October 22, 2008 Edition

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WR Council enacts new ordinances

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council passed new ordinances that will allow them to better control animals within the city limits, take action against properties that are unsightly and/or unsanitary and regulate construction and maintenance of buildings.

Mayor Michelle Rogers told the council members the city's old animal control ordinance had several things added to it to form the new ordinance they passed on Oct. 14.

"The new ordinance has a lot more teeth than the old one," Rogers said. "We have a real problem with dogs that haven't had their shots and vicious dogs. The new ordinance addresses those things."

The ordinance makes it unlawful for anyone to keep more than four dogs over six months old within the city limits, excluding veterinarians or animal hospitals. All dogs from two months of age must be vaccinated at least once a year for rabies, they must be kept confined within a fence or enclosure or within a house, garage or other building or chained or leashed to prevent the dog from running at large.

The conditions of pens and premises must be kept clean and without odors that will disturb their neighbors, and they may not disturb the peace and quiet of the city by barking or making other noises that are disturbing to the public.

It is also against the law to permit any dangerous or vicious animal of any kind to run at large in the city.

Dogs must also have the name, address and phone number attached to their collar or harness. No dogs will be allowed to run at large. Any dog without a tag picked up by a police or animal control officer will be considered a stray or abandoned dog and may be humanely destroyed if not claimed by its owner within five days.

The owner of any dog impounded will be responsible for all costs, charges and penalties assessed including boarding fees, vaccinations and fines. The retrieval fee for a first offense is $35, second offense is $50 and the third offense will be $100 and a citation to Walnut Ridge Municipal Court.

Anyone violating any of the new regulations shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and shall pay up to $25 for the first offence, $50 to $100 for a second offense and between $100 and $500 in addition to possible jail time for a third offence. Dog owners have three months from the date of the ordinance to find new quartering for their dogs if they presently own four or more.

"We get calls about problems with dogs all the time," Rogers said. "It seems to be getting worse."

Rogers reminded councilmen that fall cleanup started Oct. 13 and will continue through Saturday.

She also told the council that the city has had a real problem with lawns not getting mowed this year.

A new cleanup ordinance requires that property owners keep their lawns mowed, cut weeds, remove garbage, rubbish and other unsanitary and unsightly things, including inoperable automobiles, from their property and eliminate, fill up or remove stagnant pools of water which might become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, flies and germs. All grass is to be kept cut so that it is no taller than 10 inches.

A written warning from the code officer will be provided when a property is found to be in noncompliance, and after seven days without the problem being corrected, the owner or resident will be assessed a fine of $50 plus an additional $10 per day thereafter, up to 14 days. At that time, if the property in not in compliance, the code officer may order the property to be cleaned, vegetation removed or grass cut by the city at a cost of $45 per hour of labor. If the owner or resident refuses to pay within a reasonable time, a lien will be placed on the property in the amount of cleanup costs, fines and court costs, if any.

The council also adopted a new fire code. Aldermen voted to replace their old code with the updated Arkansas Fire Prevention Code, which the city needed according to Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Alan Haskins. "The new code covers building codes and fire prevention codes," he said.

In other business:

  • the council renewed a one mill tax for the firemen's pension.

  • Mayor Rogers informed the council that the November council meeting will be on Monday, Nov. 10, instead of on Tuesday, Nov. 11.

  • councilmen were informed that Jeremy Mitchell has paid off his re-use loan.

  • the council discussed speeding on Southern Avenue in front of the Walnut Ridge Community Center. They agreed to add extra patrolling for a month, and revisit the problem at their next meeting. A possibility of speed bumps and three-way stop signs will be considered as other options to correct the problem.

  • Councilwoman Paula Haskins noted that a speed limit sign is needed on Highway 67B North for drivers coming into town from the bypass. "A 45 mile-per-hour sign is posted as you go out of town, but there is no sign for those coming from the opposite direction," she said.

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