Gould council adopts 2013 city budget

GOULD – This Lincoln County municipality’s six aldermen spent more than two hours Wednesday evening adopting a budget for the new year and five housekeeping ordinances, including several to address issues dating back to 2011 and 2012.

Mayor Earnest Nash Jr. told the aldermen he was “very excited about you … for stepping up.”

Nash pledged an “open door policy” at City Hall and promised “we will work together.”

Nash and four former council members were often at odds during the past two years.

“We have gone too long without pay,” Nash said in introducing his proposed 2013 city budget. “We have gone too long without paying our bills.”

Occupation taxes will be increased and collection enforced, Nash said, noting that several businesses have not paid the occupational levy for two years.

He also projected annual revenues of $70,000 in court costs and fines for the new year, an indication Gould will again have a police force.

The new General Fund budget approved by the council called for expenditures of $190,590 and revenues of $202,000. Street Fund expenditures were pegged at $54,436 and revenues at $56,000.

Once city finances are clarified, Nash added, the council likely will be asked to approve amendments, noting the proposed budget did not include expenditures for police vehicles and maintenance.

“Thank you,” Nash told the council after the budget was approved unanimously. “This is the first time I got a budget passed.”

The council approved paying a number of past due bills, including $6,651 for waste collections, utilities, Nash’s salary for 2012, Arkansas Municipal League dues and fees for 2012, and fuel charges dating to 2011.

Past due bills totaling $41,456 will be paid with municipal funds held by Simmons First National Bank and checks that were written to the city but were returned to send after they were not picked up at the Gould Post Office, Nash said.

In other action:

• At Nash’s request, the council voted unanimously to move the city’s checking accounts from Simmons to Merchants and Farmers Bank of Dumas.

“I’m not comfortable with Simmons,” Nash said, noting that the Bank of Star City declined to handle the city’s banking business.

• Authorized Nash, Alderman Essie Mae Cableton and Kisha Bailey-James, recently elected city recorder-treasurer, to sign municipal checks. State law requires two signatures on checks issued by a municipality.

• Authorized Nash to hire a locksmith to change the locks on several City Hall doors. Former Recorder-treasurer Pamela Barley-Gibson and Nash had a long running dispute last year over access to the recorder-treasurer’s office.

• Authorized Nash and Bailey-James to collect the city’s mail at the Gould Post Office.

• Adopted the National Flood Insurance Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for Gould.

• Agreed to hire the Gene E. McKissic and Associates law firm of Pine Bluff to represent the municipality.

• Agreed that the McKissic firm will answer questions addressed to Gould’s municipal government.