May 18, 2011 Edition

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Council discusses budget,
dumpsters, brush pickup

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Walnut Ridge residents will see changes beginning this week in the way the city picks up brush and class IV trash, and usage of the city dumpster will now be limited to two days a week. The cost of keeping the dumpster open and picking up brush around town on a daily basis is simply costing the city too much to continue the services the way they have in the past, according to Mayor Don House and Street Superintendent Rickey Ditto.

The city council voted to limit dumpster usage to two days a week, Wednesdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The dumpster is located at the City Shop at 330 Southwest Fourth Street.

Regular trash routes will remain the same. Brush will now be removed on the same day as trash pickup, once a week in each section of town.

The city will continue to have spring and fall cleanups for class IV items each year. Once the cleanups are completed, however, those needing to dispose of items not picked up with their regular trash will need to take them to the city dumpster themselves, or call the street department. The city will pick up those items for $25 per pickup load. The code enforcement officer will utilize fines according to the city cleanup ordinance to help control littering of city streets.

"The dumpsters have cost us $41,000 in the last four or five months, not including city employees' wages," said Ditto. "We can't keep doing city cleanup year round. It costs us too much."

He also noted that time spent dealing with brush and dumpsters is time that employees could be using for other purposes to benefit the city.

Alderman Dirk Davis, chair of the budget and planning committee, told the council it was costing the city an average of $80,000 a year.

Mayor House said the council has been struggling with this problem for some time. Alderman Spencer Ponder, chair of the street committee, Alderman Rob Combs, sanitation department chair, and Davis met with the street and sanitation department superintendents and worked to come up with this solution to the problem.

House said, "I'm glad people are cleaning up their yards, but we can't afford to keep doing cleanup the way we have in the past. We have to be more frugal and still offer good service to our citizens."

The city's finances and budget were also discussed, along with what the council wanted to do with the $91,759 received from the recent sale of their helicopter.

Alderman Wendell Jones made a motion that the city pay off the rescue truck they purchased earlier this year when an older truck had to be replaced. The council voted to pay off the $70,730.68 loan.

Alderman Jones also recommended that the council buy a lawn mower for the park department and put $2,500 in the city's CMA account.

The council voted in favor of placing the money in the account, and then discussed the lawn mower.

"I'd like to see us buy a mower from a local dealer if they have what we need," Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin told the council.

Councilmen agreed to check out the price of mowers and advertise for bids if necessary.

Walnut Ridge Police Chief Richy Thatcher was asked to look for another police car after Jones suggested they use money left from the sale of the helicopter towards the car. He will also check on the cost of leasing police cars.

The council also voted to buy 54 banners to place on the city's decorative light poles at a cost of approximately $2,835. Wording and/or designs on the banners are still in the planning stage. Alderman Paula Haskins will order them through Goin' Postal.

The city's budget for the remainder of the year was discussed.

"Every department needs to look at places where they can make cuts," Davis said. "The cost of fuel and everything else is going up, and we don't want to have budget problems next year."

House told department supervisors that they each need to have their budgets evaluated by July.

In other business:

  • Ponder was named president pro tempore.

  • Bids for mosquito control chemicals were opened and Mosquito Products had the best bid. They are the same company used by the city for the past three years.

  • The Tree Ordinance passed on second and third readings. The ordinance will provide for the development of a Community Forestry Plan to address the planting, maintenance and removal of public trees within the city limits.

  • Combs and Jones will represent the council on the tree committee.

  • The city's airplane and an older model fire truck will be put up for bid in the near future.

  • The large pavilion at Stewart Park has a new roof after the old one was damaged by winds and rain. Insurance paid for the repairs, which totaled $3,600.

  • The mayor informed the council what the city needs to do to apply and qualify for FEMA assistance following the recent floods, including all volunteer work, damages etc.

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