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COUNCIL MINUTES APRIL, 2023

05/17/2023

CITY OF GASSVILLE, ARKANSAS
MINUTES FOR THE REGULAR CITY COUNCIL MEETING
APRIL 18, 2023   

     A regular meeting of the City Council of the City of Gassville, Arkansas was held on Tuesday, April 18, 2023 at the Gassville Community Center.  Mayor Braim led those in attendance in saying the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag and in offering a word of prayer.  The meeting was then called to order at 6:00 PM by Mayor Jeff Braim, Presiding Officer.   

     Upon the calling of the roll, those in attendance were Council Member Kenneth Smith, Council Member Tim McFarland, Council Member Anita Seaman, Council Member Naomi Lassen, Council Member Ernest Adkins, Council Member Ralph Bird, Mayor Jeff Braim, and Recorder-Treasurer Jeff Lewis. Department Heads in attendance were Police Chief Tim Mayfield and Water and Street Superintendent Michael Dewey.

     Mayor Braim then presented a plaque and flag to the members of the Gassville Tree Committee from the Forestry Service.  Gassville joined the Tree City USA program in 2022.  Two highway signs proclaiming such were also provided.  They will be placed on the city limit signs on U. S. Highway 62/412.  In addition, a tree valued at $200 will be provided to Gassville, which will probably be planted at the Lancaster Park.

     The minutes from the February 21, 2023 regular meeting had been presented to the City Council for approval.  Council Member Bird moved to approve the minutes as presented, which motion was seconded by Council Member Adkins.  There were no corrections or additions called for, whereupon the Mayor called for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  There were no nays, and the motion was declared to be carried.

     Also presented to the City Council were minutes from the public hearing held on water and sewer rates on February 21, 2023.  Council Member Adkins moved to approve those minutes as submitted, which motion was seconded by Council Member Seaman.  There were no corrections or additions asked for, whereupon the Mayor called for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  There were no nays, and the motion was declared to be carried.

     The financial report for the month of February, 2023 had been provided to the City Council.  Mayor Braim stated that one change had been made to the report.  The balance in the Ductile Iron Depreciation Fund was actually $44,377.92 at the end of February.  As of today, the balance in that fund is $46,319.51.  Once the fund is been built up to $50,000.00, transfers into that fund can cease.  Council Member Lassen moved to approve the February financial report with the one change noted.  This motion was seconded by Council Member Bird.  The Mayor called for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  There were no nays, and the motion was declared to be passed.

     Next, the minutes from the public hearing held on March 21, 2023, which had been presented to the City Council, were up for approval, as were the minutes from the March 21, 2023 regular meeting, which was not conducted due to lack of a quorum on roll call.  Council Member Seaman moved to approve those minutes as presented.  The motion was seconded by Council Member McFarland.  The Mayor called for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  There were no nays, and the motion was declared to be carried.

     Finally, the financial report for the month of March, 2023 had also been provided to the City Council for approval.  Council Member Bird moved to approve the March financial report as submitted, which motion was seconded by Council Member Lassen.  Mayor Braim called for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  There were no nays, and the motion was declared to be carried.

     Chief of Police Mayfield gave the police department reports for the months of February and March, 2023.  They were both accepted into the record without objection.  Chief Mayfield also mentioned that one of the patrol vehicles that had been involved in a collision with a deer has been repaired and is back in service.

     In the absence of Fire Chief Glotzl, the Mayor gave the fire department reports for the months of February and March, 2023.  They too were both accepted into the record without objection.

     Mayor Braim informed the City Council that he had been in discussion with the City Attorney and with personnel at the Arkansas Municipal League with respect to the sale of the 1997 fire department vehicle that the City Council previously approved.  The city must solicit sealed bids for the sale of the vehicle since the value of the vehicle is in excess of $20,000.00.  It was suggested that a minimum bid of $60,000.00 should be required. 

     Council Member Smith questioned the need or purpose in selling this vehicle and expressed his opposition to it.  No action was taken to reverse the previous decision that had been made to sell the vehicle. 

 

 

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     Council Member Bird then moved that the city advertise for sealed bids for the 1997 fire department vehicle, with a minimum bid of $60,000.00 being established.  This motion was seconded by Council Member Adkins.  After discussion, the Mayor called for the vote.  Council Members McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  Council Member Smith voted against the motion.  The Mayor declared the motion carried as there were five votes in favor and one vote against.

