Hardy to hold public auction to sell city property and assets
The Hardy City Council met July 13 at city hall, one week after their normally scheduled meeting due to the July 4 holiday. Mayor Ernie Rose brought the meeting to order at 6 p.m. after a quorum of council members was met. All members were present with the exception of Councilmen Herbert Wise and Bob Gilliland, and City Attorney Joe Grider was also absent. After the Pledge of Allegiance and invocation, Treasurer/Recorder Greg Bess led the proceedings. The minutes of the June 1 meeting were approved, as was the agenda for the current meeting.
The Hardy Advertising and Promotion Commission (A&P) was represented by Commissioner Mark Huscher. Their financial status as of June 28 showed a balance in the A&P operating account of $66,564.84 and in the reserve account the balance was $51,017.96. As of July 13, the operating account balance was $74,169.21 and the reserve account had remained unchanged. The Hardy sign at the stop light was still under construction on June 28, and is still undergoing finishing touches. There are plans in the works for a sign on the east side of Hardy at the bypass to encourage travelers to visit Hardy rather than using the bypass. Negotiations are underway to possibly place the sign near the Jackson Cemetery. The Hardy Business Directories have been ordered, and the Arkansas Department of Tourism has requested copies to be sent to all of the welcome centers around the state. The A&P website needs to be updated, and hopes are an agreement will be reached to combine this website with the City of Hardy website. The Thursday night dances at the civic center have completed the initial three-month trial period and are doing well, so they will continue through the summer and possibly into the fall. There has been a vacancy in the A&P of lodging/dining commissioner, and Amanda Smith has shown an interest and will be considered to fill the vacancy. The Treasures in the Ozarks arts and crafts show will be held on Oct. 2 and 3 at the Hardy Civic Center.
Treasurer Bess then gave the city’s financial report. Sales tax revenue for the month of June was over $40,000, which is 37 percent higher in 2021 than in 2020. Other revenue that came in included sales of two fire department vehicles totaling over $102,000 and an insurance settlement of more than $8,500 for the police vehicle damaged in May. Bess commended the departments, “You are holding your budgets pretty well, and at the same time we are getting better revenue.” Bess explained a $20,000 discrepancy in the fire department’s budget that was not reflected in the packet he had passed out at the meeting. The difference is due to the sale of a fire truck for $100,000 minus the 10 percent consignment fee of $10,000, and then subtracting the purchase of another fire truck for $70,000, leaving $20,000 remaining.
The council committees then gave their reports on the individual departments. Councilman Mark Gordon reported on the fire department. The men who have been working as volunteer fire fighters all have regular jobs now with different schedules, and there has been some discussion with Fire Chief Austin Rose about hiring some part-time firemen. “At some point, maybe the next meeting when we have more people here, we can talk about allocating some money for part-time…three or four days a week,” Gordon suggested. After taking into account the remaining money left in the fire department’s budget, including the sale of the fire truck and money from the ATV ride, discussion followed that the fire department might need an additional $3,000 to pay for some part-time help through the remainder of 2021. Mayor Rose reminded the council that Hardy is one of the few municipalities in Sharp County that do not currently have paid fire fighters. The issue will be brought up again at the August meeting.
Councilwoman Penny Allen asked about life jackets for children under 12 years-old. Gordon said that it was a city ordinance and there is a sign out by the beach to remind parents, but whether it was being enforced at this time he was not aware. He added that they don’t have excess life jackets, but if someone wanted to donate jackets for the children they would be happy to allow people to borrow them.
Fire Chief Rose spoke about the fire truck that had been out of commission due to repairs, and stated progress is being made. The truck was being painted and they need to get the emergency lights back on it.
The councilmen who speak for the police department, Wise and Gilliland, were not present. Police Officer Scott Rose spoke for the department. He announced Chief Tamara Taylor, who had been out for surgery and physical repercussions since the fall of 2020, is officially retiring from her post, so the department is in search of a new chief to fill her position. Later in the meeting when the position for a new police chief was up for discussion, Mayor Rose proposed to table the issue until the city attorney was present.
There are currently three fulltime officers, including Rose who has also been acting as assistant chief to the acting interim chief. Officer Rose continued, “To be able to staff fulltime officers in all divisions, we need one more person.” There is a part-time officer currently with the Cherokee Village Department who is a seasoned veteran officer and Rose was recommending her to be promoted for a fulltime position with the Hardy Police Department. Rose introduced Officer Shirley Janelle Tyner to the council and had already discussed funding for a fulltime position for Tyner with Treasurer Bess. Mayor Rose welcomed her to Hardy and said, “This will put you in a fulltime position which puts our police department back up where it was before Chief Taylor had her illness.”
Councilman Jeff Munroe then presented the current status of the public works department. While Superintendent Tim Cooper has been busy doing service line repairs, Munroe was able to talk with him about road repairs and getting them ready for paving which is to begin in August. Repairs and routine maintenance have been done at the pump station and at the waste water plant.
