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The city of Benton's Finance Committee meeting Monday approved requests from the police and fire departments.

Police Chief Scotty Hodges requested the badge of Officer Bobby Shell to present to him for his retirement in recognition of Shell's service.

He also sought approval for the agreement with the Benton School District for school resource officers for the2020-21 school year. Hodges said the school pays roughly 60 percent and the city pays 40 percent due to the way the school year falls. The school district gets seven school resource officers each year.

He also asked for authorization to move the funds received from an insurance payout for a vehicle which was totaled into the maintenance budget. The department received $14,000 for the vehicle, which Hodges said is not enough to replace it.

Hodges also said funds were cut from the maintenance budget and this money would more than replace it. He feels it is important to put that money in because the vehicles the city has ordered to replace the aging fleet have not come in and he does not think they will any time soon. This will force the department to continue to drive older vehicles which will require additional maintenance.

The committee approved sending a resolution granting the request to the full council.

Hodges' final request was to apply for a Justice Department grant to purchase personal protective equipment for the department. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to protect officers and those arrested, when an arrest is made, the officers wear a mask and place one on the suspect before transporting them.

Fire Chief Bill Ford made a request to apply for a FEMA grant, also for PPE. He said it would be a 10-percent matching grant. Ford joked that due to the grant's deadline he already had applied so he was sort of asking for forgiveness instead of permission.

Benton Mayor Tom Farmer commented that many departments may find themselves in the same situation of having to go ahead and apply for grants due to time constraints.

He also said the Parks Department is also trying to get PPE to reopen, but supplies are on back order.

Ford gave the city an update on Station 6 as well. Due to the issues from COVID-19, he said he was uncomfortable moving forward on construction, but the land agreement gave the city a two-year deadline to build it. Farmer said they spoke to Dan Moudy, Realtor, who he called "gracious." Moudy extended the deadline.

During the city financials portion, Mandy Spicer, chief financial officer and staff liaison, said she is expecting a $1 million shortfall in revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she worked with the city departments to cut budgets.   

Christiane Crabtrey, human resources director, said each of the departments have furloughed employees, except human resources and police. HR is made up of her and one other employee who are actually having to increase their workload due to the pandemic.

Police Chief Scotty Hodges said his department is having employees cut one hour each week.

Spicer said the April reports are actually up in revenue, but that is because tax revenue comes in two months behind. She expects to see the effects of the pandemic begin in the May report and have a bigger impact in June.

Spicer gave the committee the full financial report.

Benton Utilities General Manager David Vondron updated the committee on the utilities' finances. He said usually, the company sees about $10,000 in delinquencies, but due to COVID-19 they got up to $240,000, though that number came down to $150,000 when people got their stimulus checks.

He said 75 percent of the delinquencies are residential, 15 to 20 percent are small businesses and 10 percent are large users. He said the department has suspended disconnection during the pandemic.

He is encouraging those in financial distress contact the utilities department.

Whether in person or online, all Benton meetings are open to the public.

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