November 17, 2010 Edition

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WR City Council approves
bonuses, fire truck repairs

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Walnut Ridge City Councilmen approved end-of-year bonuses, discussed needed repairs for a fire truck and were updated on the Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority at their Nov. 9 meeting.

The council voted on employees and volunteer firemen's end-of-year bonuses. Employees currently receive $100 if they have been employed by the city for less than one year, and an added $25 per year with a cap at $225 for 16 years and over. Volunteer firemen receive $50.

Alderman Spencer Ponder asked that the council increase bonuses since they have not increased the amounts paid to employees for some time.

Alderwoman Paula Haskins asked that the volunteer firemen also receive an increase in their bonuses.

"They do so much for the city," Haskins said. "They give their time to attend classes, train, fight fires and many other things, and I think they deserve more than a $50 bonus."

The council agreed and all bonuses will be increased by $25.

One of the fire department's trucks has a tank leaking and will have to be repaired or replaced, according to Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin, chair of the fire committee.

"The truck has several other problems," Wallin said. "We are looking at an estimate of around $40,000 to repair and refurbish it. It's a 1990 model with low mileage, but it was in an accident about 10 years ago so we pretty well know what repairs it needs."

Wallin said the repairs could take two to three months, but that the city might be able to get a loaner for that length of time. He asked the council to be thinking about trying to get a grant to help with the repairs or to purchase a new truck, a process that could possibly take up to two years.

The truck is needed in order to help keep the city's new lower ISO rating. A new truck would cost between $210,000 and $250,000.

The council agreed to get a specific estimate on the needed repairs within the next 30 days and then decide on further action.

Milton Smith, board member of the Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority, spoke to the council about the progress being made by the Authority, most specifically about the possibility of Integrated Renewable Resources LLC building a railroad tie and wood pellet plant.

"We are still progressing and have a very good prospect for the Walnut Ridge/Hoxie area," Smith said. "We are currently working with the railroads and the engineers, and the landowners of the property where the railroad tie plant will be located have been very cooperative. We are not expecting any problems. We are looking at around 140 jobs paying an average salary of $40,000 a year. "

He told the council that the Authority appreciates the city's support in the past and would like to ask them to include them in next year's budget. Clay County is considering joining the Authority, and if they do, it will bring down the yearly cost for current members.

Special meeting

At a special city council meeting on Oct. 19, the council voted to close and vacate a portion of Old Main Street running through Lane's Addition and between blocks six and 10. The rules were suspended and the ordinance became effective immediately. The area had been vacated years ago and needed to be officially closed by ordinance.

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