The Clifton City Commission met in regular session on Monday, February 27, 2023. All commissioners were in attendance, including Mayor Mark Staggs, Vice Mayor Eva Ruth Warren, Commissioner Jeff Letson, Commissioner Michael Francis, and Commissioner Tammy Prince. Also in attendance were City Manager Doug Kibbey and City Recorder Barbara Culp.
The meeting was called to order by Mayor Staggs. Austin Clark offered the invocation, and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by all.
A motion was made by Vice Mayor Warren to approve the minutes of the January meeting. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Francis, and the minutes were unanimously approved.
Next on the agenda was “New Business from the Audience.” Clifton resident John Dumont addressed the commission, stating that four months ago he had requested more enforcement of the speed limit on Pillow Street. Mr. Dumont went on to say that motorists were still speeding on Pillow Street, and in fact the situation seems to have gotten worse. Mayor Staggs said that he would make sure the street is patrolled more. City Manager Kibbey suggested making the intersection of Pillow Street and Church Street a four-way stop, and Police Chief Mike Wilson said that would be a very good option. Following further discussion, it was decided that a flashing speed limit sign would be put up along with another speed limit sign to see if the speeding improves before implementing a four-way stop.
Under old business on the agenda, City Manager Kibbey told the commission that MTAS Representative Chuck Downham will be back soon to revisit the applications received for the position of Clifton City Manager. Kibbey will be ceding the position at the end of June.
The first item of new business on the agenda was a review of the City of Clifton 2021-2022 audit. John Poole, city auditor, addressed the commission to briefly go over the audit results. He first explained his role in the audit, stating that he has three jobs. 1.) making sure the city provides information to the state, 2.) making sure monies coming in from property taxes, sales taxes, etc. are correct, and 3.) making sure that monies approved in the city budget are only spent on city business.
Mr. Poole said that he saw nothing of concern in this year’s city audit. The audit showed a surplus in both the water and sewer departments, and there is no current utility debt. Poole said that overall, the city’s finances are in “pretty good shape,” and that the numbers are going in the right direction.
There was only one finding in the audit, which Mr. Poole stated was a recurring finding in many smaller cities. The finding was for inadequate separation of duties, which from the state’s standpoint, means that there are not enough employees to handle duties at City Hall.
City Manager Kibbey expressed his opinion that this audit was a good one, and the next one probably will be as well. He warned that after that, the city could very well be going into the red if waste is not aggressively eliminated.
A Cyber Security Ordinance was next on the agenda. City Manager Kibbey explained that the state is requiring municipalities to have a cyber security plan in place by July 1. A motion was made by Vice Mayor Warren to approve the first reading of the ordinance. Commissioner Prince seconded the motion, and the first reading of the Cyber Security Ordinance was approved unanimously.
Next on the agenda was a CDBG resolution for the basketball court to be constructed at the ballpark. Discussion was raised about a better spot for the basketball court near the entrance of the park. City Manager Kibbey said that the site will have to be engineered and will require some dirt work, but it will be a more accessible location. Commissioner Francis made a motion to approve the resolution for the application of a CDBG grant to fund the basketball court, and Commissioner Letson seconded. The motion carried unanimously.
The closing of South Central Correctional Facility was briefly discussed at this point of the meeting. City Manager Kibbey said that the prison is state-owned, so they do not pay property taxes, and there should be little to no impact on the city’s general fund with the closing of the facility. He said that many are speculating that the facility will re-open at some point in the future, but that has not been confirmed.
Next was a discussion regarding archiving all internet activity on the city’s social media and website. City Manager Kibbey said that the city would be charged a fee by whatever company they decided to use for this, and in his opinion, it was unnecessary. The commissioners verbally agreed not to pursue the archiving.
The final three items on the agenda under new business were the water and wastewater rate ordinance, the natural gas rate ordinance, and the solid waste rate ordinance. After a lengthy discussion, Commissioner Letson made a motion to approve an 8% rate increase on water and sewer due to inflation. Commissioner Francis seconded the motion, and it passed on roll call vote with Commissioners Letson, Francis, Staggs, and Warren voting yes, and Commissioner Prince voting no.
With discussion continuing regarding the impact of inflation on the city, Commissioner Francis made a motion to approve an 8% rate increase on natural gas. Commissioner Warren seconded, and the motion passed on roll call vote with Commissioners Francis, Warren, Staggs, and Letson voting yes, and Commissioner Prince voting no.
The final item was the Solid Waste Rate Ordinance. City Manager Kibbey explained that garbage pickup continues to get more expensive, and that the county is basically trying to turn solid waste into an enterprise fund. Former Mayor Randy Burns was in the audience, and when asked his opinion on the solid rate increase, he said that he would recommend going with a 160% increase in order to keep the city from losing huge amounts of money. Mayor Staggs commented, “As long as I am sitting in this chair, the city is not going to lose money.”
Commissioner Letson made a motion to increase the solid waste fee by 160%, which will result in an increase of approximately $46.32 per resident per year. Commissioner Francis seconded the motion, and it passed on roll call vote with Commissioners Letson, Francis, Staggs, and Warren voting yes, and Commissioner Prince voting no.
Department reports were next on the agenda. Parks Director Eddie Simmons reported that his crew was spending most of their time getting the ballfields ready, and will get started on the dog park as soon as it is dry enough.
Fire Chief Lindsay Roberts expressed his thanks to everyone who helped with former Police Chief Jerroll Henderson’s retirement party.
Utilities Director Austin Clark gave a brief update on his department, including chemicals ordered.
Clifton Main Street Coordinator Cole Duncan addressed the commission next regarding their current projects. He said that the new Hasti Mart will open in April, and the new picnic tables on Main Street are already being used. They are in the process of trying to get Frank Hughes School on the Register of Historic Places, and they are getting help from students on various projects that qualify for their Community Service credits.
Police Chief Mike Wilson said that his department had applied for a grant from the Violent Crime Intervention Fund to be used for cameras on trailers that would monitor speed and potentially have license plate reader technology. He also said that former Chief Henderson would still be helping out with the department whenever he is available.
City Manager Kibbey said that everyone needs to get the word out for citizens to come to city meetings to learn about and discuss any issues.
Commissioner Letson said that he had spoken with a lady regarding a high water bill she received when she had a water leak she was unaware of. City Manager Kibbey explained that the city policy in these situations is to reduce to bill to the regular amount plus half of the overage for the cost of the leak, and the customer may make three monthly installment payments. This can be approved for customers at a maximum of two times per year.
Commissioner Prince asked if it would be possible to get a sign put up for the boys’ basketball team winning the District Tournament. It was decided to wait and see how far the team goes in the Sub-State and State Tournaments.
With no further business to come before the commission, the meeting was adjourned.