By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Brett Ware, 911 Director, was present to discuss the situation of the communication issue stemming from an aging telephone system. He explained the current system being utilized with Frontier Communication and other options the 911 Center would like to explore, such as a microwave system. Ware was aware that the council was contacted by a company called Micro Logic expressing interest in constructing a tower behind the water tower on the area known as White Gables, whom Ware has also reached out to. To explain the extent of the issue the first responders are facing, Ware stated, “Just in the last 30 days, we’ve experienced over 700 radio outages.”
Ware explained how the microwave system works compared to that being utilized currently and the benefits of converting to this system. In his conversation with Micro Logic, an interest was made to co-fund the project. Ware provided a preliminary study to the council showing a potential clear line of site and how the tower would be constructed if this route was sought. He further explained the AT&T Tower on Fork Mountain is another possibility, though there are issues with the power and service and maintenance control to name a few.
The purpose for Ware’s visit was to seek permission from the City Council to continue with further studies to validate the viability of the tower. He stated the tower could range between 150 to 200 feet tall and a narrower structure than that of Fork Mountain. “The advantages of us utilizing the city’s property and working with the city, one we can maintain that control, and two the city would obviously have free reign over utilizing that tower as well,” he said. A shelter and generator would have to be on site as a primary link for first responders to communicate with the 911 center via radio. A signal would be sent to the tower at White Gable’s which would then relay the signal to the tower at Centennial Park. “This is a crucial piece of infrastructure for us,” Ware continued. He was not asking the council for money but reiterated the benefits the structure could bring to the county.
City Administrator and Treasurer Jason Myers asked, “How big of a footprint are you looking at?” Ware responded, “Generally you’re looking at 150 by about 150 secured, fenced in area.” A concrete pad would be poured, a shelter constructed, and it would be a guideline structure with a small access road. Myers noted where the old backwash tower used to be would be the highest point of that location and is already cleared which could be suitable for this potential project. Councilwoman Amy Wagner asked if WiFi could be provided at the parks, using River City Park as an example. That location is considered a “dead zone” and for that reason, the TCHS baseball games cannot be aired on the radio. Ware confirmed he will work alongside Micro Logic, City of Parsons, and the county to try and meet everyone’s needs and desires if this project moves forward.
Mayor Judy fast forwarded to the line item pertaining to Ware’s request under new business asking for a motion from the council. Councilman Kenneth Morrison made the motion to move forward with Councilman and Recorder Bruce Kolsun making a second. All council were in favor, motion carried.
Anthony Jordan with SafeCo Environmental Inc. was also present as the low bidder for the demolition of the former P&C Furniture Store. Myers noted the only change to the contract was the contractor requested an addition 10 days to allow for a total of 40 days to complete the project and allow time for proper permitting. This company specializes in working with asbestos contaminated demolition projects. Jordan offered a brief overview of experiences and past projects his company has been a part of to offer some insight to his abilities. Wagner asked who would be responsible for traffic control given the location of the building, and Myers replied it would be the responsibility of the city. Councilman David Greenlief asked Myers what the amount was for the project, with Myers replying, “$42,000.” The council voted and unanimously agreed to move forward. Wagner then asked if the property was going to be sold afterwards to reclaim some of the costs along with the properties deeded over to the city in the agreement with the former owner. Myers said that was up to the council but was the intentions behind the project to offset the costs.
Judy moved on with the approval of the February 4 meeting minutes as presented. Financial Administrator Danielle Sponaugle presented invoice list one in the amount of $30,008.46 with a motion to pay made by Morrison with a second by Councilman Samuel Blosser. Invoice two was in the amount of $205.28 which also passed with Greenlief abstaining. Myers then presented October through January financial statements to the council for their review. Council discussed the budget revisions including the parking lot lighting project in partnership with the Tucker County Commission and Jon Bush with Piccolo Paula’s. This too was approved.
Employee and committee reports began with Myers providing minutes from the Water and Sewage Committee meeting that was held February 10 as well as from the Alleys and Streets Committee. Amongst these reports were projected requests from the Harman Fund in the near future. Those requests will be submitted to the Benefit of the Citizens of Parsons Committee that meets February 24 at 6 p.m. Morrison then made a motion to move $8,000 from the sidewalks and alley line item to the rainy day fund with a second by Blosser.
While discussing streets and alley ways, Wagner reiterated the need to make an alley coming off of Second Street a one way due to safety reasons. The one way would begin at the edge of the parking lot near Kibler’s driveway. An executive decision was made to move on this recommendation due to the severity of the situation and was agreed upon by all council.
