October 17, 2007 Edition

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WR Council meets
at Army museum

Gloria Wilkerson
TD Staff

The Walnut Ridge City Council held its Oct. 9 meeting in the Walnut Ridge Army Flying School Museum at the invitation of the museum board. A meal was provided before the meeting and a tour of the museum was given following the meeting.

Alderwoman Paula Haskins told the council that the museum board needs financial help. It is currently operating on donations alone.

"They would like to deed the building to the city, which would allow us to pay for the building's insurance and help with monthly utility bills," Haskins said. "The building would be ours, but not the property it sets on nor the contents."

If the city owned the building, the museum would become eligible for grants they can't apply for as a private entity.

Museum board members told the council that most museums around the state are owned by cities or the Department of Parks and Tourism. At present, no one actually owns the Army museum building, but it is being overseen by board members. They would like to keep an independent board like they now have and add one city councilman to that board if the city takes over ownership of the building.

Mayor Michelle Rogers said she feels the museum is a very good asset. "It is a benefit to the city," Rogers said. "Lots of people come from all over the U.S. to visit the museum. There were a lot of people based there during World War II, and they and their families travel to Walnut Ridge to see the museum.

"The museum board has accomplished so much with only private donations and money out of their own pockets. They've gone about as far as they can go without some help. I'm really concerned about the future of the museum at this time," Rogers added.

City Attorney Larry Steele will look into the legal aspects of this endeavor and bring his findings to the November meeting.

Alderman Jonathan Sanders told the council that Emil Smelser, who borrowed city reuse money and is currently in arrears, has asked that he be allowed to pay $250 a month on his loan. Sanders said that Smelser has also offered to do the work on the city park's restrooms and deduct his fees from the total of his loan.

"This is a way for us to collect our money as well as keep a business in town," Sanders said.

The council voted to abate foreclosure action against Smelser and agreed to his payment offer and to allow the cost of his work in the park to be deducted from his loan total.

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