The Walnut Ridge City Council voted to enter a solar agreement with Entergy and approved the purchase of a pickup truck for the fire department and an excavator for the street department at its meeting on Monday night.

The city’s Solar Energy Committee has been studying different options to reduce the city’s energy costs by implementing solar power. After looking at different lease or purchase options, an opportunity arose for the city to contract with Entergy for the service.

While the city is currently paying 7.5 to 8.7 cents a kilowatt hour, energy received through the agreement would be at the rate of 5.4 cents a kilowatt hour.

Larry Abbott, a member of the committee, said they have looked a lot of different options.

“To me this is the only way to go,” he said.

Mayor Charles Snapp explained that there would be no upfront cost to the city as the energy would come from existing solar energy systems in Stuttgart or Searcy.

The contract with Entergy is for utilities for properties owned by the City of Walnut Ridge, City Water Works and the Walnut Ridge Airport.

“This is for city-owned buildings, not the city as a whole,” Snapp clarified, noting it is a savings in the tax-payers’ money.

“We wanted the right deal for the city to benefit all the citizens for years to come,” he said.

The council approved entering a 20-year contract with Entergy.

Also on Monday, the purchase of a 2019 Ram 1500 for $20,717 to serve as the fire chief’s vehicle was approved. The money was budgeted for the purchase earlier in the year, but buying the vehicle was delayed, according to Mayor Charles Snapp, until the effects of COVID-19 on the budget could be assessed.

Council members also approved purchasing a mini-excavator for the street department for $54,368.83. Mayor Snapp said the current excavator has been in use his entire time in office, and was used several years before that.

The new excavator will be used for most required, jobs, but Snapp noted that the jackhammer attachment the city owns will not fit the new excavator so the old excavator will be retained for that purpose.

City applying for CARES Act funds

City Treasurer Sharon Henson also updated council members that a separate CARES Act fund would begin appearing on their financial report. The city is applying for $211,000, the maximum reimbursement eligible for Walnut Ridge, and creating the separate fund was necessary to track the city’s COVID-19 expenses.

Snapp said the city has had a total of $325,000 in expenses that qualify, and Henson will continue to track expenses the remainder of the year.

“Right now, $211,000 is all we can apply for, so since we’ve already reached the maximum, we might as well go ahead and file,” he said.

Henson said the application should be complete later this week, and any funds received as reimbursement are not restricted and will go into the general fund.

In other business:

City Attorney Ethan Weeks updated council members regarding a lawsuit against J.R. and Michelle Rogers. He reported that the suit has been filed and is in the process of being served.

the council approved an update on the city’s financials. Mayor Snapp said other than having some issues with added expenses maintaining some older equipment, everything is pretty much staying in line. “We are starting to work on budget proposals,” he said. “I’m pleased to say that even with the crisis, the city is financially sound.

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