Berryville seeking approval of bonds for improvements

Friday, November 9, 2007

BERRYVILLE -- Voters in Berryville will be casting ballots in special bond election set for next Tuesday, from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the Berryville Community Center.

They will be asked to approve two measures: refinancing $2 million in existing bonds; and the issuance of $4,150,000 in new bonds.

"This is not a tax increase, but a way to pay for capital improvements," said Mayor Tim McKinney when speaking at Tuesday's city council meeting.

Refinancing existing bonds and issuing new bonds is a way Berryville "can go forward" with improvements at the city's wastewater treatment plant to meet new phosphorous limits mandated by the state -- without raising taxes, he explained.

There will likely be a sewer rate increase in the near future to pay for operations, he noted, saying "we haven't had a sewer rate increase since 1985. We'll keep it to a minimum and use it for operations."

McKinney reminded everyone to vote on this important issue next Tuesday.

In other business, the council heard from Parks Director Emma Hamilton, who updated the council on park programs.

Included in her report was the status of the Berryville Community Center Foundation and its endowment, which stands at $4,419. She said they need $10,000 to start earning interest and a promotion is underway to reach that goal.

Several foundation board members will be visiting with organizations and businesses to promote a payroll deduction plan, she said. People can dedicate $2 a week from their paycheck to support the endowment, an amount that wouldn't be greatly missed. She said Tyson Foods used this method to garner funds for its Relay for Life team and was very successful.

The endowment will be used to make program and facility improvements at the BCC, she explained.

When reporting on BCC membership numbers, Hamilton said the total stands at 10,565, an increase of 78 in the last month alone.

Members represent 151 different Zip Codes, she said. The majority, 52 percent, call Berryville home. The next highest percentage, at nearly 17 percent, are from the Green Forest Zip Code, and coming in third was Eureka Springs at more than 11 percent. Holiday Islanders accounted for 4.25 percent.

Alderman Cindy George asked about membership fees, and was told annual family memberships are $100, the same price charged for annual individual memberships.

Hamiliton said those were the fees set when the BCC opened and they had never changed.

Hamilton suggested increasing the fee for family memberships and leaving the individual amount alone.

Baseball is the biggest park's department program, Hamilton reported, with 450 participants this year during the six month season. Revenues were $39,527 and expenses were $34,354, but noted ballpark repairs were not included as an expense.

Volunteers had logged 3,460 hours so far this year, she said. Court-ordered community service workers and adults residing at the Locust Heights Apartments, who are required to volunteer eight hours a month, accounted for 538 hours.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 20 at Berryville City Hall.

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