The branding campaign and a water and sewer tax bond, were the highlights of Monday night’s special Lonoke City Council meeting.

Terrance Clark and Will Staley, founders of the company Thrive kicked off the meeting, speaking with the council about the standings of the branding and marketing contract with the city. Thrive, out of Helena, was hired by the City of Lonoke to design a new branding and identity package for the community.

According Terrance Clark founder of Thrive, the company is currently working on the city’s website, but has had some delay since the last time meeting with the council. During the last meeting, the proposed logo was voted down by the council.

“I just wanted to assess that, given that we did not do the logo and I’ve been to multiple council meetings and there is some concern with the budget, I’d just like to ask if the council wants to continue on with the full contract or would you guys just like to have the website,” Clark said.

The city has already paid $15, 675 of the $31,350 contract. Clark said the company is willing to finalize the city’s website and remove the video, billboard campaign, brochure, infographic, print ads and half the travel from the remainder of the contract, if the city wishes to discontinue the company’s services. He said this would leave roughly $3,500 due by the city for the remainder of the contract, rather than the remaining $15,675.

“Y’all received, $15,675 ,” Pat Howell asked. “What exactly do we have for that”

Clark explained that the payments thus far includes the website and the city’s visual identity system, otherwise known as the branding logo. He said the website can be completed by mid September, but they need more direction from the council.

Visual mock up options for the new city website was provided to the council. According to Clark, the new website will be both tablet and mobile friendly.

“I think we ought to keep our course,” Koy Butler said.

“I’m not real happy with our current course,” Howell said. “I just don’t think we have a whole lot to show for $16,000. We’ve got these pictures here that might end up on there, after we spend another $15,000.”

“If I may sir,” Clark interrupted. “That $15,000 is broken into quarterly payments, because that is the way we decided to split it up. The website is not done yet, but a large portion of that $15,000 is the website. So we are prepaid right now, but that is just because of where we are in the process. We can’t go any further and it’s clearly in our contract that we can’t go past this stage until we have content from the client. We’re ready to move fast once we have that direction.”

“What we would like is who to talk to on a regular basis, from the council, and once we do that we can move past,” Co-founder Will Staley said. “Showing you these designs is just to get the ball rolling.”

Howell then asked when the process with this all began. According to Clark the proposal was approved in October 2016, but the official contract was written up and signed in January 2017.

“Don’t you think we are kind of slow getting the ball rolling,” Howell asked. “This is the first of August.”

According Clark, the company has been on schedule as outlined until the recent delay with the website.

“And the delay was, the logo we were going to put on there got voted out, and that kind of threw a monkey wrench in there,” Woody Evans said.

“That could have been taken care of months earlier,” Howell said

“They were working with the branding and marketing team,” Michael Florence said. “There is a whole team they’ve been working with.”

“I understand that, but how many of those people were on the city council,” Howell said. “I mean the city council hired them. The city council is paying them and the city council is the last people…. we are just now having a second meeting, maybe a third, since we began.”

“The city council was invited to every meeting they’ve had,” Butler said. “They’ve had them out there and they’ve been offered to us.”

“I never saw anything from y’all, at the council meetings,” Howell said to Butler.

“Philip you were at them, did you bring anything to the council meetings,” Pat Howell asked Philip Howell.

“Not until it was ready and they made their presentation,” Phillip Howell said. “I made a statement then, that I supported it.”

“I don’t think the people who have participated have cut the council off in the communication, I just don’t know why…,” Pat Howell said. “Did y’all ever realize the you were talking to people that really couldn’t…”

“That kind of lends to the breakdown in communication we’ve talked about,” Clark said. “This is our effort to hope to work past that.”

Clark then said if the $3,500 remaining due for the logo process is what is delaying the process, the company is willing to retract that cost as well.

“We’re just trying to make the best for everybody and make all of you guys happy,” Clark said. “We are here to move past that and get you guys a website. We want to get that tool to the city.”

Mayor Wayne McGee then asked the council if they wished to move forward with the process or to end the contract once the website is complete.

