March 19, 2014 Edition

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WR Council discusses condemned
building, summer events

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

City Attorney, Adam Weeks told the council that a building being condemned by the city has seen no action taken by owner J.R. Rogers since last month's meeting, a new commissioner for the city's planning commission was named and summer traffic at Stewart Park was discussed at the Walnut Ridge City Council meeting on March 11.

Mayor Don House asked Weeks for an update on the condemned property at 116 West Elm. The building is adjacent to the Workforce Center and has been deemed unsafe by Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Frank Owens. The city has received a letter from Workforce Services in Little Rock expressing concern regarding the safety of their employees and their employees' vehicles.

"I have nothing new to report," Weeks said. "Rogers' attorney informed me that Rogers has talked to a company about taking care of the building, but I have not heard from him and feel we are getting nowhere. I have asked for an offer and not received one. The council has to authorize me to file suit against him, and I now feel I must ask for permission to continue with the condemnation process."

Weeks added that Rogers could still start demolishing the building or could come to the council and make plans to rectify the situation, which would prevent going to court.

The council gave Weeks the authority to continue with the proceedings, but still hopes Rogers will work with them to take care of the problem without the need for legal proceedings.

Alderman Ed Lawson said, "We have to do something for the safety of our citizens."

Mayor House added that he felt the building was a dangerous situation during the recent ice storm and high winds. "I was concerned the building could collapse under those conditions," he said.

The council also appointed David Coker to the Walnut Ridge Planning Commission, filling the last seat on the commission. Alderman Jeff Taylor was the only dissenting voter.

The vote came after Mayor House had entertained a motion to adjourn, but Alderman Wendell Jones quickly said he would like the council to fill a vacancy on the Planning Commission before they adjourned.

"I just feel we need more time to discuss the appointment before we vote," Taylor said. "It's nothing personal against Coker. I would like to see us have more disclosure and more discussion before we vote for individuals to serve on commissions."

"I serve as the council's liaison on that commission," Taylor told The TD.

"I am a non-voting member," Taylor said. "I don't like the council's total disregard for what I have to say. They don't want to listen to what I have to report, and since I don't have a vote as liaison, it's a waste of my time to attend the commission's meetings."

Taylor said he plans to relinquish his role as liaison. "I don't feel it is prudent to appoint someone without more careful thought and discussion among council members," he said.

The council went into an executive meeting to discuss a pay raise for city attorney Adam Weeks. Alderman Wendell Jones told the council Weeks has been working many more hours on the city's behalf than he was told to expect when he was hired, and the council agreed he was entitled to a pay increase. Weeks will receive a $300-a-month raise and health insurance. "Mr. Weeks has been very professional and has done what we have asked of him," said Alderman Taylor.

In other business:

  • Mayor House asked the Street, Park and Police Department heads to bring the council a drawing and proposal for a safer way to handle traffic in Stewart Park during ball season and other summer activities held in the park. The entire council is concerned about the safety of children and adults upon entering and leaving the park. Alderman Ed Lawson commented that baseball tournaments bring a lot of people to town and the city needs to promote that. Mayor House said the safety of the children is of utmost importance.

  • the council set the city's spring cleanup for April 1-12; set the annual Easter egg hunt as Stewart Park for April 19; and planned Fourth of July fireworks for July 3.

  • councilmen asked Street and Park Superintendent Rickey Ditto to bring estimates for a new lawn mower and an ATV to next month's meeting. The city needs both as soon as possible with mowing and mosquito season quickly approaching.

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