By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
A public hearing was held for the third and final reading for an ordinance setting forth the rates, fees, and charges for service for customers of the sewage system in the City of Parsons. Michael Whitely wished to address the Council regarding this matter before it went to vote. He said he had a few questions about the rates and how effective they will be in the future. “Is this going to cover the cost the town has, and if so, for how long?” asked Whitely. “Are we looking at a raise every year?” Councilman Tim Auvil responded saying the City is not meeting the Public Service Commission guidelines which eliminate them from being eligible for grant funds. If the City does not incorporate rate increases to meet the standards, the PSC can then come in and raise the rate which is typically higher than that of the City’s. “We’re kind of mandated to do this,” Auvil said.
“My real question is, are we looking at the future with this proposal you’re about to vote on?” “Next year are we going to be behind the eight ball on the cost of electricity, the cost of chemicals, the cost of labor, etc?” Auvil stated that the committee has agreed to re-evaluate the rates every three years to incorporate a raise if needed at a minimum level versus waiting for the census to come out every 10 years. Whitely reiterated he was not speaking on behalf of implementing a raise or not to raise, his concern was if it will be enough to meet the needs of the City and taking into consideration Parsons being an aging community that the demographics could greatly change between now and the next census.
Mayor Dorothy Judy then offered the third and final reading of the ordinance set forth for the rates, fees, and charges for service to customers of the sewage system of the City of Parsons. Councilwoman Melissa Jones made a motion to pass the ordinance with Recorder Bruce Kolsun making a second with all in favor.
Tammy Michael, Activity Director for Parsons, gave an update on forthcoming events, including an Easter Egg Drive-Thru on Saturday, March 27. This will operate much like the Trunk-or-Treat held in the Nursery Bottom for Halloween but will take place downtown. The event will run from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. and are for ages infant through 12 years old. For more information or to participate, call the City of Parsons Business Office at 304-478-2311. Sponsors are being sought to help with the expenses, as around 350 cars are expected.
Coming this summer, there will be a Car and Bike Show scheduled for Saturday, July 24, 2021. Michael is working with Travis Roberts who is working on securing a dyno for the day for the entries to rev their engines in. “This year we will be charging a registration fee, around $10 is the norm that they charge for a registration fee,” said Michael. She will also be contacting the PVFD to inquire about a potential chicken burn for the event.
The Senior Banner Project will take place once again with 78 seniors in the 2021 graduating class. Interested sponsors should contact Michael if interested in participating.
Dan Clark and Emily Wilson-Hauger attended via ZOOM on behalf of the Woodlands Development Group to propose an agreement between the City and WDG for the property at 199 Main Street. Clark stated they have been working with Mayor Dorothy Judy and City Administrator Jason Myers on several projects, most recently the building next to the Veterans Memorial. “Jason and Dorothy approached us a while ago and asked if there was something we might be able to do there,” said Clark.
Upon inspection, it became evident that the building is monetarily beyond repair, and WDG suggesting demolishing and constructing a new building being the best option. Communication has been ongoing with the owners whom Clark stated agree with their intentions, which are to provide commercial space on the main floor and apartments upstairs.
The WDG is putting together some preliminary plans to move forward with lending and to do so they are seeking an agreement between themselves and the City to utilize the space of the former P&C Furniture Store as future parking for the tenants. “Our lenders are going to need a long-term commitment of some kind,” said Clark, though he left it up to the City as to what kind of arrangement they felt was in their best interest. The specifics of an agreement were not needed at this time, but a letter of intent to allow the WDG long-term control of that space was what they were seeking.
