January 19, 2011 EditionAlso in this issue...
WR assessing needs of city
At the Walnut Ridge City Council meeting on Jan. 11, Mayor Don House congratulated new members of the city council saying, "The people of Walnut Ridge have put their confidence in you and me, and especially in those who were re-elected to the council. We will do the best job we can and give our citizen's 110 percent of what talents we have to offer - we have a lot before us this year."
New aldermen are Rob Combs, Mike Phillips and Ed Lawson.
"Because it is the first of the year, the budget will be strained for a couple of months," he added. "We will try to be frugal and still address the city's needs as we can."
"There is a lot we want for the city, but the city's needs will have to be addressed first," he said. He added that he wants to set a high ethical tone for city officials and all their appointments.
"All police officers will be drug tested in order to give citizens more confidence in their police department, and I want all city employees to have random drug testing done from time to time," said House.
House and the council immediately went to work on finding funding needed for the purchase of a needed fire truck, police car, new roof for fire station number three on East Main, and a $5,000 donation to the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce who plans to hire a part-time economic development director.
The fire department's immediate needs are replacing or repairing a truck and a new roof for station three.
Alderman Wendell Jones, chair of the fire committee, told the council the fire department would like to buy a rescue truck instead of another fire truck to replace a pumper truck that needs between $37,000 and $50,000 to repair.
"Going this route will not affect our ISO rating," said Fire Chief Frank Owens. "A rescue truck model from 1997-2011 would cost $50,000 to $60,000. We need to see how much the company would give us as a trade-in on the old truck."
Owens said he will bring those figures to next month's council meeting. Further action was tabled until then.
"The roof at station three is badly in need of repairs," Chief Owens said. "It has been leaking since we moved to our new location. The water leaks onto our trucks and equipment and has damaged the bathroom and one of the interior rooms."
A new metal roof would cost between $9,000 and $12,000 dollars and should last for a really long time, according to Owens. He said if the city pays for the roof, the fire department and the volunteer firemen can pay for the work to repair the damages on the inside of the building.
The council voted to replace the roof as soon as Mayor House feels the city can afford it.
The police department's need for new cars was then addressed.
"The city currently has eight police cars, including two 2010 Dodge Chargers paid for with grant money last year," Mayor House said. "The other vehicles have a lot of miles on them, and three of them are either in need of repairs or are currently being repaired."
New Police Chief Richy Thatcher has found a 2007 Crown Victoria with 6,835 miles on it for sale. Thatcher said he has been pleased with purchases from the same seller in the past and would like to recommend the city pay the asking price of $13,000 if he is pleased with it when he goes to check it out.
The council voted to purchase the car if it meets with Thatcher's approval, and will look into purchasing other cars later in the year.
"I would like to remind the council that the purchase of a new police car is not included in the budget we approved," said Alderman Dirk Davis. "Just be aware of that and know that we'll have to cut corners elsewhere."
The council agreed to sell an airplane and a helicopter the city owns to help pay for police cars and other city needs. A call from a prospective buyer, a large contractor in Texas, has already been received.
Mayor House will have the aircrafts evaluated so the council will know how much they are worth before putting then up for sale.
The city now has a drainage project ready for bid, which will require money from the city.
Mayor House told the council that a drainage grant the former mayor and council worked on to alleviate drainage problems in the West Walnut and Elm Street area is ready to go to bid. "The city will be responsible for an outlay of $25,000 to complete the grant," House said. "We will be required to pay that by the last of March or May 1."
The mayor told the council that he had received a letter from the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce asking for support from the city and the Lawrence County Quorum Court so they can hire a director. The person hired will work exclusively on economic development. The director will be a part-time employee and will work closely with the Walnut Ridge mayor and the county judge.
"The city used to contribute $12,000 a year, but that amount has lessened over the years," House said. "If we contribute $5,000, we can pay it in monthly installments, and hopefully the chamber can hire someone by summer."
Alderman Paula Haskins asked if any other cities were making donations, and House told her they were not.
"As the county seat, we have always carried the load," House said. "I urge all cities to do what they can."
The council voted in favor of the donation.
Alderman Dirk Davis discussed a possible problem within the police department.
"Some allegations of misconduct in the police department have been brought to my attention," Davis said. "I recommend we do an audit of the department."
Mayor House told the council that he has asked for an audit of all city departments.
One of the City Water Works' commissioners term on the commission has expired, House told the council. "A.J. Henry has served for a number of years in that capacity and has done an admirable job," House said. "His commission has expired and I have received a letter from Gary Little, who is a member of the water commission, asking that Henry be reappointed."
The council approved the appointment, and Alderman Davis said, "I want to thank him personally and tell him he has done a remarkable job."
In other business: