April 18, 2012 Edition

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City annexes land, tightens belt

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

At their meeting on April 10, Walnut Ridge's city council finalized the annexation of property along Midway Road, discussed ways to minimize the city's budget and discussed the paperwork problem with a plane the city traded a helicopter for in 2008.

Property lying north of Midway road that had not previously been annexed was voted into the city at the meeting. City limits will run the length of Midway Road from Highway 67B and encompass the Entergy substation.

"We welcome approximately 50 residents in that area to the city of Walnut Ridge, effective as of now," Mayor Don House said after the annexation ordinance passed. "They now have police and fire protection, and the street department and animal control will be handing out fliers with information and phone numbers that will be helpful to them. The sewer project there is almost complete so they can hook up to that soon. The hookups are free, thanks to a grant we received that will cover the costs."

Funding for the lift station near the Walnut Ridge Head Start, the last sewer line project from SouthPoint to the school, was discussed.

"The bid for that project was $159,000, and we have $96,000 left over from multiple projects we have completed," said Mayor House. "The USDA has about $10,000 left over from another project that they can swing over to us. That leaves us needing $59,000 to complete the project.

"City Water and Sewer Department Superintendent Lester Herring has told me they have enough money in reserve to complete the project. They can get a low interest loan or grant to recoup the $59,000 they will spend to complete the work."

The council passed a resolution to accept the money with the understanding that the water and sewer department will get such a loan or grant.

The council turned their attention to the city budget.

The cost of workman's comp and court costs for District Court is up significantly this year, as well as the price of fuel, according to the mayor.

"Our bills are greater than what we can meet with our current budget and still feel comfortable at this time," Mayor House said. "The sales tax is not keeping up with the budget as we had planned. We need to take even more action to keep our budget at an amount we feel good about."

Alderman Mike Phillips told the council the city can't spend more than it makes.

"We're not the only city feeling the pinch," Phillips said.

Alderman Dirk Davis said he had looked at the city's March income for the past four years.

"Income for March during those years has always been low, with income in April beginning to make an improvement," Davis said. "It's time for us to look at what we need to do to stay in good shape."

Alderman Rob Combs added, "We don't want to get into layoffs, etc. Everyone needs to be aware of our circumstances."

In order to cut costs the council made several changes in city services.

Access to city dumpsters will now be limited to Saturdays only. Each time a dumpster is filled, it costs the city $400, and four or more dumpsters have been being filled each week.

Limbs, leaves and brush will be picked up the first full week of each month beginning in May, with the exception of storm damage.

Fire Chief Frank Owens said citizens can compost their leaves and brush, chip them, or burn them themselves. "If they choose to burn them, they need to call 886-6631 for a burn permit, which they can receive by phone."

The city will engage a hiring freeze for now, and will look at ways to cut phone expenses as well as hold an auction of obsolete equipment in coming weeks.

In other business:

  • councilmen voted to raise the speed limit on Old Pocahontas Road from 25 to 30 miles per hour with No Trucks Allowed signs at each end of the street.

  • Alderman Combs announced the Tree Committee is holding a contest to find the biggest walnut tree in Walnut Ridge (see related story).

  • Mayor House told the council the Arkansas Forestry Commission will hold a free workshop on April 25 from 10 a.m. to noon at the new police complex for those interested in caring for trees - pruning, trimming, etc. - and the general public is welcome.

  • the council learned that the park committee has been looking at the parking problems at Stewart Park in an attempt to find ways to keep children safer and traffic flowing in that area.

  • Alderman Ed Lawson asked that the city look for ways to rid street sides of the litter chopped up by mowers; Alderwoman Paula Haskins asked about replacing bulbs in lampposts; and Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin added there are street lights that also need replacing.

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