Mayor James Firestone and the Vilonia City Council are contemplating asking voters to continue paying a half-cent sales tax that was approved in 2005 for the construction of the city hall.
The 2005 bond issue included a sunset clause that would allow it to "go away" in October with the paying off of the construction on the city hall in about eight years, said Mayor James Firestone addressing the council. The cost of the project, he said, was about $985,000.
Discussion Tuesday night included asking voters to rededicate the tax to another project such as the building of a ballpark and city maintenance facility or a community center or both. If approved by the council, the issue would be placed on the September election ballot.
"Our biggest business is rooftops," Firestone said. "We need to have some good parks."
Alderman Jim King suggested also looking into the building of a community center. While the parks and recreation is important, he said, the community center "would be a draw for every age of people."
"The parks are great but they are generally for younger people," he added. He said he would like to explore the cost of building all three projects.
"The community center is a great idea," agreed Alderman Kathy French. "But, we’ve already got irons in the fire on the ball fields."
Earlier in the year, the city purchased 18-acres for the ball fields and to house a maintenance building. It was said that rededicating the half-cent tax to the project would allow the fields and maintenance building to be built much sooner. Firestone said he will contact bond officials and ask for additional information and present to the council by the June meeting.
In other business:
• Firestone presented Vilonia resident Billy Mitchell a plaque for his dedication to the Vilonia Senior Citizens Center. Mitchell, who was instrumental in building the center in Vilonia, resigned his position as volunteer-director after 16 years of service. He referred to his tenure as an "act of love" and those who come to the center as his "extended family." He said he will remain on the Board of Directors in Conway. He also recognized many during his acceptance for helping with the center including city and school officials.
"My name is on here," Mitchell said referring to the plaque. "But, many other names should be alongside it."
• Firestone appointed Fire Chief Keith Hillman to the sewer board.
• The council approved the purchase of a new police vehicle, a 2014 Tahoe, at a cost of $25,478 without specialized police equipment. Chief Brad McNew said the money for the purchase has already been approved as part of his budget. He also said he has two vehicles immobilized due to transmission problems. One, he said, will be repaired.
• The council considered an energy savings report presented by Kenny Medlin of Genuine Energy Solutions of Cordova, Tenn. Medlin, who has been putting together the report for about a month, said he can save the city money with an "infrastructure refit" regarding lighting in all of the municipal facilities as well as at the ballpark. He told the council, based on data provided by the city, to include electrical bills and historical records as well as his findings, the projected cost of existing lighting, as is, for the next five years will be $624,767.88. The GES Solution cost for the same time period, he said, will be $115,532—a savings of $509,235.88. The total projected cost for equipment and installation, provided by GES, as well as the cost of maintenance insurance, he said, would be about $444,246.08. New lighting fixtures, he said, would need to be installed at the ball field. Other places, he said, it might be only replacing bulbs. He also estimated the city could pay off the new equipment, with a 25 year life expectancy, and installation in about five years and the estimated savings generated afterward would go into the city coffers. On several occasions he referred to "third generation LED lights" calling them the "latest and greatest." He also said the insurance and maintenance would allow the city to have a "fool-proof" guarantee of savings.
Medlin suggested the council enter into a contract Tuesday night. Firestone said many factors must be considered before any decisions could be made including the legal side regarding competitive bidding. He also asked for a sample copy of the maintenance insurance contract.
"This is a lot to digest," he added. "I’m not from Missouri but you’ve got to show me more."
In monthly reports:
• Fire department. Hillman said the school inspections have been completed. A couple of Boot Drives, he said, the fire department has raised about $2,100 for the Arkansas Angels Pageant and about $1,800 for the state MDA.
• Planning Commission. Johnny Fowlkes, city engineer/building inspector/code enforcement, said action on an 18-lot subdivision was tabled at the April commission meeting and will be discussed at the May meeting as well as the site plan for a new church to be built on Highway 107.
Fowlkes also said 18 building permits have been issued to date this year with seven being issued in April and May.
• Police department. McNew touted the praises of Officer Steve Austin who is in charge of the department’s officer reserve program. On that note, Austin introduced two new reserve deputies Todd Spradlin and Dustin Hartwick. The department now has four, he said, and all have completed the reserve program with specialized training.
• Vilonia Sports Association. John Alexander introduced himself as the new recreation manager at the park. He said he anticipates another record year with baseball and softball. The Mayor’s Cup, he said, is scheduled for June 8, with the season ending June 10. He said he also anticipates there will be fall baseball, this year, in Vilonia.
• Alderman Skip Cates said the annual Skip Bo/Rook/Texas Hold Em’ tournaments at the Senior Citizens Center, held recently, brought in about $2,440 for both the Senior Center and the Lion’s Club who co-sponsored the event.