Marked Tree Council approves policies for audit, talks dilapidated houses

Friday, November 18, 2016

Marked Tree's City Council took care of several items of business during its November meeting Monday. Among them were approving the 2015 audit along with some changes to address audit issues.

The council approved several policies that were brought up as a result of the audit. First, the council approved a police take home vehicle policy. City Clerk Pam Wright said the auditor told her the city needed one, though they were not written up for not having one this year. The council also approved a clerk/treasurer disaster recover/business continuity plan and a wireless security and use policy--both of which the city was written up for not having. Wright said she took it a step further and wrote up a disaster recovery plan for the city, which the council also approved. The three plans are meant to give city administration a way to operate in the event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake.

Also related to the audit, the council approved amending the wording of an ordinance authorizing the city to do business with the city council, city council business owners, city council family members, city employees, and city employee family members. Wright said the auditor required they rewrite the ordinance. And to make sure they had everything covered for audit purposes, the council also passed an ordinance to pay Fire Chief Jamie McCrary, who was hired as the contractor to repair the pavilion at Carver Park.

A big item of discussion for the night involved looking for ways to tear down dilapidated houses. Mayor Mary Ann Arnold gave the council information on the city's current one cent sales tax. She mentioned that Wynne has had success in tearing down one house a month, and their current mayor has torn down 73 houses. "That's what we want to pursue, but we have to have money to do it," Mayor Arnold said. Wright explained that there was a possibility the city might be able to use part of 12.5 percent of the current one cent sales tax. This 12.5 percent is set aside for the purpose of promoting industrial development and stimulating the local economy.

"We've talked about tearing houses down because there are no lots to build houses," Wright said. "We would have to go through the proper procedures, but I think it would stimulate the local economy." Wright noted that if they used that money to tear down houses, there was a possibility it could be challenged in court, so the council would need to approve every cent if they went in that direction.

Another option would be to change the wording on the tax to include tearing down dilapidated houses as one of the things it can be used for. A wording change would have to be approved by voters, but it would not be a new tax. It would just allow money already being collected to also be used for tearing down houses. After some discussion, Mayor Arnold told the council to think it over until the next council meeting.

Mayor Arnold also announced at the end of the meeting that she had appointed Michael Matlock as permanent police chief earlier that day.

In other business, the council:

*heard from Brandon Haley with St. Bernards Smoking Education, who spoke about working with cities to come up with smoking prevention policies.

*approved the accidental death and dismemberment plan.

*approved the firefighters income protection plan.

*followed Planning and Zoning's recommendation to not approve an ordinance that would have allowed a trailer over ten years old to be put on a property.

*approved a resolution to lease a copy machine. The city leases a new one every 4-5 years.

*approved a $5,000 transfer from the General Fund to the Judge and Clerks Fund for an employee's retirement. This is done every year and is in the 2016 budget.

*amended an ordinance to include $9,360 for additional work not foreseen in the first bid of $11,467 for repairs to the Sports Complex's parking lot. During repairs, it was discovered that there was no chat under the lot, just dirt, which Director of Public Works Wayne Hendrix said is why the lot had broken up. The additional cost was to correct this.

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