A public hearing preceded the regular Highland City council meeting Feb. 9. Members of the council discussed the possibility of allowing Highland Mayor Jerome Norwood to move forward with the process of applying for a $128,000 loan from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development. The loan would be coupled with grant funding the city has already been approved for and will be used to further expand and complete the city's sewer. The project total is $903,500 which includes the loan for which Norwood will be applying.
In the absence of Norwood, the public meeting was conducted by Highland City Clerk Mary Wiles. Wiles explained that the loan was required for the city to receive the grant funding. Several questions were posed regarding who buys this type of bond. Wiles said municipal bonds are purchased by various institutions and are backed by the United States government, making them the most secure of all bonding options. She further explained that this figure was all inclusive and also reflected charges to be paid to White River Planning and Development for securing the easements for Phase Two. This phase will finally connect all Highland residents to the sewer system.
During the first phase of the city's establishing a sewer system, funding ran out and the city was not able to service areas in Hidden Valley, homes off FM101 Road, Turkey Pen and Rose Roads. The second phase will encompass all Highland residents.
Pam Poulston, one of the two Highland residents who have failed to hook up to the sewer system spoke to the council regarding options for her hook up. She said they currently don't have the grinder pump installed but wanted to clarify that she has never kept anyone off the property. The cost associated with the remainder of the hook up is $2,500. Discussion ensued about options and was tabled until the Mayor could be present to answer questions and review options.
The regular city council meeting brought reports from the fire, police, public works and code enforcement. With no questions, council moved forward to commission and committed reports including those from planning and zoning, Sharp County Regional Airport Authority and Tri-County Solid Waste. Wiles also proudly told the council the city's new software Laser Fiche would arrive and be installed Feb. 24-25, something she was obviously thrilled about, as all the city's paperwork would now be computerized.
In unfinished business, Alderman David Harris questioned the possibility of getting a flashing sign at the new A.L. Hudson gymnasium indicating to traffic to slow down when games are about to begin and when fans are exiting the parking lot onto the highway. Harris asked permission to ask to use the already established flashing signs used for school for this purpose and council agreed to allow him to move forward in finding a solution to the problem that could potentially cause an accident.
In other unfinished business, representatives from the Hidden Valley Property Owner's Association were present. The association plans to give the city of Highland portions of Hidden Valley including the clubhouse to utilize for a public facility and possible park. City attorney Jon Abele said there had been a title search conducted on the property and the association will meet March 1 to decide whether or not to deed the property to the city. Alderman Larry Allen suggested that to insure public safety and due to the age of the building it should be inspected by the Arkansas Department of Environmental to insure there are no asbestos fibers in either the ceiling tile or other areas within the clubhouse.
In new business, Ordinance 2010-01 was passed unanimously by an emergency clause. This ordinance allowed Norwood to apply for the loan discussed in the public hearing to obtain the final portion of money required to complete Phase 2 of the sewer system.
In other new business, council responded to a memo sent by Norwood regarding possible solutions to a problem the city has been having in respect to past due sewer bills. Norwood attached a state law to his memo for consideration; the memo refers to a law in which the water services can be shut off to customers who also have sewer in the event their payments are past due. Allen suggested sending delinquency notices after two months stating a date when their water will be disconnected for non-payment of sewer bill. Discussion ensued and council agreed to table the discussion until the next meeting during which council will have time for considerations and vote on the issue.
Highland City Council voted to purchase a new public works truck. Council had budgeted $24,000 for this vehicle, but council voted to spend an additional $7,835 to upgrade the truck to a diesel motor, one which council agreed would last much longer.
In the last order of new business, the city council voted to approve Norwood's recommendation and appoint Michael York to the Planning and Zoning Commission. York will complete Randy McComas's term that will end in November.
Highland City council meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at Highland City Hall. The public is always welcome to attend these meetings.