March 20, 2013 Edition

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WR Council agrees to
lease sanitation truck

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Walnut Ridge Mayor Don House began the March 12 city council meeting by asking for prayers for Sidney Nicole Randall, a 14-year-old Walnut Ridge girl who was reported missing from her home on March 10. He told the council 50 officers are looking for her, as well as dog teams and volunteers from the community and across the state.

Lawrence County Sheriff Jody Dotson and his officers, Arkansas State Police, criminal investigators and dive teams have joined the search, as well as U.S. Marshals, former FBI agents and volunteers with helicopters. The Red Cross is also here to prepare meals for those searching, House said.

"We are receiving assistance from across the nation," said House. "Sidney has a mother and two brothers who need us to help bring her home."

At their last council meeting, the need for a new sanitation truck was discussed, and a resolution authorizing a lease purchase agreement for the purpose of procuring one was presented to the council at this month's meeting. Aldermen voted to enter into a two-year lease purchase agreement with River City Hydraulics in Sherwood for a 20-yard Freightliner truck. The truck will cost approximately $133,000, and the lease includes a 100 per cent warranty.

The city can finance that amount through River City at a rate of 2.19 percent, but Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin asked the council to see if one of the city's local banks will finance the truck at the same interest rate.

"I'd like to see us finance it locally if at all possible," Wallin said.

The one sanitation truck the city now has will be used as back up when the new truck arrives, which should be sometime in May.

The mayor announced the annual Easter Egg Hunt is scheduled for Saturday at Stewart Park. More than 2,000 eggs will be hidden and several prizes will be awarded. (See page 4B).

He also informed the council that the annual Fishing Derby for kids is scheduled for May 18 in Stewart Park. The city's spring cleanup will be held April 8-20. More information on the derby and the spring cleanup will be announced at a later date.

Councilmen were then asked to suspend the rules and pass a resolution agreeing to accept a $520,000 State Aid Street Program Grant. This is the first year this grant, a 100 percent grant, has been made available, and Walnut Ridge received the largest grant in the state.

The grant will pay for a two-inch overlay on various city streets, as well as preliminary engineering, construction and construction engineering.

Streets that will benefit from the grant include: Pocahontas Road, Free Street, Sixth Street, Midway Road, Luther Bridge Road and Southern Avenue, which will require patching and additional leveling.

Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Frank Owens asked the council to authorize him to accept a grant from Homeland Security and FEMA that can be used for training and equipment for the fire department.

"The grant is a four-year commitment for new trainees and will allow them to be paid a stipend for their work. It will reimburse them for the cost of attending classes, etc.," Owens said. "This grant does not require the city to pay anything."

The council made a motion to authorize Owens to accept the grant.

Mayor House told the council that a grant for $78,000 for improvements to the south side of East Main Street between the railroad tracks and Southeast Third has been awarded.

"If we accept the grant, the city will have an obligation of $28,000, and bids must be let by June 20," House said. "With the budget in mind, payments would be made over a three month period if the council decides to accept the grant. If we turn it down, however, and decide to reapply at a later date, I don't think they would look favorably at our request."

Councilmen passed a motion to accept the grant.

House also told the council that the USDA has approved $19,000 in grant funds to upgrade six sewer lift pump stations. The money is left over from a grant that upgraded and extended the city's sewer system.

He added that a $125,000 grant has been awarded to the city for renovation of the city park bathhouse and the installation of a Splash Pad at the city pool. This grant has to be matched by the city, but may be matched with money or in-kind services or both.

"The Walnut Ridge Airport Commission has received an additional $38,000 grant for improvements," House said. "This is a no-match addition to a $512,000 grant they received earlier."

The council discussed the Inattentive Driving Ordinance that passed on first reading at last month's meeting, but must pass two more readings before it becomes a law. Several of the aldermen still have questions about the ordinance and would like more time to make a decision before they vote in favor of passing it. They may want to change some of the wording and are not yet comfortable with their understanding of how the fines would work.

Alderman Rob Combs told the council that the ordinance would just be another tool to help officers, as well as citizens. "You have had a month to talk to other cities and law enforcement officers. Everyone around us has this ordinance on their books," Combs said. "If we don't pass it, it tells our officers we don't trust them to use it fairly."

"I felt like it was being pushed through, and I saw no point in rushing it until we knew more about it,"Alderman Ed Lawson said. "I would feel better if we could see how it works before we put it into effect."

"There are four new people here on the council and we are beings asked to vote on something that will affect our citizens," said Alderman Jeff Taylor.

Alderman Wallin said, "If we do adopt the ordinance, we could repeal it if we don't think it works, or amend it."

No motion was made so the ordinance was not read a second time. It will be brought up again at the next meeting.

In other business:

  • Alderman Lawson told the council that he would like to suggest that Alderman Wendell Jones abstain from voting on police matters. Jones is a reserve officer for the city, and employs Walnut Ridge Police Chief Richy Thatcher as an EMT at Arkansas Excellent Transport. "This could be considered a conflict of interest," Lawson said. City Attorney Adam Weeks said the decision would be up to Jones, who was unable to attend this month's meeting.

  • councilmen learned that four new ball park scoreboards have been installed at Stewart Park. Three of the remote control boards were donated by Don and Fran Cavenaugh of Cavenaugh Auto World, and Walnut Ridge High School in cooperation with Sunrise 7 Up Distributing contributed the fourth one.

  • A new dugout roof has been installed at the ballfield by the city's Park Department.

  • House congratulated the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Walnut Ridge Association for their recent achievements and awards in tourism. "We are grateful for all they do and are lucky to have them working for our community," he said.

  • it was announced that the city will hold their Fourth of July fireworks display on Wednesday, July 3, at Stewart Park.

  • the council learned that the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has notified the city that the crossing at Free Street and Highway 67B qualifies for traffic signals. The estimated cost would be $200,000, and the city would be responsible for $20,000 of that amount. However, the city would have to pay the $200,000 to have the light installed, and would be reimbursed all but the $20,000 when the work is complete. The city would also be responsible for the upkeep of the signal. The matter was tabled until next month.

  • councilmen agreed to install signs on Colonial Drive to warn delivery and construction trucks to stay off residents' yards. Many residents are having their yards damaged by the trucks, and city police officers are unable to ticket the drivers without signs being placed there.

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