September19, 2012 Edition

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WR amends ordinance,
accepts PD resignation

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

At their regular meeting on Sept. 11, the Walnut Ridge City Council observed a moment of silence for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and those who have fought and died in wars to protect our country and our people around the world from suffering the same fate.

The council had one item of old business on their agenda stemming from a recent special meeting concerning the city's budget.

The council had been alarmed at the drop in the city's general fund over the past 22 months, and many cutbacks were made by the mayor to bring the budget back to a balance they can feel comfortable with. Several employees were laid off, dumpster service was discontinued except for fall cleanup, and a less expensive phone carrier was found and city issued cell phones were discontinued, saving the city $125,217 between now and Dec. 31.

At a special meeting on Sept. 4, Alderman Wendell Jones had suggested that the council forego their salaries of $100 a month and either drop their health insurance or pay for it out of pocket from now through the end of the year in order to do their part to help the city save money. Health insurance for the aldermen and city employees rose to $405 per person in July of this year.

"In light of the layoffs of city personnel, I think that is one way we could show our support to the employees who have lost their jobs and save the city some money," Jones said. City Attorney Adam Weeks was asked to look into the legalities of that proposition and bring his findings to the Sept. 11 meeting.

"The city council cannot decrease a council member's salary, which includes insurance and retirement, during that member's term of office," Weeks said. "They can decrease it for a subsequent term of office if they so choose. An individual member can request that his/her benefits be decreased until the end of their full term, but the benefits will return to the original amount at the end of that term. In other words, benefits cannot just be decreased for a few months and then reinstated at will."

Jones withdrew his motion.

The council then addressed the need to amend a city ordinance.

"Our auditors have requested that we amend an ordinance allowing the city to do business with city council members but not with city employees," Mayor House said. "The ordinance needs to include employees."

A motion was made to amend the ordinance, the rules were suspended, an emergency was declared and the ordinance went into effect immediately.

In other business:

  • the council learned that Marvin and Sharon Kennedy have requested that a portion of an alley be closed near their home on East Vine. The council asked Weeks to provide them with a description of the property. The Kennedys will be informed that a petition agreeing to closing the alley must be signed by other property owners, five in total, who would be affected by the closing, or a public meeting must be held before action can be taken.

  • following an executive session, Mayor House announced that Officer Jeff Midgett resigned his position with the Walnut Ridge Police Department effective Sept. 10. Officer John Jenkins who was laid off Sept. 3 has been called back to duty to fill the vacancy.

  • the council was informed that the annual twin-cities fall cleanup is scheduled for Oct. 1-13 for Walnut Ridge and Hoxie. The county will have their dumpsters out Oct. 1-6.

  • council members learned that a 100 percent JAG Grant in the amount of $4, 200 has been awarded to the police department for equipment purchases, and the grant application for an improved water park has been submitted. The Department of Parks and Tourism will announce grant awards in December.

  • Mayor House told the council that groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the new 9,500-square-foot Corning Health Care Clinic on Colonial Drive. The new clinic will add 15 new jobs.

  • the council learned that the lawsuit of Morris vs. Franks from 2010 has been settled, and the city may owe the Arkansas Municipal League up to $2,250; the lawsuit of Estes vs. Burnside of 2010 has also been settled and legal expense will amount to $1,000 in that suit. A lawsuit filed by Grahuntley Properties against the city for razing property at 220 East Poplar in 2010 is still ongoing.

  • the mayor informed the council that he has asked that all cell phones issued to city employees be turned in. There is a problem that many of the phones are under contract, and that issue will now have to be resolved.

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