      Mayor Braim then gave the building inspection reports for the periods of 02/17/2023 to 03/21/2023 and for 03/22/2023 to 04/18/2023.  These were also accepted into the record without objection.

     The Gassville Planning and Zoning Commission had met on March 13, 2023.  Minutes from that meeting had been provided to the City Council.  Council Member Seaman moved to approve those minutes as presented.  The motion was seconded by Council Member Adkins.  The Mayor called for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  There were no nays, and the motion was declared to be carried.  The commission did not meet in April due to lack of an agenda.

     With respect to the Cotter-Gassville Joint Sewer Commission, Council Member Seaman reported that the commission did not meet in March due to lack of agenda, and it did not meet in April due to lack of a quorum.  The only report given was that all easements obtained for the "Phase II" reconstruction project on the sewer collection line system along the White River have been submitted to legal advisors with the state for review.

     Under unfinished business, the City Council first took up consideration of Proposed Ordinance 2023-01 on its second reading.  Council Member Lassen moved to suspend the rules and place the proposed ordinance on its second reading by title only.  This motion was seconded by Council Member Bird.  The Mayor called for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  There were no nays, and the Mayor declared the motion carried.  Thereupon, Recorder-Treasurer Lewis read aloud the title of the proposed ordinance, entitled:

"ORDINANCE NO. 2023-01.  AN ORDINANCE AMENDING ORDINANCE 2017-02 ESTABLISHING WATER RATES FOR THE WATER SYSTEM OF THE CITY OF GASSVILLE, ARKANSAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH COMPLIANCE OF ACT 605 OF 2021 AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES."

 

 

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     Proposed Ordinance 2023-02 was also up for consideration on its second reading.  Council Member McFarland moved to suspend the rules and to place the proposed ordinance on its second reading by title only.  The motion was seconded by Council Member Seaman.  Mayor Braim called for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  There were no nays, and the Mayor declared the motion carried.  Thereupon, Recorder-Treasurer Lewis read aloud the title of the proposed ordinance, entitled:

"ORDINANCE NO. 2023-02.  AN ORDINANCE AMENDING SECTION 7 OF ORDINANCE 2019-03 ESTABLISHING A NEW USER CHARGE FEE PER 1,000 GALLONS OF SEWER USAGE IN ACCORDANCE WITH A RATE STUDY COMPLETED FOR COMPLIANCE WITH ACT 605 OF 2021 AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES."

     Continuing under unfinished business, the City Council took up consideration of Proposed Ordinance 2023-03 on its second reading.  Council Member Lassen moved to suspend the rules and place the proposed ordinance on its second reading by title only.  The motion was seconded by Council Member Seaman.  Mayor Braim called for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  There were no nays, and the motion was declared to be carried.  Thereupon, Recorder-Treasurer Lewis read aloud the title of the proposed ordinance, entitled:

"ORDINANCE NO. 2023-03.  AN ORDINANCE AMENDING ORDINANCE 2017-04 ESTABLISHING WATER AND SEWER CONNECTING FEES IN THE CITY OF GASSVILLE, ARKANSAS AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES."

     Lastly under unfinished business, the City Council took up consideration of Proposed Ordinance 2023-05 on its second reading.  Council Member McFarland moved to suspend the rules and place the proposed ordinance on its second reading by title only.  This motion was seconded by Council Member Seaman.  Mayor Braim called for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  There were no nays, and the motion was declared to be carried.  Thereupon, Recorder-Treasurer Lewis read aloud the title of the proposed ordinance, entitled:

"ORDINANCE NO. 2023-05.  AN ORDINANCE DESIGNATING THE PERSON(S) RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RECONCILIATION OF CITATIONS ISSUED BY THE CITY OF GASSVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT IN THE GASSVILLE DIVISION OF BAXTER COUNTY DISTRICT COURT."

