Recent storm damage and resulting drainage issues in the city was the main point of discussion at the regular City Council meeting last week.
Mayor Jimmy Clark discussed the ongoing clean up mission under bridges and culverts.
“We’ve made a lot of headway,” stated Clark. “We met with FEMA this morning and reported $280,000 worth of probable claims on streets and bridges. Depending on what the water does on Sandy Beach, you’re looking at another $300,000. The county is over $2 million, so we are part of the FEMA claim and the disaster relief.”
“We were out the night of the storm and put up barricades so people wouldn’t try to cross it,” stated Marty Martelli, Public Works Director. “Since then we’ve tackled culverts. We are out taking pictures of potholes and are now, hitting those areas to do the repairs.”
Louis Short, Ward 1, said that he had been approached by a couple of his constituents concerning the flooding.
“This past rain flooded a house in the older area of Ward 1 – a garage, bedroom or something like that. I know that these events don’t happen very often, but when they do, as we all know, they create a lot of problems. I know Main Street is still an issue and that we’ve got to make a main plan, but for the sake of folks in Ward 1, we need to look at something being done,” said Short.
“Cleaning out ditches and culverts, that’s an easy fix. One of those things that when we know about them, we need to tackle them,” said Mayor Clark. “The problem is that these 100 year floods have been coming every three years. We do have the storm water plan that we received this year that’s a $7.9 million fix.”
The mayor is meeting with State Senator Missy Irwin, the highway department, and County Judge Jerry Holmes to discuss what can be done now.
“With the highway department and what you’ve seen the legislature’s done and in the news, there’s not a whole lot of money out there now. You’ve got Pocahontas, you’ve got Des Arc and other towns that have the same issues that we have,” pointed out Clark. “We will do everything in our power to address and fix the issues for which the city is responsible.”
In other business, the city council passed an ordinance which authorizes the renaming of the Cemetery Internment Chapel account to the Heber Springs Cemetery account. Lesa Jernigan, Executive Assistant in the Mayor’s Office, has been working with the cemetery committee. Given that the internment chapel has been completed, the committee approved the city renaming the account so that maintenance issues in the cemetery could be funded. The city council approved the ordinance.
New business concerned a setback authorization for 1903 Highway 25B, at the corner of Tulaka and 25B. The building has been sold and the setback needed to be cleaned up.
“That building was put together before planning and zoning and it was out in the county, so it was all brought in over time. The letter simply states that if it’s ever destroyed or torn down, it can be rebuilt but it must meet current code,” explained Doug Perry, Director of Code Enforcement. City Council approved this measure.
Paul Muse brought up the issue of the fire department dues and asked that the city attorney write an ordinance to allow fees to be assessed on commercial and industrial buildings. In 2004, voters voted to allow the fire department to collect dues as taxes. Fifty dollars is assessed on each residence and $35 on the individual. Muse wants the ordinance to be placed on next month’s agenda for a council vote.
“We did not include buildings that were considered commercial or industrial. We’d like to change that and put a fee on those buildings that have not paid their share since 2004,” stated Muse. “We have to pass an ordinance, take it to the collector, and the clerk, and the treasurer. It must be done by December 15th. If it’s passed, it can be put on the rolls next year.”
The City of Heber Springs legislative audit report for December 31, 2015 was presented to the Joint Legislature Audit Committee on May 11th. There were three adverse opinions stated in the report.
The city made donations or paid expenses in the amount of $15,696 to a private organization without a contract which conflicts with the “public purpose” doctrine discussed in Attorney General’s Opinion 91-410 and the Arkansas Constitution, Article 12, Section 5, “which states in part, “No…. city…shall…obtain or appropriate money for, or loan its credit to, any corporation, association, institution or individual.” The City Attorney is preparing a contract for the city to “make each event specific”.
City volunteers were “allowed to collect funds at the ballpark gate and concessions in the amounts of $16,969 and $56,386 respectively, in noncompliance with Arkansas Code 14-59-115.” The city council passed a resolution to budget “employees to be hired for concessions as well as gate to collect funds for the Parks and Recreation Department.”
A jet fuel vendor maintained custody of and disbursal of airport funds in noncompliance with Arkansas Code 14-59-115. The balance of the account as of December 31, 2015 was $12,558. A meeting was held in January with Satterfield, the Mayor, Airport Administrator and Treasurer to open a checking account specific for the airport’s jet fuel account.