“I’m in favor of stopping here,” Howell said. “I don’t have any confidence at all. I don’t have anything against the people in the kick start program. I really don’t have anything against y’all, it’s just the fact you can’t dispute the fact we have spent $16,000 and have absolutely nothing to show for it.”

“Again, with the $16,000, you will have a finished website when we are done,” Clark said. “We are prepaid right now because of a hiccup in the process.”

“The website is paid for, they just need to get our information, Evans said.

“I know they kind of got mislead and everything, but we agreed to go through this,” Wendell Walker. If we weren’t going to do it, we should have done it in the first place and we should have ended it. They’ve went this far.”

“I made the comment I’d go forward if we still had our logo and we still have our logo,”Evans said.

Michael Florence made the motion, which was seconded by Koy Butler, to continue forward with the process. Florence, Butler, Hatton, Walker, Evans and Janie Derning voted in favor. Pat Howell opposed.

“I vote against it,” Howell said. ” I really do think it’s the biggest abuse of taxpayers dollars that we’ve ever done,”

Additionally, the council unanimously voted to approve mock up option number five for the website layout.

In other business, the city discussed the water and sewer tax bond project. The current proposal is to use 1.25 of a cent tax to go towards water and sewer projects and 0.25 of a cent to go towards debt services, as well as the police and fire departments. Project funds generated by the bond issue is estimated to be $16,310,000.

While all of the council was in agreement to support the tax campaign, getting the community to support the tax raised some concern.

“I’m going to tell you, some people don’t care about this stuff,” Evans said. “All they care about is the moment. You’ve got to have something to sell this thing. Not just water and sewer or it will be dead in the water before you ever get started.”

“If they don’t pass it and something big happens here and we have to get it fixed, and then you’re told what to pay, you won’t have no choice,”McGee said. “I promise you it will cost a lot more than this little tax will. You will be paying $100-$150 for water and sewer around here. We’ve saved every dollar and we’ve stretched everything as far as we can stretch it and now we’ve come down to the big part. What’s sad is we’ve been fixing mistakes and things that shouldn’t have ever been done for the last 10 years. It should have been fixed 30 years ago and it wasn’t.”

According to an itemized list of improvements based on priorities provided by Jerome Alford of Bond Consulting Engineers East, Inc. in Marion, the city thus far has an estimated project cost of $11,560,428.

Alford also said in his letter that the water line along the south side of highway 70 also needed attention. He said in the area by retail stores, the cement is asbestos and it has galvanized. He said the “5,000 feet of line with cutting in values and reconnecting meters and hydrants can well exceed $600,000. Since this improvement package will need to be investigated further it is not included in the above total.”

According to McGee, more work has been added to the overall project list in an effort for the project amount to reach the estimated $16 million in collection. He said there are projects city wide, and the most critical will be addressed first. McGee said while there is the chance problems will arise during the projects limited what can be done overall, if bids come in lower, the city will increase the project lists even more. According to McGee, it was suggested the project areas be bid separately, rather than a whole, to insure work is completed in a reasonable amount of time.

While there was some discussion of allocating a portion of the tax to the library, there were some legal questions raised as the building is not owned by the city nor does the entity operate under the city’s umbrella. Due to the legal questions and the length of time required to investigate the question, allocating funds to the library was dismissed.

According to bond counsel John William Spivey, III of Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP of Little Rock, each separate allocation of the bond will need to be voted on by citizen separate. He said if the council continues on, a special election will be held on Nov. 14.

After some additional discussion, the council unanimously voted to continue forward with a special election for a one and half cent tax, which will include the water and sewer project and the allocation for the police and fire departments.

Also during the meeting, the council unanimously voted to:

-Put the senior citizen center project on hold until the city can assure there will not be a flooding issue

-Authorize up to $3,000 for a ditch witch rental for the walking trail project

-Approve the purchase conduit for the walking tail lighting project in the amount of $4,451 from Wholesale Electric Supply

-Table purchase of the police department awning until the next meeting

Efram Jones was absent from the meeting. The next regular scheduled meeting will be at 6 p.m. 14 at city hall.