The Salem City Council met in regular session on Thursday, June 22. Mayor Gary Clayton advised the council of a new business coming into town that will bring with it 10-15 jobs.
"We first met with these people back about six or eight weeks ago," said Clayton. "The company manufactures wrapping materials and packaging for the restaurant industry and the fast food industry. They make things like burger wrappers and togo bags. They've been in business for a long time and are a family operation. They're going to be locating here in Salem, very soon, as a matter of fact. The SIDC has made arrangements to get the old T-shirt factory ready for them. We have also been assisting the president of this company, who is also the owner of this company, with arranging some temporary housing so he can get here and get settled and get something bought. I talked to (Fulton County) Judge Charles Willett yesterday, and he talks like he has had contact with them lately, and said that they are going to be moving equipment in soon. They're probably going to hire from 10 - 15 people. He has indicated to us that they are going to be good paying jobs with benefits, and these people seem like the types who are going to do things right."
The mayor then went on to discuss the city's financials for May. "Our cash position right now, as of the end of May, is $209,000 better than it was at this point last year," said Clayton. "Part of that is due to the way we managed the FEMA funds, and part of it is due to the fact that we went through a pretty intensive cost-cutting program for a couple of years. We have our money built back up in pretty good shape, if we can just hold it there."
Several council members were curious about the city's sales tax situation. "On the sales tax, from January 1 through May 31 of last year we had collected $97,566," said Clayton. "In that same period this year, we're down to $92,344, which is still running like it was, about a $1,000 a month drop. However, the good news is that the sales tax for the month of May this year was higher than it was from May last year, so maybe that trend is starting to turn here. Bear in mind when you're looking at figures like this that there are a lot of things that can affect that budget pretty drastically on a monthly basis that, over a period of time, will level themselves out. We have large payments that come due at certain times each year and when they come during a certain month, well it throws that month out of kilter. If we can stay on track, we should be in pretty good shape this year. Compared to other cities I've been in contact with, we're kind of fortunate that things have turned out as well as they have financially."
Chief of Police Albert Roork then gave his department report for the month, indicating that they had received 79 complaints in May, assisted Human Services on several occasions and had eight reported thefts. "Most of that has been thefts out of vehicles -- stereos, money and things of that nature," said Roork. "We had two check frauds where someone has come in and made payroll checks on a computer from Cowart's Construction that don't bear any resemblance to Cowart's checks at all. Everything on them is erroneous and ficticious. Because of their good standing in the community, they took them at a few places in town and these were fairly large checks, and it's going to be a loss for those two businesses. I know who did it, but I can't arrest them due to insufficient evidence. The witnesses said they were 98 percent sure of the picture that I showed them, and 98 percent won't work in a criminal court."
Roork went on to point out that DWI-drug arrests are beginning to outnumber alcohol-related DWI arrests, and shared the facts regarding a fleeing charge that occurred recently involving an ATV.
"We had a fleeing charge where a four-wheeler outran an officer one night all the way to Missouri at 2:30 a.m. going around 90 miles per hour," said Roork. "We got him a week later here in town after he bragged about it."
Roork noted that Officer Johnny Byler had completed his class to be certified for the new breathalyzer which will become mandatory equipment in April of next year. "The state is discontinuing the use of the one we have now, and hopefully the Mayor will be able to get us one at no cost, because they are quite expensive," said Roork. "I will go in a few months to Little Rock and will continue to be the senior operator in charge for all of Fulton County at Buck Foley's request."
Mayor Clayton then filled the council in on the grant request being submitted to cover the cost of the new equipment. "This USDA Grant Application is ready to be submitted for the breathalyzer that Albert mentioned," said Clayton. "I'm told that the grant is 100 percent funded, but I'll believe it when I see it. It's about $7,500 for it."
Heath Everett with the Fire Department gave his report next to the council, indicating they had eight runs in May which consisted of three motor vehicle accidents, one structure fire in Glencoe and four EMS calls.
"We had a fire here in town up at Jason Miller's which will be in my report next month," said Everett. "The back part of his house caught fire in a room that was used for storage. We don't know how it happened. They had some pretty bad smoke damage."
Everett also noted that he would be doing an inspection on the new Physical Education & Fine Arts building at the Salem Elementary campus.
Bill Worsham then gave the report for the Public Works department. The Water Department repaired 12 leaks, moved one of the meters at the hospital and changed three angle valves. The Wastewater Department put a new motor on the clarifier, cleaned 3,800 feet of line and replaced the broken manhole cover at the car wash in town. At the park, they've been busy mowing and weed eating, and he reported that the bridge and spillway were almost complete.
"We have a gentleman who has put a $4,000 bid on the old backhoe if we want to sell it," said Worsham. "I checked and we can get that thing fixed for about $6,000. $4,600 for the rebuilt transmission and $1,000 for the labor."
The council moved to repair the back hoe instead of selling it.
The Mayor next addressed a new Community Block Grant the city is applying for to update a portion of the sewer system in town.
