Eureka Springs city council OKs water rate increases

Friday, December 18, 2015

Eureka Springs city council passed a law with an emergency clause during Monday night's meeting to raise water rates.

Aldermen voted 4-1 in favor of the law. James DeVito and Terry McClung were absent and Mayor Butch Berry voted in favor of the law. Aldermen struck out references to sewer in the Ordinance 2234.

Alderman Bob Thomas questioned the need for an emergency clause.

"I don't see the emergency. We are getting footloose and fancy free with the emergency clause."

Berry said that invoking the clause would help the city save money.

"If we don't invoke the emergency clause, it would cost the city $8,000 again because water from CBWD is $8,000 a month," he said.

Alderman David Mitchell explained that the city read the proposed ordinance twice during the last meeting and nobody from the public objected to the rate increase.

"At the last meeting, we gave people two weeks to go on record and I didn't hear anything," he said.

Aldermen also passed a resolution authorizing Berry to negotiate and execute a parking lot lease agreement for the Carroll County Western District Courthouse parking lots with the county as the lessor and the city as the lessee.

Berry explained the lease was the standard agreement the city "has always done with the county" and that it allows him to negotiate with the county judge for the agreement.

"We do make money from the lease. Because of the issue with the drainage tunnel, the judge thought repairs were our responsibility and we determined it was the county's and we got a grant on behalf of the county," Berry said. "There's some people with quorum court that think they should take the parking lot back because we are making money. There are costs with parking enforcement and if the county takes over the lot, they will need to enforce those issues. They wouldn't have our meters."

Berry went on to explain the grant.

"We got a $140,000 grant and they ended up with 75 percent of the money and we got 25 percent and I thought it ended up very equitable since we used our labor and handled surfacing and re-striping which was a little over $20 grand for that portion," he said.

Berry also said the city is trying to hold one more budget workshop before the year's end and that Lonnie Clark, the city's finance director, is taking accrued leave time so the workshop will need to coincide with his schedule.

Mitchell, who has been a central figure to questioning the budget, said he was pleased with Berry's efforts nailing down the budget this year.

"We had three to four workshops proceeding up to this point and council was able to sit in and get good detail," he said.

Aldermen also approved Melissa Greene's renewal application for a seat on the planning commission.

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