Geologists, City of Huntsville enter Basham lease agreement

Councilor Debbie Shinn (left) asks a question during Monday’s city council meeting.

A group of geologists from Tulsa and the City of Huntsville have entered an agreement to lease part of the Basham building on Polk Square.

PbH Basham LLC first floated the idea of a lease agreement to the Huntsville City Council in May. The group previously bought the former First National Bank across an alley from the Basham building.

The geologists want to develop a small retail business in the front of the century-old Basham building. Under the proposal, the Tulsa group would make improvements to the Basham building “valued at no less than $20,000” for such things as new drywall and insulation; the addition of heating, air conditioning and ventilation; the purchase of fixtures and equipment needed for a retail space; and a new hot water tank.

The Tulsa group has proposed building a retail space in the southwest part of the building, approximately 900 square feet. The city, in turn, would power wash the exterior of the building, provide a “rain tight roof,” ensure the doors and windows are operational, bring utilities up to code, and provide 200 amp circuits for lighting and wall sockets.

In other business Monday, the council approved spending $3,000 to keep the Code Red alert system. Councilor Stephen Ford voted against spending the money.

The city paid $5,260 last year and voted to remove the money from this year’s budget. The agreement expired this month. Several councilors said they had heard from residents who wanted the alert system to continue.

OnSolve, which operates Code Red, negotiated with the city for the $3,000 price.

The council will need to pass a resolution in August to allocate the $3,000. Under the new plan, those who sign up for Code Red will get weather alerts and notices about traffic and road issues, water boil orders and more.

City Clerk Janice Smith said 279 businesses and 1,194 residents previously signed up for the alerts. A total of 1,668 phone numbers were involved, she said.

Also on Monday:

• The council debated where to construct a holding facility for dogs found in the city. The original site is at the old wastewater treatment plant on Highway 23.

Former veterinarian Jim Maclean addressed the council and said he “hope[s] we’re not going to go backwards” on how animals are treated. He asked Ford, who chairs the Animal Code Review Committee, to discuss an alternate site.

Ford said he would like to see a kennel built behind the city’s parking garage across the street from city hall. He said the location would be easier for volunteers and others to care for the dogs.

“I think we need to move into the 21st Century,” Councilor Pat Grubbs said, while Councilor Niki Rowland said she was worried about the noise from a kennel in town. Councilor Debra Shinn said she thought the location was “too close to downtown.”

Water Department Director Larry Garrett said water and sewer could be an issue at the location off of Highway 23. Planning Director Jennifer Thomas said the location in town might not be zoned properly for a kennel.

President Pro Tempore Scott Thomas, sitting in for Mayor Darrell Trahan, who was on vacation, tabled the issue until the council’s August meeting. City Attorney Howard Cain Jr. is working on a final draft of the code review committee’s animal ordinance, which will need three readings for passage.

• A resolution to apply for a grant for a splash pad downtown failed when it did not get a second.

Councilor Roger Eoff made the motion to approve the resolution and submit the grant, which Huntsville was turned down for a year ago. Scott Thomas asked for a second on the motion but no councilor responded.

• Garrett said new mixers were to be installed Tuesday at the wastewater treatment plant.

“We’re real excited about getting this thing done and hopefully be able to better manage the plant,” he said.

Grant said the water department received a $200,000 grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission for a new water tank on Governor’s Hill. The new tank will cost an estimated $1.1 million.

“$200,000 is sure a start and I’m very grateful, but it’s not enough to commit to the project just yet,” Garrett told the council. Garrett said he is applying for other grants. “Until we get at least another $300,000, I don’t feel like we can commit to the project until we absolutely have to.”

• Smith in her financial report said the city has granted 19 building permits this year, valued at $1.8 million.

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