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Committee of the Whole hears department reports

by Susan Holland | October 12, 2021 at 8:47 a.m.

GRAVETTE -- Members of the Gravette city council held their Committee of the Whole meeting one week early, on Thursday, Oct. 7, with all members present. No citizens were present to comment.

David Keck, building inspector and code enforcement officer, submitted a written report stating that Jenna Estates in Hiwasse has completed preliminary site grading and is moving forward on site improvements, the new Dollar General in Hiwasse has poured its footings and has most of the site work completed and Hendren Plastics has poured the footings for its addition. O'Reilly's has submitted its building permit. It has been approved and Keck said he expects to see work begin on O'Reilly's lot this month. Richard Sutherland, water and sewer department supervisor, said work is expected to begin on the Birmingham Street project soon.

Library director Karen Benson submitted a written report saying that the library now offers Ancestry Library Edition for genealogy research. She talked about a poster series that was exhibited at the library during the weekend of Sept. 11 that was provided by the 9/11 Museum and Memorial in New York, and a workshop on startup companies hosted by the library and led by Steve Harari of Narrow Path Advisors. Benson reported she and Brittany Mangold have completed a course on strategic planning offered through the Library Juice Academy and paid for by the Arkansas State Library. The Gravette Public Library is one of 60 public libraries nationwide selected to participate in NASA @ My Library and it will sponsor a Moon Over Main Street event Saturday, Nov. 13.

Fire chief David Orr reported the department has responded to 655 calls so far this year. He commended his firefighters for their work at a recent fire in the Maysville area where, working with firefighters from Maysville and Sulphur Springs, they were successful in saving a family's home. He reported this week is Fire Prevention Week and his department would be showing a video at Glenn Duffy Elementary next week.

Tim Dewitt, streets and parks department supervisor, reported 11 dumpsters were filled with debris during the fall cleanup. Along with 28 dumpers filled during the spring cleanup, this has gone a long way toward cleaning up the city, he said. Dewitt also reported another tree giveaway is scheduled at Old Town Park on Saturday, Oct. 23, from 8 a.m. until all trees are gone.

In new business, Mayor Kurt Maddox reported a desire to declare as surplus an old Canon Fileprint 250 printer and a Canon Microfilm Scanner 400 that are no longer in use. A resolution to surplus and dispose of these items will be on the agenda for the Oct. 28 council meeting. Also on the agenda will be an ordinance passing on a rate increase from the Benton/Washington Regional Public Water Authority to Gravette water customers. The amount of the increase will be 36 cents for every 1,000 gallons of water used. Richard Sutherland said the raise is needed to help expedite an upgrade of the system and the water authority has not raised its rates in 13 years.

Another ordinance reaffirms the solid waste contract and associated rates with Republic Services and passes on any rate increases to the customer. Mayor Maddox said that, according to the contract, Republic is allowed to increase rates 3% per year.

Council members considered a draft of a proposed one-year lease agreement with Northwest Hospitals LLC for medical office space at the Gravette Fire Station. Northwest is proposing to pay $1,200 a month and Chief Orr said the fire station has two empty bedrooms and an empty truck bay. He said Centerton and Gentry have had similar lease agreements with Northwest and have encountered no problems, so he recommended approving it.

Council members also discussed the preliminary plat for a large-scale development of storage buildings by Lykins Gravette Storage on First Avenue in Gravette, behind the concrete plant. Mayor Maddox said they would be like the storage units in Hiwasse. The plat will be considered by the planning commission before the October council meeting.

A rezoning application was received for 4.88 acres on Highway 72 at the edge of the bypass owned by Bruce Becker of San Bernardino, Calif. Becker desires a change from A-1, agricultural, to C-2, commercial. His application will also go before the planning commission.

A third item that will go to the planning commission is a setback variance requested by Gairy Osburn for a wood privacy fence and storage building at 906 Almond St. S.W. The building is to be used for the storage of gardening equipment, bicycles and tools.

Carl Raby, city finance director, distributed the September financial reports and discussed the final item which will be on the agenda for the Oct. 28 council meeting, a resolution approving adjustments for the 2021 budget. Raby said there would be no more new money available for this year so all departments will have to finance projects with funds already in their budgets.

In comments at the conclusion of the meeting, council member Jeff Davis said he was not aware of all the plans for the new city council meeting room but he hoped it would have a better PA system since it is difficult to hear what is being said by persons at the other end of the table. Mayor Maddox replied that the new table would be in a U shape rather than a line which should improve communication.

Council member Margo Thomas presented a complaint that had been voiced to her about a property owner on King's Lane that always had a large amount of clutter on his property. The complainant said that the property owner would sometimes clean up the property but then bring in more clutter and make the yard unsightly again.

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