Myers explained that the City has standards they must abide by to sell the property and it must be done through a sealed bid. If WDG would not be the highest bidder, it could prevent the project from taking place. “These folks are doing us a favor,” said Myers, if they don’t carry out the project, it will be the City who will take on the burden of tearing down the building. “As far as my opinion is concerned, I think it’s a perfect fit for what we need to get done up there and take away an eye soar,” added Auvil. “
“My opinion on this is that we need to leave it on the agenda where it’s at so that we can go into Executive Session on this,” suggested Jones. “I second that,” said Councilwoman Amy Wagner with Councilman Kenneth Morrison adding, “Yes, I agree, because I have some questions.” It was suggested to wait until after the Harman Fund Meeting to conduct the Executive Session to not hold up those there for that business. “But I’m just wondering if we’re allowed to,” replied Judy. Jones responded she felt this topic was best not discussed in an open forum.
Wagner stated, “When we acquired that property, I thought we agreed that once it was demolished it would be sold to recoup some of our losses.” “We discussed options, but we didn’t agree to it,” said Auvil. Jones again suggested the topic not be discussed until going into Executive Session. Wagner said, “I think there’s more talk that should have been brought to council on the get-go on it.”
As chatter began amongst the Council, Jones reiterated that an Executive Session was needed to discuss the matter before going public with a decision. “He wants a motion to know what we’re basically going to do,” suggested Judy. “I made a motion to wait until the agenda,” began Jones before Judy said, “But he needs a commitment from us tonight, doesn’t he?” “We can’t make a commitment tonight on what we’re going to do, that isn’t right, we’ve got to talk about it,” added Councilman Michael Matlick.
“It’s really not a big deal, guys,” said Myers. “It’s a lot bigger deal than what you think,” responded Jones. Wagner brought up again about recouping the costs of the demolition when Myers stated, “It was not in the minutes, there was nothing in the minutes that said anything about recouping our money, we’ve went back and we’ve gone through the minutes.” Jones brought up, again, the need to postpone further discussion on the matter until the Executive Session. “Well you may not have me,” proclaimed Myers, “I’m just about tired of this crap.”
Councilman David Greenlief, participating via teleconference, said he felt this was an opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of. This led to a passionate debate amongst the Council until Judy hit the gavel to bring the meeting back to order. Once the order was re-established, Jones said, “I again would like to make a motion to talk about this when it comes up on the agenda in Executive Session to make decisions on this property.” “OK if we do that can we at least make some kind of commitment to them so they have something by Friday because we won’t meet before Friday,” said Judy. Clark was then asked if they could call him back after they have the Executive Session, which he said would be fine. He added that WDG doesn’t necessarily need a lease agreement that night, but a letter of commitment to strengthen their financial request.
Before Clark left the meeting, Wagner asked a few questions for clarification. She asked if WDG would be interested in purchasing the property or only a lease. Clark responded they would do whatever made the most sense for the City of Parsons. She also asked about the families that are residing in the current building and how that would be handled. Clark stated that ample notice would be given and assistance would be offered to relocate and potentially bring them back into the new apartments.
The minutes from the March 2 meeting were approved followed by Financial Administrator Danielle Sponaugle presenting the invoices. The first invoice was for $32,783.13 and the second for $1,534.38, both of which passed unanimously. Myers provided the Financial Report for February, which Auvil and Jones motioned to acknowledge receipt of. The recap of the budget was reviewed, approved, and signed.
Parsons City Police Chief K.L. Keplinger gave a brief department report beginning with commending Patrolman N.C. Gidley for handling a domestic situation independently. “Just a tremendous job,” he said. Code Enforcement Officer Adam Arbogast has begun working and learning his new position which the Chief said is going well.
Within the next 60 days, approximately $580,000 will be issued to the City, though it is unknown at this time how the money will be permitted to be spent. The amount is based on HUD and census responses and comes as a result of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Covid-19 Relief and Economic Stimulus Bill).
Kingsford’s new sewage system is online and discharging to the Parsons system. A meeting is being scheduled for the Parsons Industrial Park to appoint a new President of the committee.
The Council then went into Executive Session to discuss the long-term agreement with WDG and the property on Main Street. Upon returning, Jones made a motion to submit a letter of intent to WDG for a parking area contingent upon the terms of the lease with Morrison offering a second. All members voted in favor of the motion and the motion carried.
The Parsons City Council will meet again on Tuesday, April 6 at 6 p.m.