Concern for budget pressure led to the Clinton City Council turning down two funding requests at its Monday night meeting.
The council normally meets on Thursday, but the meeting was delayed due to a Municipal League meeting earlier in the month.
The most significant debate in the meeting was the council’s response to a request from the Water Department to pursue a loan application for an upgrade water meter system. The upgraded system would provide wireless feedback allowing remote monitoring, as well as greater accuracy, the council was told.
Oren Noble with CWB Engineers presented the project to the council on behalf of water department head Dickie Hink. The project included projections for cost savings, as well as the request to apply for a $1.5 million loan for the project. The loan was available at, if approved, 0.5 percent interest through the Arkansas Natural Resource Commision (ANRC), “… the lowest I’d ever seen,” Noble told the council.
A resolution was before the council for it to vote to allow the city to apply for funding, a drawn-out process, the council was told.
An debate followed for over the next hour as council members weighed the need for the upgrade relative to the water department’s 10 year plan, with water meter upgrade was lower on the list than more pressing objects, and the department’s current financial commitments, including recently approved repairs and upgrades approved at the previous council meeting.
Another issue, cited specifically by councilman Tim Barnes, was the request for a resolution to approve application for a loan for the water meters was made with no advance notice to allow council research, despite the engineering letter outlining the project being dated June 21.
Councilman Shon Hastings expressed concern that the expense for the meters could impact the need for funding should emergency repairs be needed in some other component of the water or sewer system. He added, in a point first brought up by Councilwoman Gayla Bradley, that the water meter upgrade was a relatively low-priority item on the department’s 10 year plan.
“I think we can hold off,” Bradley said.
Hink countered, to council members’ questions and assertions, that the department had over $2.7 million on hand, and that the cost of the loan for the meters was not a City of Clinton cost, but a water department cost.
The council ultimately voted against applying for the loan, with Councilman Jeff Pistole as the sole “aye” vote in favor of applying for the loan.
Earlier in the meeting the council was asked to consider an existing 50/50 grant for a rebuild to the pavilion at Archy Park.
An earlier consideration had been to use the grant funds for a splash pad at the park, but due to the park being in a floodplain that plan was later abandoned. City of Clinton Mayor Richard McCormac asked the council if it wished to turn back the available funds, or use a portion of them to rebuild all or part of the pavilion. The suggestion was to use $25,000 of city money against $25,000 of grant money in order to refurbish the structure.
The concern was, led by Pistole, that the request for what would ultimately be a $25,000 expense to the city.
“My concern if for $25,000 for the park when Fire Department funding is under concern,” Pistole said.
The council had heard earlier about concerns from the Fire Department’s ability to meet funding needs.
The decision was made, instead, to table any action on the grant money until expense projections could be made for the project, possibly at an overall savings from the $25,000 figure.
The Fire Departments funding was a further point of concern. During City of Clinton Fire Chief D.L. Webb’s presentation to the council, the point was made about the department’s budget being very tight. Webb, in the course of his presentation, asked for $5,000 for shipping containers which the department would use to create a training facility on the concrete pad at the old boat plant.
Webb reminded the council that three years earlier the water department bill add-on for the fire department was ruled illegal and removed. As such, Webb said, the department’s budget tool a significant hit.
“We’re going to have to have a real serious discussion about the Fire Department budget,” Councilman Barnes said to the body. He continued that some way to return needed funding to the department was in order. Several council members agreed with this statement.
In other council matters:Webb told the council the ISO certification study had just been completed, with the results due in about two months. The department is currently a Class 4 ISO.The council was told about the animal shelter budget pressures and the facility’s possible closing.The council approved accepting the insurance officer and the related expenses for the street department’s replacement truck to take the place of a truck lost after an earlier fire.The council expressed concern about the amount of time street department spends just on brush clearing for homeowners. Department head Charles Wilson explained trees and brush clearance for area homes had become a major part of his department’s schedule.The council accepted a Blue and You grant for exercise equipment along the Archey Park walking trail. The grant provides 100 percent of the funds.The police have hired a new officer. Questions about the officer led to the council going into executive session from which no action was taken.