January 05, 2011 Edition

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WR to proceed with project

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Despite opposition from City Water Works Manager Lester Herring, who said he was speaking for the entire water and sewer commission, the Walnut Ridge City Council voted to pass an ordinance to extend and improve the sewer system in Walnut Ridge at a special meeting on Dec. 29. Alderman Wendell Jones voted against the ordinance.

Alderman Dirk Davis asked Herring why he objected to the project at this late date. "You brought this project to us and sold it to us earlier in the year. I don't understand why you are now so against it after we have worked on this for a year." Davis said.

David Hopkins of Landmark Engineering and Surveying was at the council meeting to address concerns previously raised by Herring and the water department at a meeting on Dec. 15, as well as to inform the council of revisions to the original design to alleviate Herring's concerns.

Each council member had a copy of a letter written by Herring laying out his objections to the project, and ending with: "Dave Hopkins/Landmark Engineering in this design is not the answer. Myself and the Water and Sewer Commission totally disapprove of this project."

After Hopkins had described changes to the design and answered questions from council members, Herring was asked if the changes were acceptable to him.

"I don't want them (Landmark Engineering) messing with any of our existing system," Herring said. "I don't like Dave Hopkins or his engineers. We disagree on the whole thing, and if we choose to do this, we want to choose our own engineers."

Alderman Davis then reminded Herring that he had presented this idea to the council and asked, "Now you say don't do it because you have a problem with David? And you say you are speaking for the water commission - so what is your problem with this?"

When Herring repeated that he disliked the engineer and his firm, Mayor Michelle Rogers then asked him to either treat those in attendance with respect or leave.

Herring stood and left the building, and Rogers apologized to the council, Hopkins and others present at the meeting.

Hopkins said that he was trying to work through the problem with Herring as best he could.

The $1,845,000 project will extend the city's sewer service along Highway 91 to Highway 63, property annexed by the city 10 years ago, and will be funded by a grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and revenue bonds. A $1.50 charge will be added to each sewer hookup when the project is completed.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Gary Little, water commission member, said he felt the main problem Herring and the commission have with the project is the engineering firm.

"The last project they did for us has caused problems and concerns for the water department over the years," Little said. "They worked on a project in the McEntire addition when J.R. Rogers was mayor."

Little said the commission would at least like another engineering firm to review the project in order to avoid problems in the future.

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