May 22, 2013 Edition

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WR hires Urban
Planning firm

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

At their regular meeting on May 14, Walnut Ridge hired Urban Planning Associates, Inc. to update the city's zoning maps and code book, accepted bids from a company for chemicals to use in mosquito control this year and voted to use a portion of Rural Development grant money to pave the police department parking lot.

At the request of Fire Chief Frank Owens, James P. Walden, president of Urban Planning Associates, Inc., presented a proposal to assist the city with the preparation and publication of a comprehensive plan, as well as land use regulations, for the city of Walnut Ridge. Owens said he located the company through the Municipal League, and Alderman Jeff Taylor, chair of the planning committee told the council, that they were unanimously in favor of hiring the firm.

Walden outlined for the council the work Urban Planning Associates, Inc. provides, and the council voted in favor of hiring the firm.

The plan will be designed to provide a legal basis for the city's land use regulations and serve as a 25-year strategic physical plan for the city. Services will include: conducting a training workshop, assembling base maps and establishing a proposed planning area boundary; documenting and mapping existing physical conditions; facilitating and carrying out public engagement and informational activities; preparing and publishing comprehensive plan documents in booklet format that will include, as a minimum, future land use, transportation and community facilities elements; preparing and revising existing zoning regulations to carry out provisions of the plan; preparing and submitting subdivision regulations to govern development of residential subdivisions.

The total cost of these services is $17,750, and the project can be phased over two annual budgeting cycles. Billing will be handled monthly with the total cost divided into equal payments.

"With the new highways in our area, our zoning and codes need to be brought up to date and will need changes in the future," Mayor Don House said.

Walden said they will hold public meetings and get input from citizens as to what they want Walnut Ridge to look like in the future. His company has worked with many towns across the state, including Hoxie, Hot Springs, Clarksville, Little Rock and Batesville.

The council voted to use approximately $12,000 of a $15,000 Rural Development grant to pave the police department's parking lot. The county has furnished gravel and a roller to ready the lot for a two-inch overlay. The remainder of the grant will be used for metal siding for the garage storage building.

Aldermen also voted to accept the bid from Mosquito Products in Newport for chemicals for mosquito control. Alderman Michael "Button" Wallin told the council that the company is close by if the city has a problem.

"They're here to help us if we need them, and if we run out of chemicals, they are handy to help us with that," Wallin said.

In other business, the council:

  • discussed upcoming changes to the city's employee and city council member's insurance rates. The city's Municipal Health Benefit Fund shows a loss ratio of 187.93 percent, which means the price of the insurance will be going up in coming months.

  • was informed that the city pool is set to open on June 1. Lifeguards are currently taking certification classes.

  • was reminded that the city's fireworks display will be held July 3 at Stewart Park at 9 p.m.

  • learned that bid letting for the state aid street paving project for Walnut Ridge will take place at the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department in Little Rock on June 5.

  • was reminded that the Municipal League Convention will be held in June in Hot Springs at the Convention Center. Mayor House has been asked to speak at the convention about Walnut Ridge's Wings of Honor Museum, the Beatles at the Ridge festival and the Rock and Roll Highway 67.

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