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Austin honored at council meeting

By submitted, 10/18/22 10:04 AM

PRESCOTT – Howard Austin, a member of the Prescott City Council, was recognized for his 25-years of service as a councilman.

This was done at the October council meeting, with Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver saying he goes back a long way with Austin, first meeting at Oliver’s Exxon, then at Prescott Elementary School where Austin taught and was principal.

“I’ve enjoyed being on the council and in Prescott,” Austin said. He added he initially came to Prescott with the intent of staying for a year, but remained because he loves the city and its people. Oliver presented Austin with a plaque commending him for going above and beyond the call of duty as a councilman.

In other business, the council approved the annual millage ordinance. This isn’t a new tax, but a rollover of the city’s existing 5 mill tax on real and personal property. As City Attorney Glenn Vasser said, this is not unusual and most cities in the state do it. Passing the millage rate allows the city to receive turnback funds from the state.

Jamie Hillery, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce gave the council copies of the Chamber’s service report and calendar for the next two months. She pointed out the next event will be Trick or Treat on Elm Street on Oct. 31, where children can come in costume and get candy from the vendors. On Nov. 15, she added, the Chamber will host its annual Mingle and Jingle event to show people what local businesses are offering for the upcoming holidays. This is done to get residents to buy locally during the holiday season. Businesses will be open after hours for the event, and those businesses without a brick and mortar location will be at the Potlatch Building.

Also in November, she said, the Chamber will begin its Giving Tree. Last year 12 needy families were selected with the Chamber providing Christmas for them. Families can register at the Chamber and citizens can come by and select items to purchase the family has asked for. Hillery said if the council members know of anyone needing or wanting help to give her a call.

Mary Godwin, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, told the council she was unable to provide sales tax information or before and after pictures of houses being taken down because of internet issues and the copier at the office being down. She said the office is moving on houses and has two left to raze before the end of the month. One house has partially been taken down, but work had to stop because of a natural gas issue. Once this is resolved, the structure will be demolished. She reminded the panel the excavator the city rented will be available till the end of the month, and this should be enough time to finish the job. Because of the excavator’s size, it can’t remove all the debris. Crews will go back later with a smaller piece of equipment to finish cleaning the properties.

There will be a Leadership Nevada County Class of 2023. There hasn’t been any leadership training for two years because of COVID. The year-long class will consist of 10 people meeting monthly learning different subjects. Normally the opening retreat is held at Columbus, but the building is being remodeled and another location will have to be found. She said everything should be ready by January.

Godwin continued, saying the longest grant project in city history is about to begin. In 2018, the city applied for a sidewalk grant, but COVID hit and the project wasn’t approved until 2019. However, COVID prevented any work from being done until now. Wooster Construction of Wooster, AR, won the bid and should begin work on the project Oct. 24. Flags are in place marking utilities and the company will have 150 working days to complete the job. The company, she added, will be reminded not to block the driveways of businesses in the area so as not to impede traffic in the area.

Herb Langston had questions for the council under citizen’s communication. He said he’s talked to 10 people and read their concerns. He asked when Howard Taylor’s term ended asĀ  mayor, the date of the 30-year contract the city signed with SWEPCO, when the contract ends and who was on the council when the contract was approved, as well as who the attorney was at the time and who benefits from the contract, as it’s not the residents of Prescott.

Langston said any contract can be terminated and, as an last resort, the city could declare bankruptcy, though it may have to pay penalties. He asked of a study has been done of the median income for those living in Prescott, adding there’s a way to terminate any contract. He said any members of the council who have died since the contract was signed, may give the city an out.

Oliver said the contract runs from 2008-2038 and has no exit clause. He added the city has used the two best electric attorneys in the state, with one still working for Prescott full-time, in Dave Wilson. The other, Jason Carter, works for the city on this part-time. He said the city used a former resident, Henry Thompson, and is also using InFront Consulting of Florida on the issue. The city, Oliver added, has spent around $1 million to try and get cheaper electricity.

Bob Cummings, candidate for Nevada County Judge, also spoke. He told the council he’s a member of the Nevada County Quorum Court and knows these jobs aren’t easy. He pledges to support and work with mayors and councils of cities in the county and to help in any way he can, if elected.

Austin reminded him to be careful of making promises as if he can’t keep them it could create problems.

Under council discussion, Ivory Curry reminded everyone his monthly community feed is Saturday. He also reminded the council the OYEA program is hosting its First Annual Banquet Oct. 25 at the Prescott Junior High School cafeteria.

Oliver reminded the council the city has a table and invited anyone interested to sit at it.

Satarra Williams said the Prescott Church of God Youth Night will be Oct. 22.

Susie Meeks said she’s had several people call asking what hours the city office is open for the public to pay bills.

Oliver said people can use the drop box in front of the facility if the office isn’t open..

Austin called for an executive session. When the meeting resumed, Oliver stated on the fair labor standard act, only the hours an employee worked should count and they shouldn’t be paid for time not worked. It was moved to put this in the employee handbook, and approved.