In a meeting that was more talk than action Tuesday night, the Hope City Board heard about police accreditation, Hope Water & Light changes, office copy machines, and went into a 28-minute closed session to discuss a performance review of City Manager Catherine Cook, even though the city had already entered a two-year guaranteed pact with Cook last October.

In a meeting that was more talk than action Tuesday night, the Hope City Board heard about police accreditation, Hope Water & Light changes, office copy machines, and went into a 28-minute closed session to discuss a performance review of City Manager Catherine Cook, even though the city had already entered a two-year guaranteed pact with Cook last October.
No public input regarding Cook’s performance was either solicited or evident during the open session Tuesday.
The highlight of the evening was a presentation to the Hope Police Department by Gary Sipes, Executive Director of the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police. Sipes awarded the police department with a certificate of accreditation as part of the Arkansas Law Enforcement Accreditation Program.
Hope Police Chief J.R. Wilson said the accreditation had been a long-time goal of his over 14 years, and he said accreditation recognizes that the police department operates professionally and according to established policies and standards.
Wilson also said the department will have outside peer review every three years to maintain its accreditation.
Although a computer malfunction had cancelled his Powerpoint, Hope Water and Light General Manager Steve Saum delivered an update to the City Board regarding on metering enhancements and system changes at Hope Water and Light.
Saum said the new metering system was so advanced that it could report spikes in usage or activity every 15 minutes, and the new water metering could identify possible leaks and issue alerts to customers.
With Saum was Charlotte Bradley, who spoke about new billing changes and customer options for managing residential accounts, including a bizarre “Prepaid electric option” where customers could pay for $100 of power in advance, and receive an alert when their allocation was ending.
She also discussed the option of leveled average billing, and she said customer deposits were a maximum of $302 for service.  She also requested updated phone information so that the automated alerts for usage and/or payments could call customer’s phones.
“For this to work, we need customers to come in and update their phone numbers. Customers who didn’t pay their utility bill and may be up for disconnection will receive a reminder by telephone 48 hours prior to disconnection.  If we do not have a good telephone number, we will not be able to notify customers of the impending disconnection. We don’t want to disconnect people,” she said.
Utility rates, or the new water increases that took effect this year were not discussed, either by the HWL representatives or the Hope City Board, even as a continuous round of punishing increases for residents continue into 2017.
HWL Water rates have now increased in 2017 by 5-percent, after a 7.5 percent increase in 2016, and water is set for yet another 5-percent increase in 2018; the end result will be a cumulative 17.5 percent increase to city residents for water over a three-year period.
At the same time, electrical rates in Hope went up 5-percent in 2016, after consecutive increases of 5-percent in 2015 and 3.2-percent in 2014 with residents taking a 13.2 cumulative increase over the past three years.