Green Forest council fills vacancy, reviews budget

Friday, July 27, 2012

GREEN FOREST -- The city council met Monday night to fill a vacancy on the council and to look over mid-year budget revisions.

Alderman Bill Niven resigned at the end of June, and Mayor Charlie Reece nominated Tim Hatman to fill the vacancy in Ward 2, Position 1. The nomination was approved by the remaining three aldermen. Hatman took his seat at the table as the mayor described changes in some line items.

Reece said the budget adopted at the beginning of the year has worked well. In some areas, the budget had included plenty of room to meet unanticipated expenses. "We overbudgeted at the beginning of the year," Reece said, "because we didn't know what we were looking at, particularly in wastewater."

The cost of sludge hauling has dropped well below the budgeted amount. With a new sludge press in place, that line item will drop from $165,000 to $100,000 for the year. However, the cost of chemicals has risen, and the line item for chemicals will rise from $320,000 to $500,000. Public Works Director Buddy Fry said the wastewater plant has had trouble removing high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen.

Fry said wastewater coming from Tyson Foods has recently been coming in with lower levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, reducing the need for chemicals, and he expects a new glycerin supplier to reduce costs by a third.

Anticipated engineering costs in wastewater have gone down, because some planned projects were dropped. Elsewhere in public works, however, engineering costs rose. In the budget for streets, the engineering line item for the year will rise from $30,000 to $50,000, which Fry attributed to work on Arch, Phillips, and Springfield avenues, and the Sixth Street ditch.

After going through the changes, Reece said he felt very good about the budget. The aldermen will receive updated copies of the budget before the Aug. 6 agenda-setting meeting, at which the council is expected to pass the budget revisions.

With the budget review completed, Reece took the opportunity to review the roles of the mayor and council. "Day to day management comes from the mayor," he said. The council primarily controls finances, and approves the hiring of department heads.

"It's important that council understands their role," the mayor said. "The dais is not a place to talk about your pet project, or some of the other things that have gone on here." Reece said he has "very little tolerance for people who just like to make noise, just to hear themselves talk."

Reece asked the council to come to him immediately with problems, rather than saving them until the monthly meeting. "If it's important enough to bring to council, it probably needs immediate attention," he said. Tackling problems as they arise will help make meetings go faster, and the mayor said he values input from the aldermen.

"We need to keep in mind that we're here to serve the public, and we're going to do that," Reece concluded.

In other business:

* The Exxon station is now selling beer, and Reece explained that he and Police Chief John Bailey both filed objections during the application process. The Alcohol Beverage Control board granted the permit, however, and the city cannot override that decision. Reece explained that the ABC sets the hours during which beer can be sold, and the police will be monitoring the situation.

* This was the first meeting as City Clerk/Recorder for Malea Fry, who was appointed to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Summer Fultz, who moved out of the city.

* Reece said he had considered asking voters for a temporary sales tax to pay for a new fire truck, but the state will have a new sales tax request on the ballot this fall, and so he will pursue grants instead.

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