February 16, 2011 Edition

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WR Council to sell helicopter,
purchase/install tornado sirens

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Walnut Ridge Mayor Don House told the city council at their meeting on Feb. 8 that he is still enjoying being mayor after six weeks in office. He said traffic in and out of city hall has been enormous.

"I have been out with department heads and following through on requests they have made," said House. "The council has given me a lot of support, and city clerk Carolyn Hayes has been wonderful in helping me. Administrative assistant Sue Hilburn has been superb. I have benefitted from the knowledge of both these ladies."

He added that the city is in good financial shape, especially considering the present economy across the nation.

"We want to be progressive but frugal and take care of our legitimate needs," he said. "We have stayed pretty well within our budget. Our sales tax was up this month and our court fines have doubled, which shows the activity of our police department. The police department will be more self supporting by the end of the year if this continues."

The city's department heads addressed the council and told them what each department would need in the future in order to better serve the citizens and the town. The council hopes to receive grant money to help with the cost of equipment, improvements in the park, the city pool, the walking trail, etc.

"We'll make improvements as we can afford them," House told the council. "We'll need state or federal help to achieve all our goals."

In old business, the council voted in favor of Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin purchasing a battery for the city's helicopter so that prospective buyers can see how well it runs. They authorized Wallin to spend up to $1,000 for the battery.

Aldermen voted at last month's meeting to sell the helicopter once it had been checked out by a mechanic and an asking price could be determined.

"The mechanic said it was in good condition but the log books aren't in it," House said. "We need to find those if we can. Two or three people are interested in buying it."

The council voted to put the helicopter up for bid, with a reserve bid of $60,000 to $65,000.

An airplane owned by the city also needs some adjustments before it can be sold, which should cost between $1,000 to $1,500, according to Wallin.

Mayor House said he had received two calls from a man in Illinois asking about the plane. The council agreed to pursue the sale of the helicopter and tabled the sale of the airplane until the work needed on it is complete.

The council also agreed to table the purchase of a 1997 International rescue-style truck until the fire committee checks into financing for the vehicle.

Wallin brought the council up to date on the city's tornado sirens.

"Three years ago I applied for a $20,000 grant to purchase another siren for the city," Wallin said. "The siren was to be placed at the new fire station on Highway 67B so it would alert the north side of town in the event of a tornado. In testing our existing sirens, we discovered the one at the old fire station is not working, and we haven't been able to find anyone who can repair it. That is the siren closest to the school, and the one that would alert school officials to a tornado or other emergency situation.

"We need to make sure our children are safe and cover residents on the north side of town as well," Wallin added. "The new siren purchased with grant money has yet to be installed, but is expected to be by the end of February. We need to buy another siren now so that every section of town is protected."

The council voted to take bids on a new siren and hope to have it installed before the upcoming tornado season.

In other business, the council:

  • again voted to accept an ordinance authorizing the construction of extensions, betterments and improvements to the sewer city's sewer facilities. The ordinance was voted on at December's meeting and passed with all but Alderman Wendell Jones voting yes. Due to a technicality, the ordinance had to be voted on again in order to be adopted, and again passed, with only Jones voting against it.

  • agreed to accept an old fire truck from the Walnut Ridge Airport if commissioners vote to donate it to the city. It can be traded or sold or used as the city sees fit.

  • heard an update on the city water works from A.J. Henry, and were updated on street lights by Jim McMillon who has offered his services to the city free of charge.

  • was informed by the mayor that the drainage project for East Elm from Second Street to Sixth Street and for West Walnut from Sixth Street to Seventh Street will probably start as soon as weather permits if the engineer approves the bid from Shannon Kee Construction in Jonesboro. The bid will leave the city with approximately $9,000 extra to use for further improvements.

  • learned that the former building inspector resigned, and his duties are being handled by Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Frank Owens for the time being, saving the city $30,000 a year.

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