Bill Garrett received the majority of votes recommending his reappointment to the Stilwell Municipal Utility Board/Stilwell Area Development Authority board of trustees, with board member Marilyn Russell the only one voting no during the board's monthly meeting Tuesday, April 13.
Business continued with a vote to give employees a 75-cent per-hour raise, following Executive Session.
Amending of a contract with Updike and Bellen for water tower rehabilitation, to include additional construction inspections at a cost of $10,000, was approved.
“In their scope of work, inspections were not included but are an allowable cost out of the Cherokee Nation funds for this project,” said Shelldon Miggletto, grant writer for the project and Economic Development director.
In a discussion about changes in the retirement plan, the board agreed to move it to the next fiscal year, as both the board and City Council have to give additional consideration to options.
“We felt it was too quick to throw on the City Council. The Fraternal Order of Police suggested we do it. We’ll let our council consider it and plan budget-wise,” said Mayor Jean Ann Wright.
It is a big step, and accomplishment for the the Utility Authority, to even be able to consider it, said Robert St. Pierre.
“It will be about 10 to 25 cents per hour per employee, and about $30,000 for the Utility Authority to adopt it,” St. Pierre said.
Jerry’s Excavation Inc. was approved for directional boring services at Winfield Crossing, for $18,525.
“The work is completed and we recommend paying them,” said Larry Eagleton.
COVID administrative leave will remain as is, until the May meeting, when the board will consider updating it.
“Effective March 22, the city no longer offers COVID leave. At this point in time, taking the vaccine is a personal choice. We didn’t feel we should continue to give administrative leave and didn’t want there to be an opportunity to abuse that,” said Wright.
Not all city employees have been vaccinated – "unfortunately," said the mayor. In her opinion, if they’re exposed, they can use vacation or sick leave.
“I encourage everyone to get their shots. There are 150-165 active positives right how, so people are still coming in contact,” she said.
Utility Authority Attorney Dwight Birdwell added, “A lot of us were overjoyed it was going away. Now it’s back.”
He recommended the board give it another month.
“Leave the policy in place to see where we’re at. Then give it serious consideration if it continues to decrease,” said Birdwell.
In his monthly report, Eagleton said there were a lot of leaks following the freeze.
“We just came through a major freak and thaw. A lot of customers had a lot of leaks. We know by history who have major leads and we also have people who fill up swimming pools and use 50,000 gallons when they usually use about 7,000,” Eagleton said.
He recommended they forgive 50 percent of the sewer bill to those with large losses.
“It’s good public relations,” he said.
The bill would show a credit to offset the price, said Eagleton.
“On a water leak, I can see it, but to fill a swimming pool, they should get the credit. Sewer rates have been too low for years,” said St. Pierre.
Sewer charge minimum is $16 minimum and $4.50 per 2,000 gallons used.
One customer had a $602 water bill due to leaks from pipes bursting.
“A little bit of human compassion is in order for this,” said Garrett.
Board member Ronnie Trentham suggested they review the sewer fees so they are at least breaking even.
"I don’t want to over charge or go in a hole, either,” said Trentham.
Birdwell also suggested they wait a month to give him time to review the law regarding the rates.
If any changes are determined at the May meeting, customers will receive a credit or adjustment.
The hangup for the water tower completion is stencils for the lettering, said Eagleton, who anticipates the project being 100 percent completed in 30 days. Garrett estimates they're about 60 days behind.
“We’re working diligently getting the electrical installed and water line extension to the Dollar Tree property. We should be out of there in a couple of weeks,” said Eagleton.
The developer will have to pay the cost of service from the property line to the building door.
In his report, Miggletto said he’d returned from an Economic Development training in Little Rock.
“It was good networking. I met a developer who might be able to help us get an ice cream business here,” he said.
Wingfield looks different every day, he said.
Bond council Allan Brooks recommends the Utility Authority close out two loans by paying them off, Miggletto said.
“The money to pay them off is set aside and we should do it. They’re old loans, from 2001 and 2003,” St. Pierre sa