ARMA — The Arma City Council on Monday approved the hiring of a new police officer, discussed issues raised during a recent audit by the city's insurance carrier and approved purchasing storage equipment for the city's volunteer fire department.

Police Chief Howard Camp recommended the hiring of John Steffens to fill a full-time vacancy on the department. Steffens will be retiring from the Pittsburg Police Department and already is fulling certified, Camp said.

Steffens is expected to start in Arma in early February at $15 per hour plus city benefits.

An outside audit of the city's electric lines and related facilities was prompted by a claim filed against carrier EMC Insurance, according to Mayor Buddy Bualle. The main recommendation was the city raise the minimum height of power lines crossing public streets so they will have at least an 18-foot clearance.

Bualle said the city had a claim filed against it involving a line which was only about 14 feet above the roadway when a vehicle came in contact with it. 

Fire Chief Mike McLeod requested the city help fund five storage racks which would be used for volunteer firefighters to store their equipment. The total cost for the five units is about $4,800, but McLeod said the county agreed to cover half the expense if the city paid for the other $2,400. His request passed unanimously.

The council continued a discussion started during a meeting earlier this month on setting goals and priority list for projects the council members wanted to see done during the year. Bualle said among the projects turned in so far are the attempt to get a grocery store/pharmacy to locate in the city and the continuation of upgrading city street lights with more energy efficient LED lighting.

Resident Mary Lou Peace addressed the council saying she felt the city needs to concentrate on bringing new business into town and helping to make Arma friendlier. She also addressed the city's on-going effort to clean up the city and rid it of eyesores.

"This has resulted in creating a negative opinion of the city government in the minds of many of its citizens as well as in the minds of persons in surrounding communities," Peace said.

Each time a structure is torn down it lowers the city's tax base resulting in less tax revenue to the city.

"If that property can be repaired and inhabited it would generate income to the city in the form of utility income as well as money spent at local businesses," Peace said.

She recommended the city consider grants to help property owners whose homes or buildings have fallen in disrepair.

— Mike Elswick is a staff writer for The Morning Sun. He can be emailed at melswick@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @ mike_elswick.