The Crossett City Council voted 5-0-1 to hire a general maintenance person for the city.

Councilwoman Crystal Marshall asked the council Monday to approve the hiring of a maintenance person in the city.

“We had already approved hiring the person, but it was just a few days later that we got the devastating news from GP, so we pushed pause on that,” Marshall said, alluding to the recent announcement of planned layoffs at Georgia Pacific Crossett. “The fact of the matter is, the structures are still deteriorating.”

Marshall said that she, the city’s deputy clerk and the public works director had looked over the books and found some areas where the city could save money. Councilcilman Dale Martinie also pointed out that the city pays out a high amount of contract expense and that the right highly skilled person could do that work in-house and save the city money.

“In the long run and it’s going to save money the sooner we address the issues,” Marshall said. “I would like to propose that we go ahead and fill that position.”

Martinie asked if there were expectations and job descriptions in place. Public Works Director Jeff Harrison said that the last time the council discussed it he put together a job description and worked on ideas for a work order system.

“If we get the right skill set person, we can save a lot of money, and those people are out there,” Martinie said. “There is no better time than right now to find that type of skill set available.”

No definite amount was given, but the council members discussed the large amount of money that the city spends on contractors each year for basic electrical, heating and air-conditioning work and construction.

“We are contracting out stuff left and right now, that if we had someone in house it would save us so much,” Marshall said.

Harrison pointed out that the city just spent $30,000 on pavilions at the sports complex that were contracted.

“You just spent $30,000 on pavilions at the sports complex that someone from Little Rock built instead of someone local,” Harrison said.

Councilman Cary Carter said he was concerned about funding the position in the future.

“So you’ve found money in the budget for this year, but what about next year?” Carter said.

Marshall said that $160,000 in loans were going to roll off next year freeing up some of the city’s budget.

Carter said that he would still be hesitant to spend a large amount of money right now since no one could predict how the upcoming census is going to affect the city’s funding.

“I understand that we do need it, but I’m worried about how we are going to pay for it four or five years from now,” Carter said.

Councilwoman Lynn Rodgers brought up the large amount of money that the city spent for emergency repairs of the Lucas Pond spillway and said that having a general maintenance employee could prevent things like that in the future. Rodgers said that the city spends more combatting an emergency than they would on prevention or general maintenance.

“When things are not maintained and someone isn’t in charge of looking at things holistically, it cost us more than what it would have cost us had we done the work along the way,” Lynn Rodgers said. “When an emergency happens, you don’t have any choice.”

Marshall said that adding this employee wouldn’t use any of the city’s reserve funds.

“Our goal was to find a way to do this without touching the reserve because to Mr. Cary’s point we really don’t know what the future holds,” Marshall said.

Marshall said that the city only allocates money one year at a time and that the future will look more bleak if structures are allowed to continue deteriorating.

“Since the announcement at the mill, we’ve had quite a few millworkers who have expressed interest in this,” Mayor Scott McCormick said.

Martinie said that the city should have no trouble finding someone who is “super qualified” to do the work needed.

The council voted to approve the new hire with Carter abstaining from voting.

In other news:

-The council questioned the status of the liens on the properties that were being condemned by the city.

Harrison said the documentation was sent to the city attorney’s office via certified mail in October. City Attorney James Hamilton said that he had not yet received them, but he would look into it. Hamilton said he would work this week to get them worked out.

Martinie asked about the 25 addresses that the city had on the list to be cleaned up.

“We’ve got 25 addresses that are to be cleaned up or torn down and only one has been completed,” Martinie said.

Harrison explained that there were three more on the list that were in preparation and he was waiting on approval from the state on some of them.

“By the time you do all of the paper work on them it’s going to take about three weeks to get them ready,” Harrison.

Martinie questioned what the crews who were supposed to be cleaning up these properties were doing when they weren’t cleaning or tearing down properties.

“Well that’s just it, the crews that are doing it have other jobs, they do that when we can get it scheduled,” Harrison said. “Our drainage department are actually the ones who do that.”

-Rodgers asked about the city’s mosquito contract with Austin and Sons.

McCormick said that his office was still working to get one in place, but it had not been done yet.

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