The Crossett City Council voted Tuesday night to send a special tax election for sewer improvements to the voters.
The council also directed the Crossett Sewer Commission to pay $15,000 for an engineer to split the project into pieces at the request of the Economic Development Administration.
Sewer Commissioner Claude Spainhour presented the council with two ordinances to move forward on the planned infrastructure improvement known as the East Crossett Sewer project.
An attorney from Wright, Lindsey and Jennings — the office functioning as bond attorneys for the matter — was present to answer any questions that the council had regarding the project. One of the big issues discussed was the matter of grant funding.
Spainhour told the council that the sewer committee wished to pursue the project without grant funding because of the grant requirements. Spainhour said their most recent request — which was to split the project in to smaller chunks and allow the EDA to fund a portion of it — was more than it was worth.
Spainhour said what the EDA was requesting would require an engineer at a cost of approximately $15,000. He was also concerned about keeping the projects separate once they were all in progress.
“We would artificially be splitting this into two projects and this is one project,” Spainhour said.
He told the council it would be a nightmare to manage financially and he and the commission agreed it couldn’t be done.
Commissioner Charles Noble spoke up to add that it would also create problems if there were different project managers and that it would cause their project to fail by too many people being involved.
Noble said he was concerned about engineers taking ownership of a problem if other engineers had worked on the same site, should problems arise after the project was complete.
Crossett Economic Development Director Mike Smith said that he felt that the $15,000 was a small price to pay considering the city could potentially get as much as $2 million in aid for the $7 million project.
“I can’t promise that we will get the grant, but I can tell you that I don’t believe they would still be working with us and ask us to spend this amount of money if they weren’t seriously considering giving us something,” Smith said.
Smith also told the council that the grant is budgeted to have someone manage the types of issues the commission is concerned about and that the split would just be on paper.
City Attorney James Hamiliton spoke up and said that as a citizen he felt like any effort to relieve the taxpayer of a burden should be taken.
Economic Development Commission President Howard Beatty said the city would be letting the taxpayers down should they abandon this grant.
Councilwoman Crystal Marshall made the motion that the council direct the sewer commission to pay the $15,000 for the grant, but before a second was made Mayor Scott McCormick asked if the economic development commission would consider paying for all or half of it.
Beatty said he couldn’t speak for his board, but that his board has stepped up in the past when asked. Beatty also voiced concerns about being paid back through the bond issue.
The attorney representing Wright, Lindsey and Jennings said that Beatty was correct, that should the sewer commission pay it they would be reimbursed through the bond issue, but the economic development commission would not.
Marhsall maintained her motion to direct sewer commission and it was seconded and passed unanimously.
The council also adopted the two ordinances Spainhour presented.
The issue will now go to special election. Voters will determine if they want a 0.5-cent sales tax to pay for the East Crossett Sewer project.
In other news:
-The council approved that Greg Sivils be appointed to another eight-year term on the water commission.
-A representative of Friends of the City of Crossett spoke on behalf of the group about its intentions to raise money to remodel the tennis courts and finish the pool project.
Bill Runyun told the council that the organization would need government backing in order to secure certain grant funding.
-The council approved the appointment of an auditorium board.
Wanda McGhee, Bessie Dawson, Doris Fockey, Lynn Rogers, Tonya Cooper, Joshua Wayne, Lauren Richards and Shawn Carpenter were named to the board, with Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Sarah Hollimon serving as an ex officio member.
McCormick said that Judy Stevens had showed an interest in being on the board and asked if she was considered. Holimon said the board members chosen were those that she thought shared the same mindest as her and that she didn’t want people on the board who had been on the previous board.