Mayor Rose added he had been driving around the city after all of the heavy rains, particularly to troublesome areas that he knows wash out all the time. “I went down this one road, I got down there and it was a solid road. He had installed a drainage culvert there…and it was fine and I was shocked.” Rose very happily announced he had gone to another trouble spot and found the same thing; Cooper had installed a culvert for drainage and that road was fine. “I’m just gonna brag on [Cooper] because he’s not here. He took the initiative and went to these areas and tried to cut back on these trouble spots.” Mayor Rose was very pleased.
Bess spoke with regard to the current personnel changes in the public works department. One fulltime employee who was hired earlier in the year has left. Michael Johnson was promoted from part-time to fulltime in June. Superintendent Cooper is now missing one part-time person, so there is an opening. Munroe knew someone who was interested in a fulltime position, and discussion followed with Bess and Rose as to whether the department’s budget might be able to allow for a fulltime position for the rest of the year. They decided to table the issue for further consideration before voting on it.
Under unfinished business, Mayor Rose discussed the city auction that was brought up in June. As far as items for sale, there are several coming from each of the departments, as well as a storage building, a utility trailer, a vacant lot on Kelly Avenue and many other things. “Our plan was to do this in July, but it looks like [the auction] is going to be backed up toward the latter part of August so we’ll have time to advertise this,” said Rose.
The status on the street project for which Hardy has received a grant was discussed. Mayor Rose explained why the progress had been held up. “When the heavy rains came this year, they washed the ditches out, they washed the streets out that we had widened to 22 feet…they came back and measured them out and…they had changed. They’re not that wide,” Rose said. With the help of the Sharp County Road Department, they were able to get the streets widened again and ready for the state inspector who was to come the following day, July 14. If Hardy gets the OK to go ahead from the state, the construction company will be able to start the first part of August. The mayor added the project should be done in one month once started.
Bess continued discussing funding of the street project, on which Mayor Rose had informed council at the June meeting that the project may cost up to $320,000 rather than the $300,000 that the grant will cover. The vote to appropriate an additional $20,000 in city funds was tabled then. The current total amount of the project is expected to reach just over $321,000. Bess was proposing to council to either approve additional funds for the project, or to decline those funds so the mayor can decide where to cut back on the project. There is money in the street fund account to cover an additional $25,000 to go toward the street project. Mayor Rose further explained he had been told “if there are some changes in the coverage and they don’t need that money, it will be returned to the city.” They may not need as much for the project as they thought. “It won’t go up, but it might go down,” clarified Rose. Motions were made to move $25,000 from the street department budget to be used for the street project, and council voted to approve.
Mayor Rose brought up the Hardy sign, and discussion regarding the contrast of the letters to the background followed. Munroe said the A&P had talked about putting sealant on the letters which might help. Rose thought that after some rain to clear the dust away, the contrast might be better. Rose expressed his approval, “It looks so much more professional, and it makes you kind of proud to see that.” Council members all agreed.
Bess then brought up an ordinance for council to consider regarding putting in a food court or allowing vendor trucks in Hardy. The ordinance, prepared by Munroe and read by Bess, declares there should be specifics on location(s), types of vehicles, accordance with current planning and zoning guidelines, hours of operation among many other regulations.
Council discussion followed with comparisons to other local cities that have such food courts, Batesville being one example. Councilman Gordon was concerned about a liability insurance requirement by the vendors. Some cities require that placement of a vendor truck would have to be on private property, and others may let them park on the street. It was agreed that the city attorney needs to be involved. Also the planning and zoning committee needs to be involved, particularly if a food court is being considered, which would involve electricity, water, sewer and other city services. The idea is being considered and will be tabled for a vote until a later meeting when more information is available and the city attorney is present. Until then, it was agreed council members need to have a separate working meeting to discuss more specifics and rewrite the ordinance.
Officer Rose had mentioned earlier in the meeting the police department was applying for a 75/25 percent grant to purchase another department vehicle which was much needed, particularly with an additional officer. The maximum amount that could be borrowed is $50,000. Bess read a resolution to apply for the grant specifically to buy a new police vehicle, which would require the City of Hardy to approve up to $12,500 in funding toward the project. Motions were made and passed by council to apply for the grant.
Treasurer Greg Bess made an announcement at the end of the meeting. “I will be retiring probably in November. I will be in the area, but I don’t know that I will be able to be as involved with the city as I am.” He had already spoken with Mayor Rose, though he had not yet turned in a written letter of resignation. “[The mayor and I] have worked pretty well together and frankly it’s been a hard decision for me to make because his administration has been pretty good to me,” said Bess. He will turn in a formal resignation probably in November, which gives council time to find a replacement before he leaves the position. If someone can start before he leaves, he is happy to train them to help make the transition seamless.
The Hardy City Council meets the first Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. at city hall.