April 20, 2011 Edition

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WR adjust permit fees

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

It will now cost a little more for building permits and inspections in Walnut Ridge, and commercial tree services will need a permit before cutting down any trees in the city limits. Walnut Ridge City Council members are making these changes following a state inspectors recommendation to increase the fees and the Arkansas Forestry Service's advice to adopt a tree ordinance.

Mayor Don House told the council that a state building inspector had advised him that Walnut Ridge is charging too little for inspections and permits compared to the rest of the state.

"The fee for building a residential home for a single family will go up from $25 to $35, and from $10 to $15 for each additional unit," House said. "For commercial buildings the price will go up from $35 to $45 for the first 5,000 square feet and will remain at $20 for each additional 5,000 square feet or portion thereof."

The inspection of communication towers dropped from $150 to $50.

"I realize this still leaves us charging less than most other towns, but I'm comfortable with these amounts for now," House said. "We can increase the fees later if it becomes necessary."

The council unanimously passed a resolution to increase the fees.

They also passed a tree ordinance that will require professional tree services to have a permit from the city before they cut down trees in Walnut Ridge. To receive a permit, a business must provide a certificate of insurance showing coverage for general liability, automobile liability, worker's compensation and other coverages required by law.

"This will protect our water, sewer, power and cable lines," House explained. "Any citizen can cut down a tree on their own property without a permit, this only affects commercial tree services. It will also give us a five percent advantage in getting federal grants for our city."

Passing the tree ordinance will also provide for the development of a Community Forestry Plan to address the planting, maintenance and removal of public trees within the city in order to promote the benefits of the community forest resources in Walnut Ridge, according to the ordinance.

The upcoming city auction was discussed by the council. It will be held on April 30, beginning at 9 a.m., and Ryan Jones will be the auctioneer for a six percent charge. Among items to be auctioned are pieces of equipment the city no longer uses, old trucks, lawn mowers, bush hogs, file cabinets, chairs, etc.

"Each department will receive the money from the items they sell," House said.

Walnut Ridge's one vacant position on the Northeast Arkansas Intermodal Authority was filled following a recommendation from the mayor.

"I suggest we appoint Bill Wilcoxson of Regions Bank to fill that slot," House told the council. "He has strong financial connections, as well as the financial knowledge to do a good job for us."

The council voted to name Wilcoxson to the Authority board.

Councilmen then addressed the increasing expense of providing dumpsters to the city on a daily basis.

"We are paying through the nose for this service," House said. "It's running about $1,000 a week right now."

Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin voiced his concerns if the city doesn't provide the dumpsters. "If we remove them, all the junk will end up in yards and be overgrown with grass and weeds," he said. "Can we save money by owning our own dumpsters?"

Street superintendent Ricky Ditto told him that the cost was about more than just the dumpster. "You have to have a driver for a special truck needed to pick up the dumpsters and someone to be sure items not accepted at the landfill will not get into the dumpsters."

After much debate, the council agreed to have the transportation and street committee meet and come back to next month's meeting with a plan or plans for the council to consider.

The Twin-Cities Cleanup will continue through Saturday, and all citizens are asked to take this opportunity to clean up their property.

The council also received an update on improvements at the city pool.

"The pool has been drained, cleaned and repainted," House said. "It has passed inspection, so it's in good shape for this year."

He added that other repairs in the pool area have been made, as well as lots of painting around the pool. Roof repairs have been completed on the bathhouses, and there is enough money in the budget to cover the expense of some new pool furniture for the big pool as well as the kiddie pool.

The pool normally opens the day after school lets out for the summer, and the days and hours it will be open will be announced soon.

In other business the council:

  • discussed the police department's need for two or three more cars, with some members of the council in favor of waiting until fall to see how the budget is doing before purchasing more vehicles. The car purchase was tabled until next month's meeting to see if the city has sold its helicopter by then.

  • learned that Wallin found a battery for the city's helicopter for approximately $800. Bids on the helicopter were to be opened on April 19.

  • learned that the 2001 bucket truck recently purchased for the street department cost $8,750 and has 84,000 miles on it. It has its own generator, a 38-foot boom, a two-man insulated bucket and does not require the driver to have a CDL license.

  • the Smelser building has been insured and the Smelsers were notified to remove their items by April 15 or the items would belong to the city. Some possible uses for the building were discussed.

  • learned that city attorney Brent Crews is working to correct an oversight on a deed to city property needed in the ongoing sewer project. The city did not file a deed or record it some 50 years ago, and now it will be handled properly, according to House.

  • discussed the need for new decorative flags for the street lights on Main Street. The old ones are too faded to use. The council tabled the subject till next month while they research the best deals and designs they can find.

  • learned that Jim McMillon met with Entergy and got two street lights replaced on Southwest Carmen Drive. He would also like to place two lights near the parking area at Stewart Park for the safety of children playing after dark. Mayor House and Wallin will go to the park with McMillon to decide where the lights can be placed so they will not distract ball players.

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