City council discusses rates, fires

Two new Dodge Durangos that have been ordered for the Monticello Police Department are not coming to Monticello. Monticello Police Chief Jason Akers addressed the Monticello City Council in its first in-person meeting since the arrival of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, during a finance meeting Tuesday, May 26 at the Sadie Johnson Memorial Building at Jordan Park. 
Akers explained to the council that the temporary shutting down of automobile manufacturing plants due to the coronavirus had impacted the MPD’s order for the new police vehicles. While one has been delivered, the delivery date of the new ones were unknown and may not come until the end of the year. Due to the aging of the department’s vehicle fleet and the numerous problems experienced with the later model Dodge Chargers, Akers stressed to the committee that the safety of officers were at stake. 
Two Chevy Tahoes are available in Oklahoma at this date but will cost the department between $11,000 and $14,000 more than what had already been allocated for the Dodge Durangos. While Akers stated he believed in buying local and wanted the department to be able to do that, the local dealerships are not able to control the fluctuations in inventory and it is not their fault the order is unable to be delivered in a timely manner. 
During the regularly planned meeting of the Council following the finance committee meeting, the agenda was amended to include an additional $14,500 to be used out of the one cent fund to cover the additional costs with the money being paid back by the MPD in warrant service fees at a later date. Akers also reported the warrant service account has over $2,000 already in the account after the Council approved the fees during their April meeting. 
In other Police Department news, the council approved a resolution accepting a USDA rural development grant to cover the cost of body cameras for the department. The grant is not to exceed $3,000 according to the resolution. 
Sidewalks were also an agenda item as the council consulted with Tim Lemons on a sidewalk project that would begin at Jordan Park, travel down Oakland Street to Bailey Street or to Main Street and then on to Jefferson Street to attach the Southeast Regional Library Monticello Branch. This project would be phase two in a project begun by the council to make travel safer for pedestrians. While the council did not feel comfortable making the commitment to the project based on the cost to the City, the council chose to move forward and contract with Tim Lemons to complete the plans and surveys needed to apply for an Arkansas Department of Transportation Grant that will require a 20% match by the City. 
After discussion, the Council voted to move forward with the plans and to apply for the grant with the acceptance of the grant pending until the City is better able to determine cost associated with other projects, such as thelevy. 
During the discussion of the sidewalks, the Council was updated on the progress of the Lake Monticello levy. Mayor Paige Chase reported to the Council the City is still waiting on the surveys that need to be completed in order to move forward. Chase stated the wait has been months long. Alderman Mike Wigley suggested the City contact the survey company directly to get an estimate for a completion date and if that date is not acceptable to the City, the City should rescind the contract and bid out the job to another company. 
Changes were made to the proposed Open Burn Ordinance during the meeting based on comments and discussions held during last month’s meeting. The directive to call the Fire Department to check the burn conditions was removed. Citizens will be expected to check a weather app before starting a fire with discussion about including burn conditions on the new City website when the City gets online. Brought to the attention of the court was a house that was burned recently on Speer Street without the Fire Department being contacted or notified. While the house did not burn or cause damage to any nearby structures, the incident was used to demonstrate a need for the ordinance. Also during the meeting, Monticello Fire Chief Eric Chisom, reiterated the ordinance is all laws that are already state laws, the ordinance would allow the fire department to educate citizens on the state laws on open burns and to enforce the laws that already exist. 
He also reconfirmed that the permit is a one time permit that will be issued to the dwelling and will not have to be renewed, the permit is also free and will be a sheet with local and state fire codes explaining the do’s and don’ts for open burning within the corporate city limits. Mayor Paige Chase also stated the limits for the ordinance, by state law, is one mile outside the city limits. 
County Judge Robert Akin attended the council meeting on the request of citizens of Drew County in relation to the Open Burn ordinance that had its third reading at the meeting. Many citizens in the County had contacted Akin, according to him, about the mile outside of city limits that will be covered by the ordinance. Also appearing to address the court was Colleen Hammock, a Drew County resident who will be affected by the ordinance.
“This is a city council and I am thankful that my county judge is here tonight. I can’t vote inside the city; I have no voting rights because I live in the county. Yet here you guys sit to propose actions that will directly affect me and I have problems with that,” she told the council. 
According to Akin, many families living within a mile of the city limits are still rural families with rural land to manage. 
Changes to the ordinance requested by the council include:
• Removal of requirement to call the Monticello Fire Department to before burning
• State in Ordinance a permit is required for subsections A through D of Section 2, eliminating the need for a permit for subsection E, which includes fire pits and grills
• Remove bonfires and ceremonial fires from section E, they will still require a burn permit
• Include the one mile limit extending past the city limits.
Other business included:
Amendments to the permit fees for buildings and how cost will be calculated, $0.07 per square foot rather than number of inspections performed.
Agreeing to help the Model Airplane Club out by cutting additional timber at Lake Monticello in order to afford visibility to club members. 
The third reading of the both the water rate increase ordinance and the sewer rate increase ordinance. Both were tabled for more discussion.
The second reading of the solid waste rates. The ordinance was also tabled for more discussion
Copies of all proposed ordinances are posted to our website at www.monticellonews.net. All ordinances discussed in the meeting are proposed ordinances that the council is taking under advisement and have not been passed.

 

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