The possibility of a new city Web site and the introduction of a new fire chief were the main topics of discussion at the regular monthly meeting of the Highland City Council Oct. 12.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Highland Mayor Jerome Norwood told council he had received a memo from Sharp County Judge Larry Brown noting 9-1-1 fees would remain the same for the upcoming year.
In Department reports, Norwood announced that Public Works Supervisor, Robert Munroe would be utilizing workers from Sharp County's work program for new projects in Hidden Valley including work on the dams and around the lakes.
Norwood told council the city of Highland was invited to apply for up to $100,000 in grants for lakes and parks program which could help with ramps, piers and handicap ramps at the lakes in Hidden Valley, property the city recently was given by the Hidden Valley Property Owners Association. Norwood also told council he had received a call from White River Planning and Development about an extra $83,000 in left over grant money from their district which would allow the city to apply for money for generators for the pump station. The mayor said the grant is a 75/25 grant with a portion of the matching 25 percent coming from labor of installing the station. The city needs two generators, both must be stationary, rather than mobile. Larry Allen made a motion the city accept the grant money on the condition the city pay the 25 percent matching portion with 12.5 percent of that total to come from labor.
Jody Shackleford with Shackleford Media was next on the agenda and presented a Web site proposal for the city's consideration. The fully functional model of the site was displayed to council and included various pages to assist the city for both growth and informational purposes. Shackleford outlined how city documents could be put online and downloaded by customers, such as ordinances and business licenses. Shackleford said he would include photographs of council, police and fire department and city personnel included in the $2,500 cost for the fully functional interactive Web site. Norwood asked if he would be required to seek bids prior to accepting Shackleford's estimate. Some discussion took place about the service being a professional service, therefore bids were not required. Council asked Shackleford to present them with a contract before moving forward with the site. He assured them he would have it at city hall in a few days for their consideration.
Approximately six years ago, the city of Highland had some issues within the office of mayor and opted for an independent audit, rather than the traditional state audit to determine where some money in question was going. Alderman Larry Allen said it was his understanding that, after having been audited yearly by an independent auditor, the city could not go back to a state audit. Allen said he recently discovered this was not true, that the city could go back to a state audit if it was to submit a letter to the state indicating the desire to go back to the traditional auditing method. The cost associated with the independent audit was $8,000, but, at that time, the city had reason to use the independent company. Now, years later, members of council indicated they were satisfied with the city's accounting system.
Highland City Clerk Mary Ruth Wiles said she had called about the procedure to get back on the legislative audit schedule next year and then be on a regular schedule again. After discussion between Alderman Jack Kimbrell and Joe Black about the process, as well as, the benefits regarding how thorough the legislative audit was for the city, Alderman Larry Allen made a motion to go back to the legislative audit at the earliest possible time. Council voted unanimously in favor of the motion.
Last on the agenda was the introduction of the city's new Fire Chief Johnny Rickman. Rickman has assumed the duties of chief and has been working with former chief Stephen Davis to insure a smooth transition into the department. For more information on Rickman, including his qualifications and ideas he presented to council, see the separate story in this edition of the Villager Journal.
Prior to adjournment, Richard Smith presented council a handout from a meeting which he recently attended in conjunction with Arkansas Coordinated School Health. Smith asked council to review the flyer that explains the new program that will be implemented at the Highland Schools. The coordinated health system strives to connect health and academics to ensure students and teachers can interact in the most effective environment.
Through health education, physical education, health services, nutrition service, counseling and other psychological and social services, as well as a healthy school environment and community involvement, both students and teachers can be most productive. Smith said he will be serving the school with the new program.
Following the meeting, Norwood took an opportunity to address rumors that have been circulating by one or more political candidates who are running for mayor in the city. He said he has been approached by several residents stating a candidate has promised changes to the water system in the event they are elected. Norwood assured the public the water department in Highland operates separate from the city of Highland, therefore, these promises are something that can not be fulfilled. He felt it his duty as outgoing mayor to warn potential voters of this rumor.
Highland City Council meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. and the public is always welcome to attend these informational meetings.