"We have gone ahead and had a preliminary application process going for a sewer rehabilitation project and there is some federal money available that hopefully will finance this in it's entirety," said Clayton. "The situation is, we have some problems in the sewer system that we are going to have to fix. We have a lot of leakage and so forth on some of these old lines. The engineers have been here and have reviewed the system and calculated the cost of replacing the lines and manholes for part of the system to be at $486,210. If we can be fortunate enough to get grant funds to pay for this we'll be well ahead of the curve. It would take substantial rate increases and whatever else we could put together to finance that on our own. This pre-application has been prepared and submitted to the grant committee, and they will make a preliminary decision on it and determine if it is feasible. If it is, we'll go into full application for the money. The engineers believe we will meet the requirements for preliminary approval, and we should hear something by mid-August. This funding is available under part of the stimulus program, and so we're going to pursue this and hopefully get it accomplished."
The project will replace approximately a mile of sewer line from the Preacher Roe Ballpark into town along the creek. It will also replace 18 of the manhole covers. The project includes reinforcing the levy and oxidation ponds with clay along with any other additional improvements needed there.
The mayor then presented a resolution to the council members from the Ozark Gateway Tourism Council. "They're trying to establish a scenic byways initiative to help showcase the historic sites, natural wonders and cultural attractions in our area," said Clayton.
The Western Trail of the byways initiative starts in Batesville, goes west to Mountain View, up to Calico Rock, over to Salem and on through to Mammoth Spring where it meets up with their Central and Eastern Trails.
The council approved the resolution and moved on to the growing problem of so-called "black-top" scam artists.
"I was approached about the possibility of getting an ordinance that would require them to come to city hall and purchase a license before soliciting within the city, as a means of us being able to control that a little better," said Clayton. I will bring this up again next month, but I'd like to review an old ordinance we have, #131 from September of 1985, to see if it contains anything of that nature or not. Most of what we've been having problems with is black-topping. You know, people coming though and stopping at somebody's house and saying they have half a load left over and offering about three different prices for it."
Councilman Bill Newton brought up the original zoning ordinance that the council worked on several years ago and never passed. "We passed and adopted that thing the 24th of January, 2002," said Newton. "Gary, you signed off on it. We went through all those hearings and everything, but we never did finish up on it."
Mayor Clayton said he would present the zoning ordinance information at the next council meeting.
Newton then addressed the issue of lots around town that are overgrown and neglected. "Is there a way that we can use summer help to clean up these yards around town," said Newton. "If I was their neighbor, I'd be hard to live with. Whatever the expense is, just file it back against those lots and houses. That's the only way we're going to get this all cleaned up. They need to live in the country if they want to live like that."
Clayton explained that he would need a list of lots that the council members want cleaned up. "We have a procedure we have to follow, and we need to mail a certified letter and give them so many days, and then we can clean it up and talk to the assessor and put the costs with their taxes," said Clayton.
Newton then addressed the issue of a raise for Salem Police Officer Johnny Byler. "We hired Johnny Byler a year and a half ago, and we have told him every so often that we would evaluate him," said Newton. "I understand Johnny is doing a good job, and I would like to recommend that we give him a small raise, and by small I mean about $500 a year. That would be about $41 a month."
Chief Roork agreed that Byler is doing well in his position. "Johnny does a good job," said Roork. "He does anything I ask him to do. He's an intelligent young man, and he's a very good officer."
The raise was approved by the council.
Mayor Clayton then informed the council that the house located at the City Park had been paid off. The property is jointly owned by the city and the Chamber of Commerce and currently has no tenants.
City Attorney Dwayne Plumlee then addressed the council regarding a petition to abandon. "I have a petition to abandon what was originally platted as a proposed street, by Mel Coleman's house, about where his driveway goes in," said Plumlee. "He's asked us to abandon that. It's never been opened and probably never will be. 40 or 50 years ago when they laid it out originally, they thought they might need a street there, but it's never happened and most likely never will. I doubt anyone beside me and Mel even know it exists. We're required to have a hearing on it, and I published the notice about it and this is the time when anyone who is interested needs to be here. The way this works, the land reverts to the landowners on each side, and Mel owns both sides of it. We've done this before, including several times in Twin Oaks. I'll prepare the ordinance and have it for you at the next meeting."
The next order of business was in regards to new equipment for the fire department. "We're going to have to buy some equipment for the front doors of the fire department," said Clayton. "There's a new state law that we have to comply with."
"The doors themselves were replaced in 2002 or 2003, but the openers are mechanical electric openers and they're about 30 years old," said Everett. "We have one out there that we occasionally have to hit and sometimes it doesn't even work at all and we have to open the door manually. They don't even make parts for the opener anymore. That company went out of business in 1995. The only thing we can do is replace them. In August, they are changing the law on these commercial garage doors. New ones have to a have a sensor on the bottom of the door and numerous other things. These are 30 years old and giving us trouble. They're just wore out. The only thing we have to come up with is an electrician has to be here present to make the connections. It will cost us $3,810."
The council agreed that the new mechanisms needed to be purchased. In the final order of business, the council passed a new ordinance outlining the uniform numbering of houses and businesses within the city limits. They also passed the revised dog ordinance that now requires all dogs classified as vicious dogs by the ordinance to be micro-chipped in place of liability insurance being purchased.
With that, the council adjourned.