July 21, 2010 Edition

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Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Alan Haskins (center) and councilmen Michael "Button" Wallin (from left), Johnnie Fears, Everett Hart and Jonathan Sanders look over a list of Arkansas fire departments and their ISO ratings at the council's meeting on July 13. Wallin is chairman of the fire committee.

WRFD achieves lower ISO rating

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Alan Haskins had good news for the city council at its meeting on July 13. A project three years in the making has come to fruition.

"We've had the goal of lowering the city's ISO rating ever since I became chief," Haskins told the council. "We have received word that the Walnut Ridge Fire Department now has a Class III rating. The new rating will become effective Nov. 1."

Three years ago the city was rated a Class V, and a Class IX in some places.

The change in rating puts the fire department up there with those in Jonesboro, Batesville and Newport, according to Haskins. Lower insurance costs for the citizens of Walnut Ridge and College City is an important benefit.

"Citizens, businesses and factories should see a difference on their insurance rates," Haskins said. "Insurance companies will be notified on Nov. 1. Citizens don't have to do anything to receive the lower rates. Insurance premiums will automatically be lowered."

A lot of work has gone into accomplishing this goal. The firemen, volunteer firemen, the water department and the council have all played a part in helping to get the lower rating.

"It has been a joint effort," Haskins said, "and I feel that we probably have the best fire department in the state."

Mayor Michelle Rogers told the council that achieving this goal speaks volumes about the fire department and the work they are doing.

In the city's ongoing effort to clean up the town, code enforcement officer Robert Rice reported that two properties condemned by the council are ready to be torn down. One is located at 522 West Walnut and the other is at 501 Northeast Fourth Street.

"Jerry Phillips has been notified that he has until August to bring the house at 320 Northeast Front into compliance with the city code.

"Phillips said he plans to remodel the house and use it as a rental property," Rice said. "We are still working to find the owner of houses at 422 Northeast Second and 202 East Poplar which need to be cleaned up or condemned."

Rice will continue the search for the legal owner, and bids will be taken for demolition.

The possibility of building a municipal golf course was broached by Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin when he asked the council what they thought about the idea.

"I'm thinking that we might want to build a course away from any area near the airport," he said. "That way the problems that the former golf club and airport have had to deal with will never again come into play."

"Our town needs a golf course," said Rogers. "A municipal course is not built to be a moneymaker for the city, it is built as a community service. The course would hopefully bring in enough money to run and maintain it."

Rogers said that the city would be eligible for grants that other private entities do not have access to, and that it will take a long time to get one built if the council decides that's what they want to do.

"I'd like to see us build something that we can be proud of - do it right," Wallin said. "We will need a lot of community help to get it done. It's time for our community to come together."

The council will hold a meeting to discuss their thoughts, options, possible locations and funding, etc. An actual date for the meeting was not set.

Mayor Rogers reported that the city's Fourth of July celebration went well and had a good attendance. She thanked the fire department and the sponsors who helped make the fireworks possible, as well as those in charge of mosquito control.

She also told the council that the city is working on the drainage project they recently received a grant for, with the physical work slated to begin in the fall.

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