Myers also informed the council that the new barricades have been built and are currently being used as the new lighting project is underway. The railing has been installed going up Second Street and the Community Center work is making progress he added. Myers called CPA Clint Athey for the city to touch on the rate issues within Parsons. “When you look at it, we haven’t raised rates for about eight or nine years,” he stated. He is still in the very early stages in determining what kind of rate increase would be needed to meet PSC standards, though roughly he is looking at a potential of 15 to 17% for sewage alone. Myers noted that when Thrasher looked into the tariff and rates, they projected a need to rise by approximately 22%. Judy asked if that raise were to be implemented, would the city continue to be written up when audited for being out of PSC compliance, which Athey believed it would. The difficult part of determining how much to raise the rates is attempting to project the future and costs associated with operating the water and sewage departments. A decision will also need to be made if they wish to keep the same structure for their rates or convert to a different approach, similar to Davis. Judy asked Athey what the expected amount it would be raising the citizen’s bills, with Athey noting that is something that will have to be configured when the tier structure is determined. Water will be looked at by Athey as well once sewage is addressed. Myers and Athey both noticed that over the last few years, expenses for the city have gone down however revenue has declined even more, though the customer base expanded causing him to question the reasoning behind it. “It was really shocking when you look at that,” Athey said. Morrison recommended giving Athey time to finalize the reports and then bring those to the committee to discuss if both rates will be addressed at once or staggered. Myers agreed looking at both and decide at one time because when the city is audited, the water and sewage is combined so the proactive direction would be to gather all data from both sectors and decide collectively. Judy recommended options for rate structures to compare as well to determine what will be the best approach especially for those on fixed incomes. “In a perfect world we don’t want to do this at all,” commented Judy, but they have to meet PSC requirements that are leading to write ups and notices from the Prosecuting Attorney for being out of compliance.
Myers showcased the new sign being installed at the Railroad Depot noting one change being made. Judy recognized the Depot Diner’s new sign as well and their highlighting the depot. Before moving on, Myers also informed after research, he discovered 319 sewer utilities in the state. Out of those, Parsons ranks at 134 with one being the lowest and 319 being the highest relating to rates. Pertaining to water, there are 366 throughout the state with Parsons falling in at 256.
Unfinished business followed with matters pertaining to the sewage extension project. A bid opening commenced earlier today, though certified bids could not be ready in time to present to council. “But, the apparent low bidder on the project is Brian Vandevender Contracting LLC,” stated Myers. “Their base bid is $489,677.50 with a deductive alternate of around $40,000 even,” he added. This came in slightly below projected costs. The highest bid received was over $800,000. The company, which is out of Aurora, now has to produce documentation before the contract can be signed and move forward. The council officially voted to award the contract to Brian Vandevender Contracting LLC pending the certified bid tab as well as the documentation. Morrison made the motion with a second by Blosser. If requirements are not met, the bid goes to the next lowest bidder. All were in agreement, therefore motion carried.
The Parsons Industrial Park Project was the next topic of discussion with the review to advertise to develop a master use plan for the future park. There was no update on the waste water project. Next was the discussion of the Zayo Group wishing to construct a fiberoptic tower in the city maintenance lot. Zayo offered $650 per month with the city wishing for $750. Attorney Pat Nichols recommended no more than $700 because of going rates for the projects. He also recommended changing the initial agreement of 30 years to 20 with a cap of raising the rate only twice in that timeframe and at no more than five percent. Once Nichols completes his legal review of the documentation, it will be sent back to Zayo for their consideration.
The company that owns the billboard at White Gable’s received the city’s proposed agreement after Nichols’ approval. Wagner brought up the money being made by the company accepting payments for ads in comparison to what the city is receiving to have the billboard on their property. Due to that and confusion relating to the email received from the group, Morrison moved to table the agenda item until further information is received, with Blosser making a second.
Two bids were received for the 2000 Sterling Dump Truck, one from Whitney Construction for $2,500, and a second for $6,610 from James Nelson. Morrison made a motion to accept the bid from Nelson with a second by Blosser, motion carried.
New business began with a recommendation from Bowles Rice relating to the personnel employee handbook reconstruction. “Our personnel handbook is 65 pages long right now,” said Myers. To accept a vetted, employee handbook already developed from the company it would cost between $2,500 and $3,000. “Ours is specific to us,” said Myers, so it would be taken and reviewed since a lot has changed since development in 2013. The insurance company is encouraging the city to do so for liability reasons; however, it will cost the city $8,000 to $10,500, which Myers said would have to come from the Harman Fund. Kolsun expressed concern for the city in the case they would be sued and the personnel handbook hasn’t been updated in seven years. Judy asked for a comparison quote, therefore Morrison motioned to table this item with Wagner making a second.
Myers also informed council that the ordinances have been received and they now have 60 days to review those documents. Kolsun reported on the members of the Parsons Economic Development Authority stating Roger Ware will be remaining and Commissioner Jon Bush would be coming aboard. Nick Amaro has relocated out of state and the others need to be contacted. “We have to have 12,” explained Judy. This too will be tabled until everyone is contacted.
Next was the consideration to hire Hoy Roy as a public works and street laborer on the same terms he currently is on under a different program. Blosser made the motion to hire Roy with Morrison making a second. Myers announced anyone who is 55 years of age and older on a low income can inquire for a position through the city on the aged worker program for four years.
An executive session was called to discuss the potential to acquire the building formerly called Jack the King’s on First Street. Upon returning to open session, Wagner made a motion was made for Nichols to contact the owner of the property with the desires of the city with a second by Morrison. Wagner and the council agreed it was a time sensitive matter.
Moving into the good of the order, Wagner stated she had spoken to the individual interested in working with the pond in Pulp Mill Bottom and handed out a letter from him to the council members. She requested this topic be put on the agenda to discuss at the next meeting. Blosser also wanted to know if the problem with one of the employees was taken care of, with Myers stating yes. Wagner expressed a need for the city council members to all be aware any time an issue arrives so everyone can be up to date on the happenings within the city, but Myers informed that depending on the situation everyone may or may not be made aware. However, Myers noted it was indeed taken care of.
The next meeting will be held March 17 at 6 p.m. which will also serve as the Harman Fund disbursement.