For the fourth time in less than a month, Ash Flat City Council discussed the fate of their city's fire department building on Sept. 19 at its regular monthly meeting. The main topic of discussion was the legality of Mayor Danny Traw's rejection of all bids for the new fire department, at a Sept. 15 special meeting.
After the bid opening on Aug. 26, two more special meetings were held because of problems with the fire department's plan. The department is currently being housed in a single bay of the old fire station. The station was given to the Sharp County Library Board in September of 2010 by the mayor as the site for a new library. The city is currently constructing a pole barn, at a cost of over $20,000, to house the city's fire trucks until a decision can be made on the department's location.
At the Sept. 19 meeting, approving the minutes from the previous meeting brought immediate discussion. Alderman Thomas Rigsby, Sue Ross and Marty Goodwin questioned the method in which the mayor rejected the bids at the Sept. 15 special meeting.
According to Municipal League attorneys, Little Rock City Attorney Thomas Carpenter and Ash Flat City Attorney Larry Kissee, the mayor has executive power to veto or reject a bid, but council is entitled to overturn his vote by a two thirds majority.
Council members complained that the motion made by Rigsby at the Sept. 15 meeting was not included in the minutes. A motion was made by Rigsby, and Ross then said, "I am ready to vote," at which point the mayor rejected the bids. Kissee, who said he was not informed of the special meeting and was not present, explained to council there wasn't an actual second on the floor for Rigsby's motion to voted on.
Because the mayor did not acknowledge Rigsby's motion or ask for a second, some council members felt the motion was still on the table. Kissee explained council could vote to overturn the veto made by the mayor, but no motion was made to do so, after Traw said, "I had the right to throw them out. I should have thrown them out when I first seen them." He told them, "Once they get through voting, I will just throw them out again." However, a mayor gets only one veto. If it is overthrown by council, the decision of council stands.
Rigsby, Goodwin and Ross all voted against accepting the minutes, because they did not reflect the motion made by Rigsby. Marty Goodwin said, "I know you can throw them out, but can you throw them out if he had a motion?" Traw said he didn't have a motion, which Rigsby argued. The recorded meeting indicates Rigsby did make the motion, and Traw did not call for a second. Kissee and asked if the motion was seconded. Sue Ross, said, "I said, I am ready to vote." This was not counted as a second. Traw threw out the bids, before Ross could fotmerly second the motion.
Other discussion included Alderman Marty Goodwin's concerns with the legalities of the contract, whether the city would have to accept the contract if the bid price was not lowered.
Kissee explained council has to vote on and accept the bid, then negotiate after it has been accepted.
The builder has already agreed to negotiate his price down.
Traw maintains the city can not afford the new fire department building at the originally plaqnned location off of Highway 62/412, behind the Sonic.
He has posed another option, purchasing the Dillard GMC dealership, which will be closing after the first of the year.
The minutes were not approved for the meeting and there was no offer to amend the minutes by either the mayor or the recorder treasurer to reflect the motion being on the floor at the time the mayor ended the last meeting.
Police Chief Anthony Wiles told the council an officer was involved in an accident two weekends ago, while responding to a domestic call in Cherokee Village. Traw, who has the car at his body shop, indicated the car was a total loss and said he had not heard from insurance adjusters. Wiles said he has looked at grants but, to date, has received no information on the status of the grants. The city is looking to purchase a new car for the department.
Other issues regarding the sewer department were brought up by Tracy Breckenridge. The costs to repair equipment at the sewer plant, including a power supply are around $7,000, which is more than the city initially budgeted.
Breckenridge also told the council employee Jonathan Eversoll resigned, after moving. Council discussed the possibility of hiring a replacement.
At the Sept. 15 special meeting, the mayor appointed a committee to help study the needs for the new fire station. Committee chair Rob Driesel spoke and told council they had met with several people, but still needed another week to compile their findings and present them to council.
Council accepted Alderman Stacy Bratcher's resignation from the city council. He has moved out of his ward. Council will vote and appoint a person to fill the vacancy left by Bratcher
James Spurlock, who is on the Eaglefest committee and works at Ozarka, said the festival would offer a few more rides and attractions for the kids.
After visiting with vendors from Junk and Jam in Hardy, he solicited donations. Liberty Bank donated $2,500 for the rides, making them all free for the children. First National Banking Company helped pay for the bands for the festival.
Alderman Jeral Lesley made a motion for the city to donate $3,000 to Eaglefest.
Prior to ending the meeting, Traw made a public statement to council and the audience, stating, "I will not enter in any contract or any kind of bid that will put a burden on this city. I am here to say we can not afford that. I have said it several times. We can not afford this firehouse at the low bid price. This committee is going to look at it and I think we need to wait and see what they find and we can review it at that point. All the rest of this needs to hold off until that point."
The special meeting revealing the findings of the committee will be announced prior to the meeting taking place.
Ash Flat City Council meets the third Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend these meetings.