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Council opens year with questionable executive session

By Staff, 01/23/19 10:07 AM

PRESCOTT – A questionable executive session was held during the January meeting of the Prescott City Council Tuesday night.

The meeting had gone smoothly to the point of the last order of business, the 2019 city budget. At this point, Councilman Bobbie Brown called for an executive session to discuss personnel. Forty minutes later the meeting reconvened with the question asked if this were the time to discuss the mayor’s salary. What makes the session questionable, if not outright illegal, is the fact the mayor is an elected official and all comments about the position and its salary must be made in open meeting. In addition, it was mentioned action had been taken during the session, which is illegal. Neither the mayor nor any member of the council are employees of the City of Prescott.

The only things that can be discussed in executive sessions under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, are: hiring, firing, promotion and demotion of an employee. All action taken by the council must be done in open session as well.

City Attorney Glenn Vasser said it wasn’t the time to talk about the mayor’s salary.

The meeting began with Chris Hopper being recognized as Prescott’s Employee of the Year. The announcement was originally made at the city’s Christmas party in December.

Jamie Hillery, director of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, told the council about the upcoming ribbon cutting for Smiles Family Dentistry. This will be held Feb. 8 at 2:30 p.m. In addition, she said 67 Gas and Grill will be hosting a community coffee on Feb. 21 from 9:30-11 a.m. According to Hillery, the owners of the Emmet-based business will make deliveries to Prescott on orders of 10 or more.

Plans for the 2019 Chamber Banquet were also discusses, with Hillery pushing for nominations for Citizen and Hometown Hero of the Year. This year, the Hometown Hero award can include members of first responders, instead of just military service.

She told the panel the Chamber is working on a directory and business guide for Prescott, which will highlight businesses, civic clubs, organizations and Chamber members, along with including information about utilities and who to contact for what. The goal, she said, is to have the directory ready by March.

Mary Godwin, director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, followed telling the council about the Leadership retreat held last Thursday and Friday. The class has eight people.

Two members of the class, Colby Tillman, with the Prescott Police Department, and Robbie Franks, the city’s code enforcement officer, talked about how well the retreat went and how good a job Godwin did in putting it on.

Godwin said a job fair will be held at Central Baptist Church on Feb. 7 from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. for the Redstone Construction Co. Redstone will be looking to interview and hire people to work on the upcoming Interstate 30 construction project which could take 24 months to complete as it will be on both sides of I-30 from Emmet to mile marker 59. The company’s goal at the job fair is to hire at least 10 people that day. Applicants need to bring valid identification as a background check will be done, and be ready to take a drug test. More people will be hired later on.

On Feb.5 or 6, she said, a class will be held at the Nevada County Library to help those applying for these Redstone jobs. The class will be free. “We’ve gotten a lot of calls about the jobs. I think there’ll be a good turnout.”

The positions to be filled initially are: traffic control, general labor, equipment operators, dump truck drivers (must have a valid CDL) and lease owner/operators of dump trucks or end dump trucks and trailers.

The council approved two resolutions to apply for a $200,000 grand through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission for rehabilitation on the city’s water and sewer system. Godwin said only four or five grants will be approved in the state and the EDO is working with the Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development District on the grant. She pointed out this is 100 percent grant and no matching funds will be needed. The resolutions were approved.

Should Prescott be awarded the grant, work will be done on the west side of the railroad tracks from the Extension Office to Vine St, and if any funds are left over work will be done on Walnut to replace an old water line.

The panel voted to keep the meeting time and date the same – the third Monday of the month, except for January and February when holidays occur on that date, at 6:30 p.m.

Franks said he’s sent out 10 letters this year, and will write citations to those he sent letters to if they don’t respond or clean up their property. When possible, he said, an officer with the PPD will go with him, but he’ll write the ticket.

There was discussion about the fines, with members of the council wanting not only the cost of the fine, but court cost included on the citation when it’s issued. Franks pointed out the fine is set by the judge and can vary.

Franks suggested putting all of the city’s code enforcement ordinances into one comprehensive ordinance that would simplify things for everyone involved. Vasser said all of the old ordinances would have to be gone through, with some possibly needing to be repealed as they’re no longer valid and this will take a lot of time and work.

Franks said 15 houses are ready to be demolished when Centerpoint Energy shuts off the gas. The problem, he told the council, is Centerpoint is saying it’s shorthanded and can’t do the shutoffs in a timely manner, but might be able to do one a week. Shutting off the gas, he said, isn’t just turning off the gas at the meter, but digging up the line to the Main and shutting it off there. With 30 houses to be razed, he said, this could take a while.

Godwin offered to call her contacts with Centerpoint and see if something could be done to expedite the situation.

At the end of the meeting, the council approved the 2019 budget for the city, which has a projected surplus of $407,508.