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     Moving along to new business, the Mayor recognized Mr. Brian Haas, CPA, who is the auditor for the water and sewer system, to address the City Council with respect to his duties and obligations.  Mr. Haas informed the City Council that in the past he has taken the individual financial statements provided to him by the City on the multiple water and sewer system funds and has compiled them together into a comprehensive combined single financial report, which he then uses to prepare his audit.  The City Council then reviews and approves his audit report, which is then forwarded to the state oversight authority.  Mr. Haas stated that he is no longer allowed to be involved in preparing the city financial reports that he uses to then compile his audit report.  Although not required by state oversight authorities, Mr. Haas stated that federal credentialing authorities that set standards for certified public accountants such as himself will no longer allow him to be involved in producing financial reports that the City should be producing on its own from which he can then audit.  Mr. Haas indicated that this change has required the City to use either city employees or other outside entities to prepare and provide the type of financial reports that he needs in order to conduct his yearly audit of the water and sewer department.  Mr. Haas also suggested that the City of Gassville begin invoicing the City of Cotter for its share of expenses monthly, rather than bi-monthly as is currently done, in order to improve cash flow.   Mr. Haas then took any questions that Council Members had, and he then left the meeting.

     After Mr. Haas left, City Bookkeeper Teresa Cooke was recognized by the Mayor to speak.  She had prepared a 20 page hand-out packet, which she gave a copy of to all city officials.  This material related to various concerns and grievances she has with situations that have developed concerning bookkeeping and accounting procedures and other changes that have been recently implemented within the water and sewer department. 

     Those concerns included representatives from a company called "Twins Bookkeeping Service, Inc." utilizing the bookkeeper's login user ID and password to access the city's accounting software, and another city employee using the bookkeeper's login user ID and password to access online banking, including after office hours and from a remote location, using what is called a "token".  Adjustments were apparently being made to accounting records in QuickBooks using the bookkeeper's login access that the bookkeeper did not herself make. They were made by someone else. There were also concerns raised regarding a discrepancy in a bank reconciliation on the Sewer Operation and Maintenance Fund because of entries that had been made in the city's accounting software that the bookkeeper did not herself make.  After contacting QuickBooks and working with their representative, the bookkeeper was later able to reverse these entries and correct the discrepancy that had been created. 

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     There were several other issues and concerns expressed by the bookkeeper.  The bookkeeper said in her written statement that the reason she wanted to bring these issues before the City Council is because "...I do not feel like my job is secure."  For the purpose of annotating the full list into this record, a copy of the bookkeeper's three page written statement is attached hereto.

     It should be pointed out that no city funds are missing or unaccounted for as a result of these issues.

     Upon reading the hand-out material provided by the bookkeeper, a lively and sometimes heated exchange occurred between the Mayor and Council Members. Mayor Braim had hired Twins Bookkeeping Service to prepare financial reports of the kind that Mr. Haas says he needs for his audit.  However, it was learned during this discussion that there are familial connections between Mr. Haas and the co-owners of Twins Bookkeeping, as well as with one of the other clerical employees working in the City Hall.  This raised significant concerns by Council Members. 

     Discussion continued for quite some time.  Although no formal motion was made or vote taken after this discussion had concluded, the City Council demanded by consensus that all ties between the City of Gassville and Twins Bookkeeping Services, Inc. be severed, and also that no person be allowed or permitted to use any other person's login ID and password to access city accounting records or online banking records. Mayor Braim stated that Twins Bookkeeping Service is currently no longer being utilized by the City of Gassville. 

     Continuing the meeting under new business, the City Council took up consideration of Proposed Resolution 2023-04, which would allow for a "No Mow May".  Council Member Seaman sponsored the resolution and gave an explanation of its purpose, which is to provide additional habitat for our important pollinators.  Participation in "No Mow May" would be entirely voluntary on the part of any person or resident that would like to join in the effort to help the pollinators.  The city's weed control regulations and associated fines would be held in abeyance for the month of May each year to allow for this program.  Council Member Adkins moved to have the proposed resolution read aloud, which motion was seconded by Council Member Lassen.  Upon the Mayor's calling for the vote, Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, and Adkins voted for the motion.  Council Member Bird abstained from voting.  There were no nays, and the Mayor declared the motion carried.  Thereupon, Recorder-Treasurer Lewis read aloud the proposed resolution entitled:

 

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"RESOLUTION NO. 2023-04.  A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF GASSVILLE, ARKANSAS TO SUPPORT THE NO MOW MAY INTIATIVE."

