In the midst of the COVID-19 virus, the business of the City of Ripley continues. While some decisions had to be delayed while waiting on state guidelines, City Council, at its May 5 meeting conducted by conference call, moved forward with projects and improvements.
One of those projects is the slip repair on Timberland Drive. Approved in a prior meeting, this project has an estimated cost of $211,052. With the impact of COVID-19 on city revenue, Council approved City Clerk Tom Armstead to finalize a short-term loan for $250,000 to allow the project to proceed without impacting the city’s cash on hand.
“This is a loan with excellent rates and payment plan,” Armstead said. “Our cash situation is fine right now, but we don’t know what the future holds so we need to look at some other options.”
Continuing to upgrade and address the sewer and water system is always a priority. Council approved a resolution to allow Mayor Carolyn Rader to sign any documents related to a loan and grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Rader told council members that the funds, with the loan interest rate of 1.875 percent, would allow the city to move on to Phase II of the sewer project.
Improvements to downtown Ripley continue as well.
“We are finally addressing the sidewalk repair on South Court Street,” project chairman Matt Anderson said. “The businesses there are pretty happy to have this done and we hope to be finished within a month. The company doing the work is very easy to deal with.”
The financial impact of COVID-19 was addressed by city attorney Kevin Harris.
“With the help of Tom Armstead, I’ve compiled the expenses the city has faced due to the pandemic,” Harris said. “I’ll be submitting those figures to the Jackson County Commission for its next scheduled meeting. The grant given by the state to the county hopefully will help cover these costs.”
Several topics regarding upcoming events were discussed, including opening the city pool, the Fourth of July, and a parade to honor Ripley High School’s 2020 senior class.
“We just don’t know about the pool’s opening date yet,” Rader stated. “There are many factors to consider regarding safety and heath concerns. And we have to see what the governor tells us as well.”
Council will address the issue at its next meeting.
A parade to honor Ripley High School seniors will take place at 6:30 p.m. on May 29.
“We just wanted to do something that recognizes each of the seniors,” Rader said. “We’ve been working closely with the Board of Education, the high school administration, and the local health department to make sure we can do this safely.”
A letter has been sent to every graduating senior inviting them to take part in the parade.
“The rule is one senior per car,” the mayor said. “The graduate cannot be the driver and family members can be in the car as well. When they get to the high school, they’ll remain in their cars for anything that takes place there. We are so happy to be able to do this for them.”
As far as the Fourth of July celebration is concerned, Rader said she received a call from the governor’s office saying to go ahead and make plans.
“We know the Fourth will be different this year,” she said. “We don’t know what restrictions will be in place at that time of course. But we’re sure our crowds will be down because of health concerns.”
The mayor went on to say that several of the concert acts have indicated they still plan on coming. The carnival decision will be made once state guidelines are received.
“One thing we do know,” Rader said. “We will be having fireworks for the Fourth of July. We have ample funds in place to cover the cost.”
In other business, council members Rick Buckley, John McGinley, Carolyn Waybright, Danny Martin, Bryan Thompson, and City Recorder David Casto:
• Learned that Harris has filed an application for a minor boundary adjustment for the 72 acres on Academy Drive
• Heard from Chief of Police Brad Anderson that new patrolman Tyler Thomas has started working and is preparing to go to the police academy
• Learned that city cleanup is planned for the week of May 18
• Approved Matt Moore, Matt Armstead, Isaac Parsons, Cyrus Casto, B.J. Martin, and Trenton Hilbert for summer employment through June 30 with a potential extension through July 31 if funds are available
• Learned that each street light that has been reported with issues has been assigned a number with AEP and will be scheduled for repair
• Learned that the city has been approved for a $1.05 million grant from the Army Corps of Engineers for the waste water project
The next council meeting will be at 7 p.m. on May 19 in a manner to be determined.