Hope City Board looks to raise rates for certain kinds of waste at landfill, talks Pocket Park additions, approves grant applications
Above: Parks Superintendent Summer Chambers speaks to the Hope City Board about grant opportunities.

In Tuesday night’s regular meeting of the Hope City Board of Directors, the directors voted in favor of having Parks Superintendent Summer Chambers submit applications to two potential sources of grant funding, heard a proposal from City Manager J.R. Wilson to raise the costs at the city’s landfill to take on certain waste from outside the area and received preliminary language for initiatives to be placed on the November 5th ballot. 

The entire meeting can be seen in the SWARK.Today video below this article.

After the invocation, pledge of allegiance and approval of minutes of the June 18th meeting, the first item discussed was a proposal that would raise the cost for outside the area waste acceptance by the city landfill for Class 4 material to a rate of $20 per cubic yard. The cost for Class 4 waste from inside the area would stay at $6.74/cubic yard. 

Class 4 waste is, according to the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment, “inert, non-putrescible wastes such as construction and demolition wastes, appliances and furniture, and other bulky, inert wastes.” 

Wilson reported that the fees the city has been collecting at the gate of the landfill have gone from annual totals of $32,145 in 2019 to $141,842 in 2023 and these have helped support the landfill, but that out-of-area waste is being sent to Hope’s landfill because of its much cheaper rates than at other landfills in the region. He said much of the waste is in the form of roofing shingles and much of this comes from Texarkana. 

He said Mark Curtis, Landfill Manager, had estimated that at current rates of waste inflow the present landfill site would be full in two to three years. It had been dug about five to seven years ago for a cost of about $325,000. If the landfill continues to receive Class 4 material for an increased rate for out-of-area waste, it could pay for the next landfill. 

Curtis, asked by Wilson if he had something to add, explained that making sure waste claimed by truck drivers to be coming from inside the area actually does so would require landfill attendants to ask to see licenses and get addresses. “I could screen like that,” he said, adding that Sevier County’s landfill does this to keep from accepting Class 4 waste from outside its area. 

“And the people you talk to when you're talking with me, you said, a lot of them said, ‘Hey, but it's hard to stop someone when they're lying to you.’” Wilson said.  While doing the work of verifying whether the waste came from inside the area would pose difficulties, Wilson said, it could be done. But he recommended that rates be raised for outside-the-area Class 4 waste because it simplifies things and would continue to raise revenue for the city. 

Mayor Don Still asked if the landfill is currently charging the same $6.75/cubit yard rate for commercial businesses.  Curtis said this was true.  He also asked if the next landfill would be located north of the current one.  Wilson said that at that location dirt is being removed to use at the current landfill to the point that the next landfill is halfway dug right now. 

Vice Mayor Kiffinea Talley asked how the staff arrived at the idea of raising the fee for outside-the-area Class 4 waste to $20/cubit yard. Wilson said this figure would place the cost per ten ton to just under $200, which would still make the Hope landfill’s fees for that category of waste from outside-the-area competitive with other landfills in the area. 

Mayor Still said the matter can be raised again in six months to evaluate how the policy is working. 

Wilson told the board that based on their inclinations, he could notify City Attorney Randal Wright to start work on amending the city’s landfill ordinance to allow for the raise in rates.  The policy to not allow Class 1 waste from outside the area will remain unchanged, Wilson said. 

Director Steve Montgomery asked how much of the Class 4 waste the landfill accents now is from outside the area. Wilson, speaking to Curtis, said, “I think you were estimating 90 percent.” 

Montgomery suggested that since most disposers of Class 4 waste would be contractors, the origin of the waste “shouldn’t be that difficult, I’d guess, to determine.” 

“You could even put a bite in the ordinance that if you know you lied to us, you could be fined,” Wilson said. 

Mayor Still asked Curtis about how many more years the current landfill has left for disposing of waste. “Three years,” Curtis replied. Then Still asked how long the process would take for Hope to get the permits for the next one. Curtis said the next site is already permitted. Wilson added that the Arkansas Department of Environment Quality still has to approve the specific plan. 

Vice Mayor Talley said, “I suggest we move forward.” 

Wilson said there did not have to be a motion made. Mayor Still asked whether there was any objection to the rate increase being placed in an amendment to an ordinance which City Attorney Wright. Talley said she liked the idea of having language that fined those misrepresenting the origin of waste.   

In the next agenda item, Wilson said there were concerns about additions to the Pocket Park that had not been cleared with the city board first.  During the dedication, picnic tables were present that had not been approved. 

Vice Mayor Talley said, “I don't want to dissuade any group, organization or individual for making contributions to the city, but if you're going to do that, I think it should be a standard policy to come before the board, to present that and to get our approval, because it could be something distasteful, it’s for us to know exactly where you're placing it, and it could be something that's offensive to someone.” 

Mayor Still said that issue had been talked through.  Director Reginald Easter said he liked the wheelchair access ramp but wanted to see marking to prevent cars from parking in front of it. 

Talley asked whether the umbrellas she had seen on the picnic tables were going to be for Downtown Network functions or for anyone wanting to eat a meal at the park. Mayor Still said he had not asked this. “I’d like to see them there all the time,” he said. “Unless the wind carries them away.” 

Next, Wilson presented a request to combine efforts with the Hempstead County Extension Office’ Arkansas High Obesity Program to submit a request for an up to $2,000,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help lower the county’s obesity rate, currently measured at about 45 percent of the population.  

The funds could be used for adding walking trails, including crosswalks, speed control devices and signs needed to make those trails safe. The grant is 80 percent funded with the remaining 20 percent cost allowed to be defrayed by in-kind payment in the form of labor and materials provided by the city.  The deadline to apply is August 29th.  The board approved applying for this grant. 

The board also approved working with the Southwest Arkansas Planning and Development District to apply for an Outdoor Recreation Grant from the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. The 50/50 matching grant would help pay for a splash pad at Northside Park. It would be the third attempt by the city to attain a grant for the splash pad.  Parks Superintendent Chambers presented information about these grants to the board. 

In the City Manager’s Report, Wilson announced that the Arkansas Highway Commission would consider the city’s request to name two highways after two Hope soldiers who died during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on August 17th.  He also provided proposed ballot language for three initiatives to appear on the ballot for Hope residents on November 5th to approve a new fire station and an aquatic/rec center be financed from a one-cent sales tax. The decision of whether to approve this language will be discussed at the next regular meeting. 

Wilson also asked for board approval to create a Fast Fact sheet and a one-minute video to promote the initiatives to the public. 

The bond for the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission to help finance the city’s wastewater project closed June 25th and the city received funds from the loan to pay for engineering and for bond attorneys, Wilson said.  Bidding the project out remains to be done but the ANRC must approve the plan first. 

Praise was also voiced for those who helped with cemetery beautification work this past week.