Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cash-strapped Como has high hopes for note

By John Howell

Como town attorney Parker Still was cautiously optimistic Thursday night about the town’s chances for collecting $400,000 from a 10-year-old promissory note.

Still said that his research had also revealed the existence of a second promissory note of $450,000 pledged to the cash-strapped town.

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Still announced his findings during his attorney’s report at the monthly meeting of Como’s mayor and aldermen, moved to Thursday night because of the November 4 general election.

Mayor Judy Sumner said at the October meeting that she had found the $400,000 promissory note in a town hall desk. Still said that the note is secured by three deeds of trust on Como Apartment I. Como Apartments II and III are the surety for the $450,000 note, the attorney said.

“What we need to do is foreclose,” Still continued. “It’s going to bring it to the table.”

Como aldermen Everette Hill, Bill Mitchell and Clark Gregory voted to authorize Still to be appointed substitute trustee on behalf of the town and to conduct further title research in anticipation of foreclosure.

Aldermen Forster Ruhl and Ruby Higgenbotham were absent.

Greg Collier and Kenneth Windham were the members of Como Apartments I who signed the promissory note in 1998.

“I don’t know what went down in 1998,” Still said.

Town officials conducted a lengthy dialogue with the owner of a home on Section Line Road which had been targeted for condemnation. Owner Charlie Shoaf defended his attempts to renovate the structure and said that newly installed copper electrical wiring had been stolen by thieves.

“Are you wanting me to paint the house?” Shoaf asked.

“We need for you to tell us what you’re going to do,” Mayor Judy Sumner told Shoaf.

“You need to bring it back to habitable condition,” Mitchell said.

Shoaf’s appearance at the Nov. 6 hearing came as part of a cleanup effort that began in Como last summer. Initially, 23 properties were identified as unsightly. Most property owners complied and cleaned up the targeted properties.

Town officials gave Shoaf 12 months to bring his property to an acceptable condition.

“We can’t wait another three years,” Mitchell said.

In other business, aldermen:

•Approved a request by James May that would permit the construction of a kiln on his rental property Elder Frank Ward Street;

•Asked for more information about Pastor Marcus Newson’s plans if his Youth Christian Outreach Ministry is granted use of a municipally-owned building formerly used as a temporary post office location. Newson said that his operation “Clean Sweep” includes tutoring youth and providing them a place to go after school;

•Heard a report from fire department spokesman Sam Godfrey about fund raising efforts to purchase turnout gear for the department’s volunteer personnel. Firemen will be selling Boston butts for a minimum $25 donation, Godfrey said.

Later in the meeting, aldermen agreed to donate to the fire department a county check sent as reimbursement to offset fuel expenses incurred while fighting fires in the county.

Fire Chief Randy Perkins was out of town attending a meeting of county fire chiefs.

•Certified water operator Tommy Rayburn reported the repair of a large hole created by erosion from a large underground water leak on Main Street.

“You could have set a bus in it, just about,” Rayburn said.

Rayburn also said that he needed a camera to document illegal gas connections.

“Some of the people hook straight through the gas line and don’t go through the meter,” he said.

•Aldermen approved Carl Limberg’s request that he be allowed to remodel and expand his residence. Town officials adopted last year a moratorium on building permits unless they are approved by a vote of aldermen;

•Town officials encouraged support of a tourism tax to be collected on restaurant food sales.

A similar proposal died in the legislature last year.

“It should come up in the next session,” Still said;

“Let’s get together and try to get this thing passed,” Mitchell said.

•Aldermen adopted a resolution in support of an effort spearheaded by Dr. David Ball of Batesville to keep the Tri-Lakes Medical Center under local control;

•Municipal Clerk Scott Rhines reported instructions from the State Department of Audit that he present bills for payment on the claims docket in the chronological order that they are received at town hall.

Bills are to be paid in the order they are received as the money becomes available, Rhines said of the audit department instructions.