The Mountain Home City Council had a lively debate-filled session during last Thursday’s council meeting.
While the council has been focused on advancing a few of their standout city projects, they have faced some resistance from members of the Ozark Patriots, a relatively new political group in Baxter County that has emerged from the political chaos of 2020.
The group, which draws heavily on Trump’s GOP side, says its mission is “to advance and strengthen the United States Constitution and the God-given rights of citizens in the Ozarks.”
Members of the Patriots began appearing at local government events more frequently, challenging officials about their actions and plans for Baxter County and local municipalities within it.
The group has clashed with many establishment politicians throughout the county, drawing attention to topics such as government spending and election integrity. The group even attempted various positions in the Baxter County Republican Party. They can get their way if they win the positions of officers in the party during this month’s party vote for party officials.
The group fielded several candidates for public office last year, with several of the winning seats long held by establishment Republicans.
However, the band’s track record is not without problems. While most of its members are good-hearted people, their passion and lack of decorum in official government meetings make them seem like flagrant offenders to some officials and members of the public.
And the truth in these statements can be seen in action several times a month. The group isn’t afraid to interrupt meetings, ask questions and object if they don’t agree with what’s going on with government spending.
Disinformation also occasionally comes from members of the group. During the Mountain Home special election to raise taxes to renovate major portions of Mountain Home High School, part of the group spread false information about Mountain Home Superintendent Dr. Jake Long and the district’s plans for the high school. Bob Chester, a Patriot-backed student council candidate, changed his mind after learning more about high school needs. He and the Patriots broke up with each other.
Beth Sandland, a senior member of the Patriots’ leadership, said that some of her members were spreading misinformation and that the group was working to stop the practice.
However, despite its shortcomings, the group also benefited the county by drawing attention to unreported stories. The group drew attention to a lawsuit against the Baxter County Sheriff by a former jailer who claims she was fired in error after she complained of harassment and sexual harassment by one of her superiors. The Patriots also drew attention to several election issues that arose last year, including members of the Republican Party who surreptitiously reviewed the race-deciding ballot.
Most of these questions have been largely ignored by the local media.
New city sign
The most discussed topic of the evening.
Arnold Knox, Director of Planning and Design, gave a presentation on the application review for the Mountain Home Wayfinding Program. During the presentation, members of the Ozark Patriots put pressure on Knox and the board about the cost of the program.
The city is exploring the possibility of buying new signage to guide tourists and residents around the city. The offered rate was set to run the city at approximately $500,000. Several communities in Northern Arkansas have developed navigation programs to improve signage along their major highways.
Currently, the state is responsible for all signs installed along highways. Because of this, the state requires cities to develop a pathfinding program that must be verified by the state. The state then allows each city or municipality to purchase new signs after bidding.
At Mountain Home, most of the signage in the city is old, too small, and located in hard-to-reach places. The city says the new signs will help tourists and locals get around the city more efficiently, and are working to get permission to update the signs. The attraction of people to various city parks has also been cited as a reason for the signs to be updated.
Patriot members in the crowd argued that the price of the plan was too high. Council members also raised concerns about the use of the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce logo on the city’s official signage.
Knox was asked to explore redesigning the signage, and the vote for the evening was overturned.
Other affairs of the council
The city council’s first act was to vote on the reallocation of residential property to commercial property on behalf of the Kemp family, who no longer find the property habitable.
Notice of the petition to convert residential to commercial property was posted in the Baxter Bulletin. Ted Sanders, Mountain Home’s local attorney, presented the proposed change to the City Council. There are currently no plans to build the facility. The changes were necessary to prepare the property for sale.
Following the redistricting vote, the council moved to the final reading of the proposed noise ordinance. The new noise ordinance, which was enacted in response to residents’ complaints about nighttime construction work from local companies in the city, is designed to let local businesses and residents know exactly what nighttime noise regulations are.
Despite some resistance in past noise ordinance board meetings, the final reading passed without much fanfare.
Following this vote, the Board passed an ordinance authorizing the Mountain Home Police Department to receive a one-time $5,000 stipend for five of its officers from the Arkansas State Legislature, which adopted a $50 million stipend package for officers across the state in its 2022 financial report. year. Session.
The Mountain Home Police Department will receive $26,915.50 of this stipend for its officers and an additional $1,912.50 for Social Security payments.
Garver contract updates
In one of their biggest nightly acts, the Council did the necessary work with their contracts with Harver.
The city is preparing to begin phase II of its wastewater treatment plant project. The city’s plan is to install and shut down the UV filter system as soon as possible. Alma Clark, the city’s treasurer, told the meeting that supply chain issues were making it difficult to purchase the chlorine needed to clean the city’s water supply. This problem is exacerbated by the rising cost of basic chemicals across the country.
The contract changes were approved by unanimous decision, allowing Garver to focus on Phase II.
Finally, Clark held a presentation asking for permission to enter into a loan agreement with the Arkansas Natural Resources Board for the second phase of upgrading his wastewater treatment plant for an additional $7 million.
Rising costs have led to the need for an additional loan to complete the construction of the treatment plant.
The City of Mountain Home has been working to modernize and upgrade most of its water treatment and sewer systems over the past few years, with the city selling $10 million in bonds to fund projects after receiving taxpayer approval.
Much of the city’s equipment is outdated, some of the water pumps are 30 years old. Over the years, it has also become difficult to find replacement parts for equipment, as most of the city’s tools and equipment are privately owned.
Plant operating costs have also risen over the years. Mountain Home currently uses chlorine gas and sulfur dioxide to purify the water that citizens use in their daily lives. The cost of gas has risen sharply as the US economy fights inflation.
The city’s sewer systems have also been in short supply over the past few years. While the city has found ways to cover this deficit, the days of coverage are drawing to a close as the deficit is expected to rise to 50% by 2024, which could push consumer rates up.
To deal with these challenges, the city began considering switching to a new UV system for its water treatment plant and replacing much of its outdated equipment. Switching to the new system will reduce the city’s costs in the long run and also make the city less dependent on supplies of hazardous gas from chemical plants.
Once construction is complete, the city expects to turn its deficit into a surplus over time. The proceeds from the sale of the bonds are for the completion of city water projects and may not be used for general purposes.