November 18, 2009 Edition

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Census representative
speaks to WR Council

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Council members were addressed by a 2010 Census representative, condemned a property on West Walnut and discussed upcoming holiday events at their regular meeting on Nov. 10.

Gary Underwood from the U.S. Census Bureau attended the meeting and informed the council of the importance of getting a good response to the Census that will begin April 1 of next year.

"The Census is extremely important to towns, counties and states," Underwood said. "The population count is used to obtain grants, determine the classification of a city and our representation in Washington, among other things."

Underwood said that he serves 15 counties as a partnership specialist and that it is his job to let citizens know what the Census Bureau is doing and to get the message out about the importance of a good count on the Census.

"Forms with 10 questions to answer will be mailed to households. The questions should take about 10 minutes to answer, and then the form is ready to drop in the mail," Underwood explained. "If the form is not returned, a Census worker will go door-to-door collecting the needed information."

He told the council that Lawrence County did not get a good count on the last Census 10 years ago and that they are working to get the message across that it is of vital importance to the area that each person is counted.

"All information on the Census form is kept private for 72 years. Private information is not shared with any other agency such as the IRS. Information given will not affect anyone's child support payments, the amount they may be receiving in food stamps or other assistance programs," he said. "It is easy, it is important and it is safe."

He added that approximately 1,500 people from this area will be hired to assist with the Census. The jobs will last from 10 to 12 weeks and workers may put in from 20 to 40 hours a week, with their training and mileage paid. The Jonesboro office will process workers' applications. He said it's a good opportunity for those looking to make extra money at night and on weekends.

The council voted to condemn a house at 522 West Walnut. Code enforcement officer Robert Rice told the council that the property is tied up in an estate and the owners are not cooperating with the city's efforts to get the property cleaned up. Alderwoman Paula Haskins said the house is definitely a hazard, and Alderman Spencer Ponder added that it is one of the worst properties in town.

If the city has to tear it down and clean it up, a lien will be placed on the property, and the city will be repaid when it is sold.

Jim McMillon thanked the council for repairing a culvert off Compress Road and told them that Walnut Ridge is paying for streetlights that are not working.

"I worked for the power company for many years, and I know that you are being charged $15 a month or more for those lights," he said. "I have counted about 40 in town, and some of them have not worked for a year or two, which is costing the city a lot of money."

He told the council that he would like to offer his services free of charge, and that he would contact the power company. The company has a three-day work period to repair the lights after they receive a call that a light is out. However, they can't replace or repair all 40 lights in three days, he said.

Mayor Michelle Rogers thanked McMillon and told him that she appreciated the fact that he had brought the problem to the council's attention and especially for his offer to help with the solution.

Rogers told the council that the Christmas parade will be held on Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m. and that Christmas in the Park will also begin that night. The city's employee dinner will be held Dec. 7 at 6:30 in the Lawrence County Meeting Room.

In other business:

  • the council agreed to pay city employees an end-of-year bonus based on the amount of time the employee has worked for the city.

  • passed an ordinance to vacate the easement on property belonging to Alamo Courts, Inc. The city made a mistake on the property line when the streets were redone in the 1970s, and the ordinance will return the property to the landowners.

  • aldermen discussed next year's raises for city employees. The budget committee will work on that. Workers received a three percent raise last year.

  • Rogers told the council that the city has received its last FEMA check in the amount of $122,000. They have applied for reimbursement of 12 and a half percent from the state.

  • Alderwoman Paula Haskins inquired if any progress was being made on repairing the section of Robin Lane that is badly in need of repaving. She was informed that the city will replace the tile on Robin Lane and gravel will be placed there until spring when the street will be paved along with other streets that need paving.

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