April 22, 2009 Edition

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WR receives lower ISO rating

Gretchen Hunt

The Walnut Ridge City Council discussed its new ISO rating, trash pickup for holiday weekends, illegal parking on city streets and the ongoing storm debris cleanup at its regular meeting on April 14.

The city's fire department passed its recent ISO inspection, scoring extremely high on most of the things required, according to Fire Chief Alan Haskins.

"Our rating is dropping from a high five to a low four," said Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin, chairman of the Fire Committee. "We were within two points of a three rating."

The ISO rating of a community has a direct effect on the insurance premiums that individuals pay on their homes and especially on commercial buildings. The lower the ISO rating on a scale of one to 10, the better the insurance premiums are. The inspection reviews three areas primarily: the fire department counts for 50 percent of the rating; the city water main and hydrant capabilities counts for 40 percent; and the 9-1-1 dispatch services count for 10 percent.

"Our fire department is ranked in the top nine percent of fire departments in the nation and in the top five percent in the state," Haskins said. "We are still going after a class three rating. It would be awesome to be rated the same as Jonesboro and Batesville and would drop insurance premiums for everyone including businesses and industries in town.

"We need a little more work done, a little more personnel and some equipment adjustments before we get where we want to be," he said.

Wallin said it has taken everyone working together to receive the lower rating. He thanked the city, the fire department and everyone who had a part in meeting the requirements.

"We're going after the three rating. Somehow, we'll get it done," he said.

Street Superintendent Jim Poindexter told the council that when a holiday falls on a Friday, the city will now do its Friday trash pickups on the Monday following the holiday. Wallin said he had several complaints from people who don't get a newspaper or are unaware of the change in garbage pickup information before a holiday weekend. When their garbage isn't picked up as usual on Friday, it sets there over the weekend and often gets scattered by animals.

Poindexter also updated the council on the street department's progress with storm debris removal.

"We are 90 percent finished with our first sweep, excluding the park and alleyways," he said. "We will wind that up this week and then start on the second sweep and will include the park and alleyways. So far, we have hauled off 28,000 cubic feet of storm debris."

The council was quick to praise the street department.

Alderman Jonathan Sanders said, "From the time we began accepting bids to help with the cleanup and the time we opened them two weeks later, the street department had cleaned up so much, we didn't need to hire contractors."

Alderman Everett Hart told the council he felt the street department had done a great job, especially since they had no previous experience with a job of this magnitude.

Mayor Michelle Rogers said she felt Poindexter and his department have done a tremendous job and that the council appreciates all their hard work. "We are very fortunate to have the equipment we needed to get this job done," she said. "We were a lot better off than lots of other cities."

There are still some limbs in the park hanging above the walking track that the public needs to be aware of. The park is too wet to take heavy equipment into right now. The city will be getting those down as soon as possible, but advises people to be wary until that job is completed. Bids were being accepted for removing 'hangers' and were to be opened on April 15.

Alderman also discussed a parking issue. "People are still parking on the wrong side of city streets," Alderwoman Paula Haskins told the council. "That is not only illegal, it is also dangerous, and it makes our town look bad. People who park that way have to pull out into oncoming traffic."

Police Chief Leslie Gates said that warning tickets have not been effective in taking care of the problem. Warning tickets will be given for a first offense, but a second offense will result in a traffic ticket with a fine to pay.

In other business, council members:

  • discussed the city's responsibility for the traffic light at the intersection of Highway 63 and Highway 91. The State Highway Department has turned it over to the city and the warranty on it has expired. Future plans for its maintenance were discussed.

  • were reminded that spring cleanup is well underway for the city.

  • were encouraged to visit the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. The market opened last Saturday with a good turnout, according to Haskins, and the setup fee is free for this first year.

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