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Water rate hike postponed due to weather

By Staff, 01/23/18 11:26 AM

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PRESCOTT – Customers of Prescott Water and Light will be getting a break on their water bills this month.

Perry Nelson, superintendent of the water and sewer department, said, at the January meeting of the Prescott City Council, Monday night, the city went through several unusual incidents recently with the cold weather, with temperatures dropping to two and four degrees at times. This, he said, caused the water and sewer usage to skyrocket with more than a million gallons of water a day going through the system over a five-day span. This, he added, was done by residents letting their water drip at night to prevent their pipes from freezing up. The city, he continued, also suffered several leaks with one being major.

Nelson said the new rates approved by the City Council in December were supposed to go into effect this month, but because of the cold weather, won’t be put into effect until February to help residents keep their water bills down somewhat. He added the usage is back to normal this week.

At the start of the meeting, Jamie Hillery, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce, told the panel the Chamber office is moving to a new location at 125 Main, but the phone number (870-887-2101) and email address (jhillery@partnership.org) will remain the same. She said renovations are being made to the new facility which should be ready in the next few weeks.

She encouraged the council members to attend the community coffees, which will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the year. Hillery added the Chamber has a lot planned for 2018.

Jake Cornelius was presented a plaque as the city’s Employee of the Year. The announcement was made at the city’s Christmas party last month. This is the second time he’s earned the honor.

Council members Howard Austin and Patricia Roberts were recognized for completing their Municipal League certification. This is a 21-hour course with 15 hours of core courses required, with courses given three times a year. Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver said this is open to all city staff and council members. This was done at the Arkansas Municipal League’s (AML) meeting in Fort Smith recently.

The city also earned an honorable mention in tourism at the AML meeting for the work done on the splash pad and volleyball court.

January’s council meeting is the meeting where the council sets the schedule for the rest of the year. It was decided the council will continue meeting on the third Monday of each month, except for Jan. and Feb. when this falls on a holiday, at 6:30 p.m.

Employees with the Prescott Police Department received some good news as well, as the council approved a salary/benefit package which will see officers getting a raise to $14.42 an hour for certified officers and up to $15.40 an hour with longevity. However, the base pay for starting officers who haven’t gone through the academy and gotten certified will remain at $13.50 per hour until they’re certified.

Cody Ferguson, criminal investigator with the PPD, informed the council the PPD has picked up on drug enforcement with six arrests this month, the removal of one weapon and confiscation of more than 70 grams of narcotics, including more than 100 opioid pills. This has been done this month, with a short-handed department.

Ferguson said the officers are putting in 12-hour shifts and pointed out one case takes four hours of paperwork to get ready for court.

Brad Crain, with Dalrymple-Crain Accounting, said the increase added $7,000 to the PPD’s salary budget taking it from $336,000 to $343,000. Crain added if officer pay was raised to $16 an hour, it would basically take the projected surplus of $8,400 the way the budget is set up.

There was discussion about officers being allowed to take police cars home. However, the end decision was to address this at a later time.

Two resolutions were passed by the council as well. One dealt with the opioid crisis in the nation and state and saw the city enter into an opioid litigation agreement with the AML. More than 100 Arkansas cities have passed similar resolutions. This allows the city to collect a portion of any funds from suits filed by the AML concerning opioids on a contingency basis. This means if no funds are obtained, the city owes nothing, and would be required to pay a portion of the litigation costs out of any monies garnered from a suit. As city attorney Glenn Vasser said, there’s no downside to it.

A resolution on the Marketplace Fairness Act was also approved. This will allow the city to collect sales tax from items sold over the internet. Vasser said Amazon voluntarily collects sales tax and files a return with the states. He added a system would have to be established to impose the tax.

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