June 22, 2011 Edition

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Council to update building code
manual, fireworks display planned

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Walnut Ridge City Councilmen discussed the city's fireworks show planned for the Fourth of July weekend, agreed to update the building code manual and discussed flood and wind damage to city property at their June 14 meeting.

The council agreed to have the fireworks show at 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 3, at Stewart Park. Bryan Butts, who has been in charge of the show for many years, asked the council how much money they want to spend on fireworks.

"Last year you spent $4,000 on the display, and the show lasted 20 to 25 minutes," Butts said.

The council agreed to the same amount this year, and they stressed the need for donations from area businesses and individuals.

"We need all the help we can get in order to finance the fireworks show," Mayor Don House said. "The city will pay the amount not raised by donations.

"People who are going to be in town that weekend and aren't able to get to a show somewhere else depend on the city to provide the display," House added. "It's something we can do for our citizens."

Alderman Michael "Button" Walling will spray the park for mosquitoes that morning so those attending will be better able to enjoy the fireworks.

Mayor House and Fire Chief Frank Owens informed the council that the city's building code manual is in dire need of updating.

"I have appointed Frank as chair of a committee to bring the antiquated manual up to date," House told the council. "We are in the process of hiring an inspector and will ask him to serve on the committee as well."

The new inspector will be stationed in the city administration building according to House.

Chief Owens told the council they have had several complaints about the city's building code over the last few years.

"We need to review and refine the codes," Owens said. "It's time to get the manual updated. It's hard to do code enforcement without a current manual."

Damage to city property and facilities from recent floods and windstorms has totaled between $300,000 and $375,000 so far this year, according to Mayor House. "FEMA will help us with much of these costs," he said.

Damage to city owned property at the airport is approximately $100,000, and between $7,200 and $14,000 in damage was reported at Stewart Park. Labor and overtime for the fire and street departments total $101,000. The Community Center received $113,000 worth of damage when winds lifted up portions of the roof and allowed rain inside the building and floodwaters ran in under the entrance doors. A new roof there will cost between $180,000 and $200,000 and the city is hopeful that FEMA and/or their insurance company will help pay that expense.

"FEMA is allowing us to include the damage to Compress Road amount. We will file for the damage to both the Walnut Ridge side and the Hoxie side, and then it will be our responsibility to repair both sides," he added. "We will apply for the money so Hoxie won't have to."

"They are also allowing us to file our flood damage and wind damage all in one application," said House. "Our application papers are 95% complete, and our department heads are to be commended for their work in this regard."

Stewart Park will soon have more lighting, according to Mayor House.

"Five new light poles have been donated to the city by Entergy and Craighead Electric for added lighting at the park's ball field parking lot," he told the council. "The poles have been set and now need wiring and lights."

The mayor was asked to get complete bids for the cost of lights and wiring and to go ahead and get the work done. Two local electricians had given approximate bids but will be asked to submit complete estimates before a decision will be made. Jim McMillon will volunteer his time to assist in installing the lights, and the work is expected to begin very soon.

In other business the council:

  • voted to adopt a tree ordinance and invoked the emergency clause so that it became effective immediately. They voted on the ordinance at their last regular meeting, but failed to vote on the emergency clause.

  • was informed that the city has seen an increase in complaints about colored water. Mayor House said the brownish water is at least partially a result of the fire department flushing city hydrants, as they are required to do. Another factor could be the age of some of the city's pipes. The water should soon improve, he said.

  • was asked and agreed to grade Fry Lane.

  • heard from Alderman Wallin that he will have someone looking at the city's airplane to see what it needs before it is put up for sale.

  • learned that the green fire truck the airport commission donated to the city had been put up for bid, and they have had several callers who are interested in it.

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