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Hope City Board

By Staff, 03/16/21 8:39 PM

The Hope City Board met Tuesday for their second meeting of March. The meeting was held in person at the Fair Park Community Center and was also streamed virtually.

The first item was to consider a resolution concerning Hope Water & Light bonds. Russell Cornelius of spoke to the board. The proposed bonds would go towards building a fiber network to offer broadband service in the Hope Water & Light service area. Cornelius said their pilot program originally involved about 60 customers. They hope to office speeds of 1 gigabit. He said average price would be around $55 or $60 per month and they’re considering 3 packages offering up to a gigabit. Cornelius said research has indicated the utility might expect to get 60% of their customers or 4,600 subscribers. City Attorney Randy Wright read the resolution which would authorize the issuance of the revenue bonds. The amount would be $16.4 million dollars. The resolution passed.

The board looked at sanitation rates. The city has been in the red in the sanitation department for the last couple of years and the board anticipates there will probably need to be some increase in the future. Assistant City Manager J.R. Wilson spoke to the board with some data. He noted the city has 3,665 residential customers and 510 commercial customers. Current residential service is $15.30 per household and average commercial cost is $4.25 per cubic yard. The annual revenue for residential service last year was $657,614.13 and commercial revenue was $591,642.63. Wilson said revenue has not been sufficient ot meet the bare needs of the department in the past few years. He detailed cuts to the requested 2021 budget which totaled $367,900. The 2021 estimated shortfall is $346,000. Reserve funds used over the past 4 years ranged from $94,000 to $45,000. The city also needs $150,00 for remediation efforts of the old landfill site that will require surface grading, construction of test wells as well as engineering monitoring, plans, and fees. Wilson also noted the mid and long-term plans and needs. He noted a need in the next several years will include a new baler at the landfill costing about a million dollars. Also, the city will need some class 4 landfill space in the next 8 or 9 years. Wilson detailed such options as decreasing trash pick-up from twice a week to once a week. This would save about $98,000 per year. Also, some rate increase projections were considered. This included increasing rates about 32% over five years. The monthly cost would be $5.55 more for residential and an increase in commercial to $1.54 per cubic yard. Also Wilson prepared proposals of increases of 28% over five years and 25% over five years. No action was taken but the board will look at the proposals for discussion at a later meeting.

Under the city manager’s report, Catherine Cook said progress is being made on the Patmos Road repairs. She also reported A T & T is finished with relocation of utilities and Windstream should finish this month. Cook said the city is looking into how the city might amend franchise agreements to provide for more timely utility relocations. Another topic she discussed was how the city is looking at the recent snowstorm and how the city might be more effective if such a storm happens in the future. Cook said the city has a request from Karmel Kuhn to use Fair Park for a hand-held radio vendor event in May. Another update concerned how the city is opening up the parks. She did note they are having a problem with people leaving the ball field lights on when they leave and the city needs to look at how they can be shut off when the events are over. She noted if this situation does not rectify itself something will have to be done. Further discussion on ball fields ensued, especially concerning the pending agreement with the school district.

An update was given on the pending transfer of property from the city to the National Park Service. An update was also given on the Street Scape project between downtown and the Clinton Birthplace. There was discussion on the number of city employees who have received COVID shots. Cook noted they are encouraging city employees to get their shots. She said she thinks significantly less than 25% of their employees have gotten their first shot. Cook said Southwest Arkansas is probably only at 10% as a whole. Cook noted she’s had her first shot and looking forward to her second. She also discussed possible incentives to get the vaccinations.

It was noted Dorsey Palmore, a long-time sanitation worker had passed away. Cook called him one of the best men she’s ever known. The meeting then adjourned.