By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times
City leaders have approved a land exchange and contract involving property at Gary Park and Whites Creek Lake.
The action came four months after Mayor Dan Burchfield, during a meeting of the Eupora Board of Aldermen, reported problems the city had with the legal descriptions dealing with the lake levee inspection.
Burchfield said the city needed to clear and maintain a strip of land at the base of the dam owned by Rusty Bowen, and suggested a land swap with city-owned property on the west side of the entrance to Gary Park
The board, on Sept. 3, authorized a related title search and land survey. On Nov. 4, following an executive session for potential litigation, aldermen authorized Jerry Gary (at-large) and Burchfield to negotiate the best terms for the land maintenance acquisition for the city. The matter was also discussed Nov. 18.
Copies of the contract for the exchange of real property were presented to the board on Dec. 2. Aldermen approved the land swap with Bowen and the contact as negotiated.
Bowen, according to the contract, will convey 2.91 acres along the toe of the levee to the city, while the city will convey a parcel of the same size on the northernmost part of the Gary Park property to Bowen.
The city and Bowen agreed to these conditions as part of the land transfer:
• The city will remove a fire hydrant just north of Hall Road and near the drive into Gary Park by March 31.
• The city will rebuild the fence on the southeast side of the Whites Creek Lake levee by July 31.
• Bowen will continue granting an access easement to the emergency spillway and the city will maintain the easement for the purpose of maintaining the spillway.
• Bowen and the city will continue sharing the entrance to Gary Park until the city can construct an expanded one or March 31.
Planner George Crawford of the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District met with the board last week about the city’s planned lagoon stabilization project, which is being funded by a Community Development Block Grant.
The city received no public response following a published “notice of public explanation of proposed activity in the 100-year floodplain” regarding the project.
The board authorized the PDD, which is the administrative agent for the lagoon grant, to publish a combined notice of no impact on the environment and to take any other steps required for the project to proceed.
Additionally, the city is applying for a USDA Rural Development grant to buy a backhoe for the Water Department. The board authorized the PDD to proceed with preparation of a pre-application for the grant in the absence of any negative comments at a public hearing on Monday.
Upon the recommendation of Fire Chief Richard Love, the board approved Brandon Vaughan as a member of the Eupora Fire Department. He is a certified volunteer firefighter.
Police Chief Gregg Hunter reported that a burglary occurred at Springer Pawn & Gun on Nov. 27 but nothing was taken. Hunter said someone got into the attic but that the alarm sounded when the burglar dropped down onto the ceiling, and he fled. The burglary occurred about 8 p.m., according to 911 reports.
During a discussion of the most recent sales collections, Burchfield said the city lost about $35,000 in sales tax revenue during the 2012-13 fiscal year. “We’re doing everything we can to keep our present level of services without raising taxes,” he said.
On Nov. 18, records show the board authorized the mayor to write a letter of support to the Board of Supervisors in naming a section of U.S. 82 in honor of Officer Keith Crenshaw. He was killed there in October when a car with fleeing robbery suspects struck him in the highway median after Crenshaw deployed spike strips in an attempt to stop them.
Additionally, the board went into executive session to discuss police personnel. Back in open session, according to the minutes, the board voted to hire Derek May as a city police officer. He will be eligible for a 25-cent pay increase with all full-time employee benefits after the 90-day probationary period.
The board also voted to give the four existing full-time police officers, excluding Hunter, a $1.75-per-hour raise effective immediately. Another motion was approved to change Lawrence Caradine’s ranking to corporal at the same hourly rate as Mitch Jackson.
Water rates were also among items discussed Nov. 18. The minutes state that the city is under no contract with the Sapa Water Association. After some discussion, the board authorized the mayor to inform Sapa of a water price increase of at last $3.20 per thousand gallons — up from $1.60 per thousand.
Reporting back on Dec. 2, Burchfield said he had mailed a letter to the water association’s president informing him of the new charges, which will be effective with the January readings of the system’s usage.
Burchfield noted in the letter that the city’s charges to Sapa have not changed since March 2006 and do not cover its cost in providing water.
“While realizing that we do not read your meters nor maintain your distribution lines, we do have the cost of the wells and pumps, the storage tanks providing the necessary pressure to provide your water, and our distribution lines from Tomnolen in the west to your service line east of Eupora,” Burchfield wrote. “These lines plus the employee and the machinery costs have risen each year since 2006.”
City residents pay $7.50 per thousand gallons of usage, and Burchfield said Sapa’s rate increase to $3.20 per thousand will still be less than what surrounding towns charge outside systems for bulk water.
The board also approved these motions on Nov. 18, according to the minutes:
• to declare an emergency repair at the Depot because of a heating outage, and authorize the mayor to proceed with the purchase of a new heating unit for the building.
• to accept an agreement between the city and Liberty United Methodist Church to exchange the existing low-watt street light there with a higher one. To offset the extra cost of the electric bill, the church will pay $100 by Jan. 15 of the next three years.
• to donate $300 from economic development funds to the Rotary Club for Christmas Parade advertisement.
• to change two sections of the comp time policy consistent with a proposal presented by the mayor.
• to make budget adjustments following the guidelines of the mayor’s suggestions.