As the City of Hamburg looks to expand its rural water service, it’s likely to have to consider using eminent domain to get some of the necessary easements.

That’s what City Attorney Paul Keith told the city council last week on Monday, Jan. 25.

If that’s the case, however, it won’t be for many properties, he said. In some cases, the property where the city hasn’t been able to get an easement is owned by a corporate body that isn’t necessarily controlled locally.

“One is a cemetery that we can’t find anybody — alive — who is associated with it,” Keith said.

Before moving forward with any eminent domain actions, however, the city declared that it is going to do its best to contact property owners and reach an agreement.

“The law requires us to use our absolutely best efforts to get easements by consent before we resort to public domain,” he said. 

During the same meeting, the council also voted to change how it funds police uniforms.

Instead of giving each officer $480 a year to replace uniform pieces as needed, City Clerk Peggy Akers suggested the council moved to give policemen a $50 monthly stipend that is paid out twice a year.

The $50 a month is a $10 monthly increase over what officers had previously been allocated.

“Some of the stuff is expensive, and some you don’t have to buy every year,” Police Chief Johnny Oliver said. “The uniforms are getting a lot more expensive than they used to be.”

The reason for the change in how the stipends are administered is because it is difficult to track the $480 throughout the year, and making payments twice a year would simplify that, Mayor Dane Weindorf said.

The council also voted to allow the police department to purchase a new fingerprinting machine.

The automated system is automatically connected to the state police headquarters in Little Rock, and from there any information is transmitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Weindorf said.

“Once (the suspect) is printed, it goes on the Internet and comes back with their record,” he said.

The need for the new system, which comes with an approximately $20,000 price tag, is because Ashley County Sheriff’s Department has stopped providing fingerprinting services for the city, the mayor said.

During the remainder of the meeting council voted to authorize a possible ladder truck purchase for the fire department and to ordinances regarding a garbage truck and probation supervision services.

The authorization will allow Weindorf to bid on a new ladder truck for the fire department. While the purchase is not guaranteed, the Hamburg fire department’s chief and assistant chief both told the council that the truck would significantly improve their ability to fight fires.

“Currently, our only way of attack is from the ground,” Fire Chief Tim Hollis said.

Weindorf told the council that watching the Crossett ladder truck in action when a set of apartment buildings caught fire in Hamburg last year had demonstrated to him how good a ladder truck could be for the community.

“For us, having (a ladder truck) in our firehouse, we can have it a lot faster than having to wait 30 minutes,” he said.

One ordinance approved the lease-purchase of a new garbage truck. After 36 months of payments, the city will have the option of sending it back or paying it off, Weindorf said.

A second approved ordinance will allow the district court’s employees to administer probation supervision services instead of having it contracted out to a third party.

Council agreed to host its February meeting in the online Zoom video conferencing platform.

Keith said he recommended the council advertise it in advance and make sure there was a way for members of the public to join the meeting. Weindorf said that in addition to providing the Web link, the city could set up a large screen so those without access to Zoom could watch.