Paris Aldermen decided to postpone action on the two major items on the agenda for the Monday May 6 City Council meeting. Aldermen also decided to delay action on an ordinance changing the city’s sewer line repair policy. It was scheduled to come up for a third and final reading and a vote.
The first items concerned plans for a vote on a one percent increase in the city’s sales tax rate with proceeds being used to repair city water lines and make improvements at the city’s water production plant. The first ordinance up for consideration set a special election on the sales tax increase. The other ordinance levied the one percent increase.
Both were read for the first time. Under normal procedures, ordinances are read three times at separate meetings before a final vote is taken. However, if an emergency clause is attached, the ordinance can be read three times at one meeting and then voted on.
Paris Mayor Daniel Rogers said members of the City Council wanted additional time to educate the public about the sales tax proposal.
"It was read for the first time and discussed," he said. "The aldermen felt they wanted to educate the public about it over the next month and they want to hear more from the public."
Rogers presented the sales tax idea two months ago. Under his proposal, if voters increase the tax, the city will eliminate the $12 monthly ($144 annually) fee for trash collection. Rogers has estimated the tax would bring in about $500,000 a year. About $200,000 of that would be used to pay the cost of trash collection with the rest backing a bond issue for the water line and water production plant improvements.
If approved by voters, the one percent increase would bring the city sales tax to 1.5 percent. The city presently levies a half-percent sales tax which goes to Mercy Hospital in Paris. If approved, the total sales tax in the city would rise to nine percent, when counting sales taxes levied by the county and the state.
As for hearing from voters, Rogers said there were several citizens attending the City Council meeting and some had comments or questions about the sales tax proposal.
"The comments and questions were good," Rogers said. "I felt like they understood it. I just feel very positive about the whole thing and we’re going to try and figure out how to educate the public about it over the next month. I would encourage people to call Aldermen about this.
"I didn’t hear any negative comments about the idea," Rogers said. "People were just basically talking about how to get this out to the public more."
Rogers said the proposed ordinances will come up again at the June City Council meeting. If approved, a special election on the sales tax increase could take place no earlier than Aug. 13, Rogers said.
Those attending the meeting also heard from engineer Andy Dibble of the Mickle Wagner Coleman engineering firm of Fort Smith who is designing the water line and water plant improvements.
"He talked about the plan to add a 1.1 million gallon clear well to replace two smaller clear wells," Rogers said. "He also talked about adding a third clarifier at the water plant. It will increase the water quality and would cut our water loss because we wouldn’t have to backwash so much. He also talked about a new 12-inch water line that would be run next to Elm Street and replace an existing line. It would take the water line out from under the street."
Aldermen were also expected to take a final vote on an ordinance changing the city’s sewer line repair policy. It was first introduced in March. Under the proposal, the city would be responsible for cutting a city street to get access to a sewer line and repairing the street after the line is fixed. Presently, the property owner bears the expense of cutting and repairing the city street.
Rogers said Aldermen delayed making a decision because the city’s sewer superintendent discovered an existing ordinance dealing with sewer issues that needs to be coupled with the proposed ordinance.
"Nothing has really changed," Rogers said. "I think it will pass next month."