTE -- Members of the Gravette City Council met for the monthly Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday, June 18, at the Civic Center. They heard reports from several city department heads.

David Keck, building inspector and code enforcement officer, reported building progress has continued pretty steady all spring, with 12 homes now in various stages of completion in Stone Crest Subdivision. He said four more building permits were issued that day and that would complete the 25 homes in the subdivision. Bids have been received for the walking trail, and Phase 2 of the state match trails is almost ready for bids. The toddler playground at Old Town Park is progressing and should be finalized soon. A lot split and alley closure are pending.

Tim Dewitt, parks and street department supervisor, said 25 dumpsters were filled during the city's recent spring cleanup week. Since people were staying at home more, they had more time to clean up their homes and yards and dispose of unwanted debris.

Dewitt reported that Hutchinson said it will complete chip and seal on North Mount Pleasant South in late July or early August.

Karen Benson, library director, reported the library reopened June 1 and applications are being taken for the annual summer reading program. So far, 176 applicants have signed up, 107 children, 12 teens and 57 adults. The library is offering an app to access ebooks.

Richard Sutherland, water department supervisor, said the needed motors for the sewer plant have been ordered and should arrive by mid-October. The smaller pumps ordered are scheduled to arrive on July 13. Sutherland said he has been working on loss reports.

Fire chief David Orr reported the department has responded to 342 calls so far this year. He said he had been notified of a patient who has tested positive for covid-19 who was quarantined but had not been reported to the department and the city as required. He is working to remedy the situation.

Orr said a $35,000 tractor was saved in a recent fire, bringing the pre-incident value of property recovered in firefighting efforts to an estimated $668,000, with losses of $54,000.

Chuck Skaggs, police chief, reported the police department has responded to 1,149 calls in 2020, 50% lower than the number of calls at this time last year. He said his department was able to hold a training meeting on Wednesday, something they had not been able to do for some time.

Skaggs also reported that the number of cases of covid-19 in the county jail is preventing him from sending persons to the jail. He had arrested a suspect for a felony that day and had to do a felony cite and release and he expects this situation to continue for the foreseeable future. He said his officers are having their temperatures taken daily.

A special council meeting was held following the department reports for the purpose of accepting bids for Phase 2 of the walking trail project, a section of trail from Second Avenue S.W. to Irving Street S.W. Mayor Kurt Maddox reported the city recommended accepting the low bid from 81 Construction Group Inc. The company built Phase 1 of the trails and did a good job, he said. Council members voted to accept the low bid of $410,627.86 from 81 Construction Group Inc. The special council meeting was closed.

Mayor Maddox reported that Tom Boettcher's term on the planning commission is up for reappointment and he wants to continue on the commission. A vacancy now exists on the commission due to the resignation of Ashley Harris at the meeting Tuesday, June 16.

A proposed noise regulation ordinance was discussed and Mayor Maddox asked council members to look it over and provide feedback. The current noise ordinance has been in effect since 1964. There have been several issues of noncompliance recently.

Streets department supervisor Tim Dewitt reported he wanted to declare as surplus a Henderson salt spreader. He said it is well-used and went with a one-ton vehicle he has traded to the water department.

Dewitt plans to purchase a completely new salt spreader. A vote to declare the spreader as surplus will be on the agenda for the June 25 council meeting

Mayor Maddox reported the city is eligible to apply for a 50/50 grant to build a full bathroom in Kindley Park. The estimated cost is between $60,000 and $75,000, so the city's share would be about $30,000. A vote to authorize the city to apply for the grant will be on the agenda for the June council meeting.

Also on the agenda for the June 25 council meeting will be voting on an alley closure on Old Train Road and a tract split for Kuhlman Properties at 706 Second Ave. S.W.

Half a block of Old Train Road is already closed and the other half has a building on part of the easement. There are two buildings on the property on Second Avenue and the property owner proposes to tear them down and build two new houses.

Several budget adjustments to the 2020 budget were discussed and will be on the agenda for the June 25 council meeting. Carl Rabey, city finance director, reported he plans to start doing budget adjustments quarterly, in the last month of each quarter.

Rabey distributed monthly financial reports and reported the general fund had a net profit of $74,000 last month, due to receiving a $40,000 property tax payment and money from the street fund. He said sales tax was down $50,000 from the same month in 2019.

There was a $41,000 increase in the bond fund but that is set aside to make the semiannual payment on the bond. "All things considered, we're doing well," Rabey said.

Rabey said the city will recover an additional $25,000 from the Arkansas Department of Transportation for the trails. The water audit should be caught up this week and the legislative audit is now ongoing and should be complete in July.

In comments at the conclusion of the meeting, Councilmember Margo Thomas expressed concern about the number of youngsters coming through her neighborhood on side-by-side scooters and said she felt they were violating city regulations. Chief Skaggs questioned her about the incidents and, when she said they were occurring both day and night, he said he would check into it.

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