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Mayor gets pay increase; Williams added to council

By Staff, 03/19/19 9:00 AM

PRESCOTT – Most of the business for the Prescott City Council was rubber stamped at its March meeting Monday night.

The council voted to amend the budget and give Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver a pay raise from $36,600 a year to $41,000 annually.

Jamie Hillery, director of the Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce, talked about the Chamber’s upcoming events, starting with the city-wide cleanup Wednesday. Around 30 people have volunteered to help and 13 have registered to have bulk items picked up. This, she said, is something the Chamber will have to keep doing to make a difference.

The upcoming Chamber banquet has already sold out. Last year, Hillery said, it sold out two weeks early, but this year the sellout was two months before the event. Steve Roberts, former coach of SAU and Arkansas State, will be the featured speaker.

Hillery told the council the Chamber has coffees booked through May and is working with the schools on scholarships. It may be early, she said, but the Chamber is also working on the Fall Festival and has 15 vendors signed up for the event. She pointed out the Easter Egg Hunt and Crawfish Boil are also coming up.

Mary Godwin, director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, passed a book around showing the opening of Smiles of Prescott dentistry. She told the council the EDO and Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development District are holding a photo quest to get pictures of Prescott and Nevada County which will be used on the website and for marketing purposes.

The career fair was a success, she said, with schools from eight counties in Southwest Arkansas sending juniors and seniors to meet with around 30 vendors from business and industry. Representatives from the Census Bureau were on hand, recruiting people to verify addresses. Godwin said those interested must be 18 or older and will get paid $14 an hour and mileage.

She talked about a FEMA grant the EDO applied for but didn’t get initially. Now, she said, one of the communities involved has backed out because it couldn’t complete the work and Prescott was offered the grant to deal with the city’s drainage issues. The panel approved going for the 50-50 matching grant to have repairs done at East 2nd and Pine, East Olive and on Mockingbird Lane. Overall the project will cost $217,700 with the city to pay half of this. Godwin said there’s $50,000 in the budget for it and, after talking with the city’s accountant, Carl Dalrymple, feels there’s money from the city’s sales tax that could be used for the rest.

Robbie Franks told the council all customers of Prescott Water and Light have been sent information about keeping their property cleaned up or getting a ticket. He said no tickets have been written yet, but now that everyone has been notified, it will likely start happening soon.

With the arrival of spring, he said, things will get busier in code enforcement with grass and trash problems. He told the council he’s getting ready to tear houses down and will start when things are drier. Plans are to tear down 30 houses this year, with 15 to be razed at a time to give the landfill time to catch up.

Franks also talked about a code enforcement class he recently attended in Little Rock and met with code enforcers from the area.

There was a bit of controversy when it came to renewing the interlocal agreement between the city and the Nevada County Depot and Museum. It was passed with a 5-1 vote, Susie Meeks cast the lone nay vote. The one-year agreement will provide the depot and museum with $30,000 for maintenance and upkeep.

Judy Duke, curator, said without the city’s support the museum couldn’t keep its door open without a lot of fundraising. She talked about the recent Civil War reenactment, saying it didn’t go as well as planned, but the weather was a large factor in this. But, she said, 317 people paid, with 30-35 volunteers helping out and 65 reenactors putting on a show. On Saturday, she told the panel, 106 people came, with 25 percent being local residents. The museum board will meet and look at ways to improve future reenactments.

Duke said the museum is also working to recognize someone of importance to the community. The first person recognized was Gov. Thomas McRae, with the next to be Ila Upchurch.

Plans, she said, are to purchase a laptop and scanning printer to digitally save photos and documents, keeping them in a central location.

Though it had nothing to do with the museum, Meeks said there’s some history children don’t need to know. Councilman Howard Austin responded, saying history is history and it can’t be changed because what happened, happened. Councilman Ivory Curry pointed out the museum is more than the battlefields and can bring money into the community. In the end the council voted 5-1 to maintain the agreement.

Glenn Vasser was rubber stamped as the city’s attorney. He will have a four-year term expiring Dec. 31, 2022.

Then came the issue of replacing Bobbie Brown on the council. Four people had submitted letters of interest in the position: Jimmy Brown, Tommy Poole, Satarra Williams and John Miller. Vasser said since there were only six members present, four had to vote for the winning candidate, and a replacement had to be made during this meeting.

Initially there was no discussion as the six councilman cast their votes. Three went for Williams, one voted for Poole and one voted for Brown. Howard Austin abstained from voting. Four ballots were required, with three of them being identical. Curry said he didn’t think small business was represented well enough on the council and ran for office to help small business. Austin used the excuse he couldn’t vote against either of the school people and simply refused to cast a ballot. On the fourth ballot, Carla Christopher changed her vote from Poole to Williams, saying she didn’t want to be there all night.

At no point during the vote did any member of the council mention who would be the best qualified, who had the most experience or which candidate would be best for the City of Prescott.