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Austin council OKs city hall plans

The proposed expansion of Austin’s hall would more than double the current office space, and would add a multi-purpose room for council meetings, district court and community events.
The proposed expansion of Austin’s hall would more than double the current office space, and would add a multi-purpose room for council meetings, district court and community events.

Although there is promise of yet another new business at Austin, Austin’s wastewater rates could become a monkey-wrench-in-the-works in plans for yet another new business at Austin. Approval of plans for the business, plans for expansion of the city hall, adoption of a noise ordinance and postponement of a parking ordinance were among the agenda items for the April 22 Austin City Council meeting.

Mayor Bernie Chamberlain and city council members Laurel Carnes, Anthony Fibel, Matt Sheets, Tammy Williams, Randy Ryan and Phillip Whiting attended the meeting.

Aldermen approved the site plan for a Tastee Freez restaurant, which would be built next to the Dollar General store.

However, owner Billy Johnson asked the council to consider a business rate for wastewater charges. The city currently has no business rate; the residential rate now charged would push his costs too high, Johnson said.

The council agreed to consider lower rates for businesses, although any changes would require approval from USDA/Rural Development.

The current rates were determined by USDA/RD as a condition for a Rural Development loan obtained by the city for wastewater treatment plant improvements.

The matter was moved to a special meeting set for Monday, April 29, at 6:30 p.m., along with bid opening for street paving.

Aldermen approved continuing with plans to expand city hall into the adjoining lot, on the south side of the current city hall.

The expansion would more than double the existing space, and would add a community room to be used for council meetings and district court.

Discussion about the proposed parking ordinance was tabled to the May council meeting when Sheets and Whiting argued against the prohibition of cars in driveways impinging on sidewalks.

Sheets argued against the limit, saying the prohibition placed too many limits on driveway parking, when on-street parking was also prohibited.

“What we will end up with is people having to park on the grass,” Sheets remarked.

Aldermen also approved spending $800 for an aerator for the wastewater treatment plant. City utilities supervisor John Ryan said the aerator was recommended by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality because the dissolved oxygen levels of the water had approached limits during the summer.

Although the levels were within limits, the aerator would be a proactive move to avoid emergency action next summer, Ryan said.

During review of the city finances, Sheets pointed out the with a end-of-month general balance of more than $500,000. In 26 months there has been a 220 percent increase from $157,000 in Jan. 2011, he said.

“We have bought a lot of new equipment, upgraded infrastructure … this is a credit to our city leaders,” he said.

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