In the midst of concerns for citizens and employees throughout Ripley, the business of the city has to continue. The Ripley City Council met March 17 and dealt with a number of matters.

City Clerk Tom Armstead presented council members Rick Buckley, John McGinley, Carolyn Waybright, Bryan Thompson, Danny Martin, city recorder David Casto, and Mayor Carolyn Rader the city’s 2020-2021 budget for approval. Council approved the $2,533,461 budget unanimously. Council also approved the $10,000 coal severance fund which will be used for miscellaneous needs at city hall.

According to Armstead, the budget closely follows that of the present fiscal year but does include the annual $1,000 increase in wages for all employees. In addition, the beautification program’s allotment was raised from $3,000 to $6,500. The full budget for the city can be found on page B5.

Armstead also reminded council members that Home Rule will begin July 1. This allows the city to add a one-percent tax to certain sales. He said the distribution from the state reflecting these funds will not be received until October. The fire, police, and street fees will be eliminated which will result in a savings to city residents.

The third reading of an ordinance authorizing the leasing of certain real property on Academy Drive from the Ripley Building Commission was approved. There was a public hearing prior to the council meeting. No one from the public attended.

A supplemental resolution was approved to allow the issuance of the lease revenue bonds by the Building Commission. In a separate meeting the Building Commission approved Ohio Valley Bank’s revenue bond proposal with a 30-year fixed rate at 3.40 percent interest. After getting an appraisal, the closing process should be completed before April 11.

The mayor praised council’s action to move forward on the addition of the 72 acres.

“What a wonderful move to increase the city’s geographic area,” she said. “We got such a good deal on the property and it’s going to benefit so many people. Walmart is sending someone from Arkansas to work with us on the restrictions. I’m excited to see us moving ahead.”

City wide planning focusing on three areas was also on the agenda.

Jeff Buchanan, president of Ripley Little League, spoke regarding the need to address the drainage issue at the West Ripley Park’s little league fields.

“The drainage is a constant battle,” he said. “Three of the five fields are impacted. With over 320 kids involved with play on those fields, it’s a major concern.”

Rader said the city maintenance department can address the problem at a far lower cost than was presented at a previous meeting. Council approved the expenditure to fix the fields at an estimated cost of $25,000.

One other expenditure approved was for repair of a major slip on Timberland Drive. The repair to be done by GSI will cost $211.052.

“This is just getting worse and worse,” said Rader. “We’ve got to take care of this.”

The COVID-19 virus situation was also discussed. The city will receive less business and occupation tax due to restaurants being closed for the foreseeable future. Armstead assured council that the city will be able to continue as normal for the time being. If the crisis continues, adjustments may have to be made.

“We had a staff meeting as well,” said Rader. “We were particularly concerned for our garbage people, not knowing what they could face out there. But they already have safety precautions in place just on a normal basis. We don’t have a big influx of people into our lobby area but we are cleaning constantly. We will continue business as usual for as long as we can.”

In other business:

• Council approved the rental of equipment to clear the 72-acre property at an approximate cost of $10,000.

• The Chocolate Festival has been rescheduled for May 16 at Ripley Middle School.

• Senator Joe Manchin will respond in writing to Mayor Rader’s questions about medical cannabis.

• The second reading of the adoption of State Code 8-14-5A regarding the parking enforcement officer was approved by Council.

• Chief Brad Anderson reported that there is a potential candidate for a position on the city police.

• Jim Mitchum noted that the bank at the dam project will have to be reinforced due to the amount of rain and that the port-a dam will be removed with work proceeding once dry weather arrives.

The next city council meeting will be at 7 p.m. April 7 at City Hall.