By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – The City will have a new flag in about three weeks and new water rates in about four after actions by the board of alderman at the first Tuesday meeting, March 4.
The new city flag was selected from a number of entries submitted through the Chamber of Commerce and first presented to the board at their February meeting.
Aldermen agreed on a design submitted by Water Vallian Tommy Latham. The flag, according to information provided with the entry, symbolizes the three lakes and the three roads coming into town.
In the center is a seal that includes a stagecoach, a train and the courthouse. The two arrowheads depict the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes that were here when settlers moved into the area.
Alderman Tommy Swearengen made the motion to accept the Latham design and Alderman Sherry Martin added a second.
Alderman Lance Clement also voted for the flag while Alderman Fred White abstained and said, “I’m not going to vote either way and I’ll keep my opinion to myself.”
Mayor Bill Norris said that the flag was estimated to cost $273 from a Jackson company and should be ready in about three weeks.
Norris added that some merchants and organizations expressed interest in having a flag and he was looking at purchasing a dozen at $67.10 each for resale to interested groups.
The mayor plans to unveil the new flag during Founders Day activities on April 19.
Alderman White suggested that the both the national and state flags in the boardroom needed to be cleaned or replaced. “They are awful dirty.”
The aldermen also picked a city motto, proud past – exciting future, which was submitted by Ramona Bernard.
In other actions:
• Alderman voted to amend the 2005 ordinance detailing water and sewer rates in the city. The amendments call for an across the board rate increase and eliminates the descending rate which had been in effect.
The new law also more clearly defines classes of users. For example, an industrial user is defined as consuming more than 600,000 gallons per month. There are also classes for residential and commercial as well as non-profit rural water associations.
Board Attorney David Burns explained that a unanimous vote by all the board members and not just those present would be needed for the ordinance to take immediate effect. Because Charlie Harris was absent due to illness, the new rate schedule will not take effect for thirty days.
• The board agreed to advertise for a building and zoning inspector who would also serve as a flood zone inspector.
Mayor Norris told aldermen the person hired should have a background in construction.
“Not just in building, but in plumbing and electric. We need to have a person who knows the international building code and has a high school diploma.”
Water department manager Morris Surrette has been acting in the capacity as building and zoning inspector. However, the mayor said, Surrette would have an increased workload in his department because of new federal regulations and the replacement of worn out infrastructure.
• Aldermen heard from Attorney Burns who detailed negotiations between Vista III Media and the city’s consultant Greg Fender of Local Government Services. Vista III is in the process of selling it’s cable TV operations to Metrocast.
An audit by Fender showed that Vista III owned the city $3,543.93 in franchise fees while Vista III said the city owed them $1,615.80 in overpayments.
Vista III has been operating under a 40-year-old agreement that allowed them to use city utility poles for only $2.50 per cable attachment. Many cities get as much as six times that amount.
“We notified Vista III that we would not be renewing the agreement at those fees. They then said that they had looked at the audit and the city owed $53,851.17,” Burns said.
The city and Vista III reached an agreement through Fender to call it even on the franchise fees and focus on renegotiating the pole agreement, Burns added.
• Mayor Norris told the board he had been asked if out of town funeral homes could dig graves at the cemetery.
The aldermen agreed that it was up to the family since they were paying.
“What about clean-up?” the mayor asked.
Alderman White suggested the city should have a form drawn up for the out of town funeral homes to sign.
Attorney Burns said the city should set forth specifications outlining what the city expects along with an indemnity clause.
• The board instructed the mayor to get quotes to add a 20 x 40 storage building to the existing structure at the soccer field at the Crawford Sports Complex.
• Aldermen approved payment of airport grant invoices to Willis Engineering for $3,069.00 and J. M. Moore for $52,099.05.
Money for the project is coming from federal grants through the Mississippi Department of Transportation. The airport work is estimated to be about 88 percent complete. However, the mayor said he believes it is closer to completion.
• Aldermen approved payment of $2721.87 to the Burns Law Firm.
• The board agreed to include information about extended care insurance coverage for city employees with payroll checks.
• The board voted to correct a problem with the city zoning map that showed property in the area of Lafayette and Main Streets to be incorrectly zoned.
Referring to a burned out structure in the same area, Alderman Swearengen told the board, “If something doesn’t happen they are supposed to tear down that two story house this week.”
Mayor Norris responded, “That sounds great. There are some more things to tear down, too.”
• The aldermen then went into executive session a few minutes after 8 p.m.
After a short executive session, the aldermen returned to regular session and Mayor Norris asked for a motion to adjourn. He then told the remaining spectators and press that no action was taken during the session.