The monthly meeting of the Highland City Council was held at City Hall on April 15. There were several speakers, a wide variety of business topics concerning the city, as well as the county, a lot of new business and a proposed Amendment was discussed.
Frankie Gilliam with the Arkansas State University Delta Center offered an open invitation to the Highland City Council members to meet at the joint meeting of Sharp County elected officials from all cities in Sharp County. This unique meeting is scheduled for May 7 at 7 p.m. at the Sharp County Courthouse.
The meeting will concern potential economic development for all incorporated cities in Sharp County. Gilliam would like to see each member bring ideas to the assembly that would benefit Highland as well as the county as a whole.
Also making a presentation was Stewart Noland with Crist Engineering.
His presentation was made as a follow up to the feasibility study on the potential for a natural gas system in Sharp County. Noland offered a question and answer session with both the council and the public.
In protest to the Sharp County natural gas system, Ruth Reynolds, explained her position to the Council. Reynolds is concerned that natural gas may not be readily available far enough into the future to warrant the cost of the system. She is also concerned that if and when this system is implemented the commodity may become scarce or non-existent. She asked that other possibilities be explored, such as renewable energy sources. Her other concern was the life expectancy of the pipeline.
In other business, Highland Mayor Jerome Norwood presented the projected cost analysis for extending the White River Medical Center after-hours emergency room to a 24 hour service.
According to the analysis provided, Norwood said the cost would be an approximate increase of nearly $200 per year per household in the Highland School District to make this a reality.
In unfinished business the city of Highland heard from Harland and Rita Davis, a couple who are in negotiations to purchase and improve residential property from Robert and Kathy Cooper. The couple explained to the council the personal and unavoidable circumstances that made substantial repair on this structure virtually impossible during the last six months. Davis stated that he wasn't sure whether to proceed with improvements pending the city's decision on whether or not the structure would have to be torn down. The Council requested the couple secure financing and report back to the council at the next meeting with visible progress on the project. The concern of the council is one of safety to the public, rather than the visual disadvantage to the city at this time.
In new business, a motion was made by council member Joe Black to deed back the land on which the previous fire department was housed to Dennis and Wanda Wiles and Morris and Louann Street. The motion was seconded by Councilman Larry Allen and City Attorney Jon Abele agreed to do this for the city.
Council member Mary Jo Clark presented a proposal for a walking trail and fun park in which soccer activities could potentially be held. Councilman Larry Allen voiced protest against city funding for the project. He stated he had no problem with the idea of a park, but didn't think it should be a top priority. Allen was adamant that the streets of Hidden Valley were much more important than that of a walking trail. He said he was under the impression the new school gym would have a track that could be utilized for walking. Clark relayed that this could only be used when school wasn't in session and there were no scheduled games.
Due to recent illness, Clark has not completed her research, thus her presentation was not as complete as she would have liked. She addressed Allen's concerns and agreed to report back to the council with a more in-depth presentation including potential funding or grant options at the next meeting.
Also discussed was the storage building that was lent to the city by Morgan Builders after the tornado. Since the building is still being utilized for storage, coupled with the fact that the company was generous enough to lend it to the city, Councilman David Harris made a motion to purchase it for the asking price of $3,200. Joe Black seconded the motion and it was unanimously approved by the council.
The possibility of purchasing a new vehicle for Highland Police Chief Bea Sharp was also discussed. Since the Dodge Charger that is currently being used has a good record, another similar vehicle was considered. The budget for the new vehicle is $26,000, and Mayor Norwood said this would be enough to cover the cost of the new Charger and equipment. The council discussed this and other possibilities.
Councilman Harris was more concerned with the new vehicle being a 4-wheel drive as the Durango currently used by the city fared very well during the ice storm and in the delivery of life saving medications to the elderly during this time. Since natural disasters have been rampant in the area, Harris was certain a 4-wheel drive vehicle would be better than the low clearance Dodge Charger and some of the other members were in agreement. The decision on purchasing a new vehicle was tabled. Mayor Norwood agreed to obtain pricing on optional vehicles to present to the council at the next meeting.
Another concern addressed by the council, relative to the vehicle, was whether or not to allow Chief Sharp to use it for travel to and from her home, a distance of nearly 20 miles. In the provided documentation in the agenda, the Mayor reviewed records confirming driving the current vehicle to and from the Chief's home accounted for nearly half of the mileage on the vehicle during 2008. He asked the council to consider whether or not to continue to allow the Chief to use the vehicle for commuting to and from home, as there is no record in previous council meeting minutes of this arrangement being part of the initial agreement prior to her hire.
Due to lack of time for the council to review the details, Resolution R 09-08 was tabled. The CD of the specifics was provided for review and this resolution will be discussed at the next regular meeting of the Highland City Council on May 12 at 7 p.m.
As a part of the effort to clean the street across from the Highland Shopping Center and in town, the City Council unanimously agreed to pay the Eagle Boy Scouts $200 to pick up trash along the highway on May 9.
Prior to adjournment, Mayor Norwood announced the citywide cleanup would be set for April 20-24.