February 29, 2012 Edition

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Hoxie FD to be manned 24 hours

Leslie Ginn
Staff Writer

Fire Chief Mark VanBrook presented a plan to the Hoxie Council at its February meeting that would allow the Hoxie firehouse to be manned 24-hours-a-day through an apprenticeship program offered through the Black River Technical College Fire Science Department.

The program recipients would be able to learn the duties of a firefighter, including pre-plan inspections, hydrant and fire-hose pressure tests and daily station maintenance responsibilities. This will benefit Hoxie since the apprentice would be available at the firehouse to receive emergency calls immediately. In exchange for fulfilling one year of service, Hoxie will pay the apprentice's second year tuition and books.

"I think that implementing this program will be a big step toward helping Hoxie achieve a lower ISO rating and insurance rates," VanBrook said.

The council approved implementing the apprenticeship program for three students to begin in summer 2012 as well as another resolution presented by VanBrook to apply for a grant. The grant amount totals $20,000 from Arkansas Rural Community Grant Programs. If received, grant money would outfit the entire Hoxie Volunteer Fire Department personnel with new turnouts. Turnouts are the clothing to protect the firefighters.

"The turnouts are absolutely critical to protect our fire personnel," said Mayor Lanny Tinker.

The recently passed budget was also discussed. Tinker offered high praise for City Clerk and Treasurer Katie Smith's efforts that "were above and beyond" her regular duties. Tinker also recognized the work of the city council to redefine a sound financial plan for Hoxie.

"The leadership of the city council was exemplary," said Tinker.

Highlights of the new budget included: the mayor and the council as a whole will permanently reduce their salary by $2,500 each; the Water and Sewer Department will be down one worker until the budget allows for a replacement, thus saving $23,000; salary increases for city employees were not approved for 2012, saving $12,000.

"Hoxie is still spending more than we bring in with the 2012 budget, but the cuts dropped the amount from $80,000 to just $30,000 in the red," said Tinker. "We will re-evaluate some of our budget expenditures come mid-year."

Tinker also praised the foresight and direction of Lawrence County Sheriff Jody Dotson's program to have those that are incarcerated work for the benefit of the county. This labor force will participate in building sleeping quarters for the approved apprenticeship program making the cost below $1,000. Rent One is also helping with needed furnishings for the sleeping quarters.

To further improve the Hoxie budget, a change in business practice for the water department was discussed. At present, Hoxie spends over $2,000 per year to issue regular water bills and about $900 on late notices. It was approved that after May 1, Hoxie will no longer send out late notices for water bills.

The council also approved an increase for the Hoxie Service Center rental fees to help maintain the building. For Hoxie residents who pay a 50-cent monthly fee, charges will raise from $15 to $30 for rental on Monday to Thursday and $30 to $60 for rental on Friday to Sunday. Non-residents will now pay $60 on Monday to Thursday and $100 on Friday to Sunday. Fund-raiser events continue to be $100 and a refundable deposit of $100 in check form is still required.

In other business:

  • a job fair in Hoxie on Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. was announced. The fair will focus on training individuals regarding resumes, job application and interviews. Information on job openings will also be available. (See related story on page 9B).

  • a cleanup ordinance for the 2011 budget was passed.

  • it was announced that the next meeting will be held in the renovated City Hall instead of the Hoxie Service Center because of better acoustics.

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