City Council meets; raises rates

Water rate increases, along with the passing of a city wide burn ordinance, took little time for the City Council as they worked their way through a packed agenda Tuesday, June 23, during their regularly scheduled meeting that took place at the Sadie Johnson Community Building at 6 p.m.
“Water supplied from the City of Monticello’s water distribution systems will be sold to consumers and paid for by them on the basis of the following schedule of graduated rates and minimum monthly charges, applicable to the consumption of water during each month to each consumer unit,” reads the ordinance. “The following rates shall be applied to the water supplied to consumer units within the corporate limits of Monticello:
For the first 2,000 gallons 12.00 per gallon and 1.80 for all gallons in excess of 2,000. For those outside the corporate limits the first 2,000 gallons will cost $15.75 per 1,000 gallons and 2.65 for all gallons in excess of 2,000 gallons. For all water supplied to contracting water associations $1.67 per 1,000 gallons. For consumers in city limits there will be a monthly $12 minimum and a $15.75 minimum monthly for those outside city limits. 
New residential service will require a $100 deposit while commercial service will require a $200 deposit. New refers to any account established after the effective date of this ordinance, which according to Mayor Paige Chase will probably take place on July 1. 
Separately metered pools and lawn sprinklers will be charged a minimum monthly rate of $4 for zero to 2,000 gallons of water. The meters will be billed on a monthly basis and not on an annual basis as has been the previous practice. 
Also passed during the meeting was the City Burn Ordinance, before passing the ordinance, the city removed the one mile outside of city limits requirement, meaning the ordinance only applies to those within the city limits, which was one of the sticking points for many county residents who felt it was unfair for a body to pass an ordinance that would have effected residents who do not have a vote or voice on the city council.
In other city council news, the Boys and Girls Club announced they were still closed although they “want to be open and serve the community but we are closed until further notice,” according to Bettina Randolph with the Boys and Girls Club. Until then, the staff has been attending weekly webinars and preparing for when they can reopen. 
Planning Commission Chairperson, Dan Boice announced Ron Echols had stepped down as chairperson and now would be serving as secretary, while Boice was voted in to the chairperson position with Jay Johnson now serving as the Vice-Chair of the Commission. The Commission is now embarking on a community study.
“We want input from every neighborhood and block,” said Boice. “We have to know who we are to know where we are going.”
Due to the depth of the study, it will not be completed before the end of next year.
“Didn’t you recently complete your certification in planning,” asked Alderman Joe Meeks of Boice, who answered in the affirmative. “I wanted to congratulate you on that and thank you for the time and effort you are putting in.”
“We have a really great group and I am excited to be a part of it,” said Boice.
New business is picking up on the Monticello Economic Development Commission, according to Nita McDaniel. While COVID-19 put many plans on hold, McDaniel reported hearing back form businesses as the country opens back up. McDaniel also reported the historic Post Office received a grant in the amount of $63,317 from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program to repair the historic post office after water damage it suffered from last year. 
Results from the Census have been trickling in and McDaniel announced the participation for Drew County was very low. Attendees were encouraged to remind friends and family to answer the census. The survey can be completed on line, by mail or even on a smart phone.
“It takes two to three minutes at the most,” said McDaniel. 
Census results help determine how much funding the City will get from the State and the Federal government. 
Shelia Maxwell with the Parks Commission briefed the council, announcing softball is in full swing but soccer and baseball were canceled this year due to concerns of COVID-19. Two new lifeguards were hired and placed at Jordan Park so the Splash Pad could open and is now fully operational.  
The council also heard from River City Hydraulics about a program where the city would sell their existing trash trucks to the company for a little over $220,000. The City would then contract with the company who will supply three brand new trucks, a front loader, a side loader and a boom truck, to replace the four currently owned by the city. The cost would be $12,500 a month for all three trucks and the company would inspect and lubricate the trucks every 60 days. The trucks would be leased by the city who would then have the option to pay off a balloon payment at the end of 24 months or continue with the company who would then provide three more new trucks. The council will take the proposal in to consideration as they determine the best way to replace the aging fleet of trucks owned by the city which cost them over $60,000 in repairs in the last 18 months. 
Cyber security was next on the agenda as the council listed to Nathan Eisner with IT in a Box, a program promoted by the Arkansas Municipal league. The program would provide cyber security, a 24/7 help desk, data backup and recovery and video archiving. Since the city was water department computers were attacked last year, the city has been looking at services to provide greater security to the city.
LaDarian Pace, who led the Monticello Prayer Rally earlier this month, announced a new organization, the New Generations of Leaders, who will be hosting a voter registration and census even in McCloy park at the large pavilion from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, July 11. The organization is asking for help from the local community to help supply food and water, among other items for the even. Anyone interested in helping the organization can call Pace at 870-723-6930.
Two resolutions were approved and adopted pertaining to the Monticello Lake bicycle trail. The first resolution states the City understands the Federal-aid Transportation Alternatives Program Funds are available with a 20% match from the City and will be paid after work has been accomplished and payment has already been made, at which time the City will be reimbursed. The second resolution was the same understanding but instead pulls funding from the Federal-Aid Transportation Alternatives Program Funds.
Last but not least, the Council moved to allow Mayor Paige Chase to negotiate terms with Maxwell Accounting to audit the city for the year. 

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