     Council Member Adkins moved to adopt the resolution as read.  This motion was seconded by Council Member Seaman.  The Mayor called for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, and Adkins voted for the motion.  Council Member Bird abstained from voting.  There were no nays, and the Mayor declared the motion carried.

     The next order of business was the opening of banking proposals that Mayor Braim had solicited.  Gassville's two year agreement with Farmers and Merchants Bank is expiring.  Mayor Braim contacted nine separate area banks for proposals, and seven of them responded:

Arvest Bank
First Security Bank
Centennial Bank
FNBC
Farmers and Merchants Bank
Anstaff Bank
Bank OZK. 

     Mayor Braim opened and read each proposal, which were based upon a specific set of questions he had asked.  First Security Bank offered the best interest rate return on city accounts.  After listening to each proposal, Council Member Lassen moved to transfer all city accounts to First Security Bank, if First Security Bank would waive two separate fees they had specified in their proposal, otherwise all accounts would remain at Farmers and Merchants Bank for another term.   This motion was seconded by Council Member Bird.  Mayor Braim called for discussion, then for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  There were no nays, and the Mayor declared the motion carried.

     Continuing with the agenda, Mayor Braim announced he had hired Cheri Cupa for the new full time bookkeeping/clerical position that the City Council recently approved to be created.

     The Mayor reported that the new pavilion at the city park has been completed.  He commended Superintendent Dewey and Cooks Building Co. for their hard work on the project.  He has insured the structure for $100,000.00. 

 

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     The new water well has been completed and insured for $375,000.00.  The pump is installed but not yet operational.  Pump house construction is underway.

     The new backhoe purchased by the street and water department, a 2023 model, was delivered last week at a cost of $40,694.00 after trade-in of the old one.  This includes a two year protection plan. 

      The topic of the city reimbursing employees for the cost of their personal cell phones was raised.  The city currently reimburses full time employees in the public works and wastewater treatment facility departments  $25.00 per month.  It was suggested that the City Council look at providing the same reimbursement to office employees and part time employees.  Council Member Bird moved to authorize a $25.00 reimbursement to all full time city employees who use their personal cell phones for city business, as well as providing the same reimbursement to all part time city employees if recommended by the part time employee's department head.  This motion was seconded by Council Member Adkins.  The Mayor called for the vote.  Council Members Smith, McFarland, Seaman, Lassen, Adkins, and Bird voted for the motion.  There were no nays, and the Mayor declared the motion carried.

      Updates in several areas were provided by Mayor Braim, to-wit:

1.      There is approximately $4,000.00 left over from the purchase and installation of the new park pavilion.  Areas adjacent to the pavilion have been widened to 8 feet.  It may be possible to use this left over money to continue widening the walking trail path in sections. 

2.     Subgrade work will get underway soon at the Lancaster City Park for the recreational trails grant project.

3.     Rental for the city park pavilion is currently set at $25.  The new pavilion has approximately twice the area of the old pavilion.  It was suggested that the City Council might look to make adjustments to this fee, or to perhaps divide the pavilion into two separate sections to rent out.  No action was taken.

4.     The Gassville In The Park Festival is set for Saturday, June 3rd.  The committee has been meeting and working on getting sponsors and vendors.  Mr. Robert Simmons will serve as the Grand Marshal in the parade.

5.     Sheila Wingard will be at the Community Center at 5:30 PM on May 16th at 5:30 PM, prior to the City Council meeting, to take new photos of Council Members.

6.     Mayor Braim will be calling a work session sometime in May to discuss nuisance properties and potential condemnation proceedings.

7.     A new Family Dollar - Dollar Tree combination store is being built in Gassville.

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8.     Council Member Lassen reminded everyone to let the City Tree Committee know of any trees being planted or removed in the city so that credit can be recorded.  The only thing the committee needs to know is the date, how many people were involved, and how much time was spent on it. 

     There being no further business to come before the City Council, the meeting then adjourned at 8:45 PM upon motion of Council Member Bird, seconded by Council Member Lassen, with all members voting in favor.

 

 

Submitted by:     /s/ Jeffrey Lewis,
                           Recorder-Treasurer

 

Approved by:           /s/ Jeff Braim,
                                    Mayor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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