GRAVETTE -- Members of the Gravette City Council heard from a half dozen Hiwasse area citizens at their committee of the whole meeting Thursday evening, Sept. 8.
All those commenting were voicing objections to a proposed rezoning of property at 14716 Highway 72 in order to allow the construction of a concrete plant there. Shannon Mitchell, Peggy Bertschy, Desire Whitten, Patti Bertschy, Kimberly Fielding and Scott Belts all expressed concerns about noise and dust which would result from the plant's operation, possible pollution of the creek in the area, and increased traffic in an area which already sees several motor vehicle accidents. Belts speculated that the increased noise and dust would have an adverse effect on his chickens.
Kyle O'Brien, a representative of O'Brien Rock Company, also addressed the council with questions about when he should reapply for rezoning. O'Brien had submitted all the proper paperwork but, after further administrative review, it was determined he was not eligible for rezoning until January 2023. At that time he will have to resubmit a request for rezoning.
Written reports were submitted by all department heads.
David Keck, building inspector and code enforcement officer, reported that two new buildings have been constructed at RazorBox Storage and said the bidding process was starting for Gravette's new Dollar General store.
Library director Karen Benson reported that several library programs have begun again now that the summer reading program has ended. These include an after-school storytime for children in grades K through 2, kids' math club for grades 3 through 5, Maker Monday and code club for grades 5 through 12. She announced the Moon Over Main Street event will be held Saturday, Oct. 1, with a "Good Night, Moon" storytime at the library. Other space-related activities are planned, including observance of the 2024 eclipse.
Lieutenant Randy Ates reported for the fire department and told of the department's intention to fix up the old ladder truck that is no longer in service and auction it off. He also reported that students in the department-led Firefighter I and II classes are ready for testing and noted that not many local departments are willing to train and certify prospective firefighters.
Tim Dewitt, streets and parks department supervisor, reported that he would be attending a continuing education class in Hot Springs. Richard Sutherland, water/sewer department supervisor, and Anthony Cochran will also be attending. He encouraged everyone to attend the Hiwasse Fall Festival Saturday, Sept. 17, and announced the annual fall cleanup is scheduled for Sept. 26 to 30 from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 8 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1.
A public hearing was held regarding the condemnation of property at 205 Fifth Ave. N.E. No one was present to comment, so the hearing was closed and council members went back into regular session to discuss the condemnation. The residence, owned by the Anita Barnes Trust, is a mobile home that is in bad shape and no longer suitable for habitation. Property owners have been notified that it is in violation of nuisance, public health, and safety ordinances.
Council members also discussed an appeal of a lot split for a tract at 12904 Highway 72 owned by John N. Butler. The planning commission had denied Butler's request to split off 0.25 acres of a 3.28-acre tract for an advertising sign. Butler is asking that the council reconsider the planning commission's decision.
A tract split and rezoning for a property at 17670 Highway 72 owned by Marion and Connie Harris were also considered. The Harrises wish to split off one acre and rezone it as residential for new owners to remodel the house on the property and live in it. The remainder of the property would remain agricultural.
Mayor Kurt Maddox noted that the contract with Republic Trash Service specifies their rate can go up 3% a year. He said representatives of the company had proposed increasing rates more than that, but he thought they had decided to stick with the 3% increase and this item would likely not have to be considered at the Sept. 22 council meeting.
The annual resolution setting millage rates for personal property and real property in the city of Gravette will be on the agenda for the council meeting, as will a resolution approving adjustments for the 2022 budget.
Council members voted to approve changing committee meeting times from 6 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. for the October, November and December meetings and to hold the October committee meeting and council meeting on the first and third Thursdays of the month rather than the previously scheduled second and fourth Thursdays.
Finance director Carl Rabey gave a brief financial report and said finances were "looking pretty good." He said sales tax revenue is coming in right in line with projections and franchise fees are at 70%. He reported a $400,000 year-to-date surplus in the general fund and said there was no bond update since the meeting was too early in the month.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Mayor Maddox reported the city had received approval for a $408,000 trails grant to complete trails around the school and down Dallas Street to connect with El Paso.