February 18, 2009 Edition

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Storm effects main topic
for WR City Council

Gloria Wilkerson
staff writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council held its regular meeting on Feb. 10 and discussed the recent ice storm, plans for future disasters and an outstanding re-use loan.

Mayor Michelle Rogers told the council that she, Street Superintendent Jim Poindexter and Fire Chief Alan Haskins would be meeting with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management on Feb. 13. They hope to learn what the city will and will not be reimbursed for in cleaning up in the aftermath of the recent ice storm.

Poindexter told the council he city had hauled 336 cubic yards to the burn pile on Miller Drive on Tuesday, and has been averaging 320 yards a day with the equipment they now have. " We are not using the chipper because it is slower than hauling off the debris," he said.

Alderwoman Paula Haskins asked if Poindexter had any estimate as to how long the cleanup will take.

"The first of June and that's optimistic," Poindexter replied. " We have gone through neighborhoods and picked up debris from people's front yards, and by afternoon they have pulled limbs and branches around from their backyards that we need to pick up.

"Ditches are getting piled full and will cause drainage problems for the city. Some citizens have no option because there is no room to stack their debris outside the ditches."

Mayor Rogers told the council that the citizens of Walnut Ridge need to know that they can take their debris out to Miller Drive, but only city residents will be allowed to take their limbs there. "We have someone who will be monitoring the site, and the gates close at 5 p.m.," she said.

The mayor and the aldermen commended all the city's employees for their response to the storm and the power outage. "Everyone did a great job and went above and beyond the call of duty," Rogers said. "The citizens of Walnut Ridge who helped in every way possible are greatly appreciated."

Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin told the council that he would like to see the city be better prepared for the next emergency. "This is going to happen again," Wallin said, " whether it be a tornado, flood or another ice storm."

He suggested that the mayor's office be equipped with an emergency generator and make it the information center for the town in the event of another emergency. "We need to buy two generators at approximately $4,500 each," Wallin said. "We need one for the mayor's office and one for the community center, which can be used as a shelter. We might be able to get grant money to help pay for them."

Wallin also suggested the city think about building a tornado shelter/safe room and apply for grants to help pay for it. The council agreed that the city needs to check into grants and be better prepared for emergencies in the future.

In other business:

  • the council agreed to have the city attorney draw up a lease for a business that wants to lease a building owned by Emil Smelser of Smelser Plumbing, who owes the city re-use money. If an agreement is made, Smelser would begin making payments on the money he owes the city, and the new tenant would make rent payments directly to the city. A meeting will be held concerning this matter at a later date.

  • alderman Everett Hart told the council that he had received complaints about water meters not being read each month. He said if the reading is estimated for a month or two, residents on fixed incomes can't pay $100 water bills when the meter is actually read. No action was taken at this time.

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