May 28, 2014 Edition

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Building still issue for WR Council

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The building located at 120 West Elm Street in Walnut Ridge, owned by J.R. Rogers, is still a danger to citizens and employees at the Workforce Service Center located next door. Mayor Don House and the city council are concerned that Rogers will continue to delay taking actions he agreed to when he signed a memorandum of agreement with the city last month.

City Attorney Adam Weeks informed the council that he has not received an agreed upon copy of an executed, enforceable contract from a licensed and bonded contractor who will either demolish or rehabilitate the building. Fire Chief Frank Owens, who serves as the city's code enforcement officer, has not received any of the required paperwork called for in the agreement.

Alderman Ed Lawson said he spoke to Rogers a couple of weeks ago, and Rogers told him a company from Corning was coming to look at the building to see what the best option would be. "I asked him to get us a letter from the contractor, but I haven't heard from him since that discussion," Lawson said.

Mayor House told the council that he had received a call from the Workforce Service Center concerning the building, and that it was his understanding that state officials had been here to look at the property.

"They told me they were not trying to put us under undue pressure, but the danger is present," House said. "Rogers is in violation of the agreement now, and action needs to be taken. The integrity of this council is important. He and the council agreed on action moving forward, and he is not meeting his timelines."

Alderman Rob Combs said, "We have never gotten any information from him till the last hour. We're a laughingstock in this matter, and that building could fall any time."

Rogers was given five weeks to secure a building permit for the demolition of the building and four weeks to secure a building permit if it is to be refurbished. The council agreed to send him a certified letter notifying him of the first violation and letting him know that condemnation action will continue at the end of the five-week deadline he was granted unless he complies with the agreement. The proceedings will resume at a special meeting or at the next council meeting if he is not in compliance.

In other business, the council:

  • adopted an ordinance to designate officials responsible for collection of court fines and an ordinance to adopt the updated 2012 fire code, as required by state law.

  • accepted a bid from Mosquito Products of Newport for chemicals to be used for mosquito control this year.

  • authorized the mayor to apply for a 100-percent $50,000 General Improvement Grant through Arkansas Rural Development to help build a splash pad at the swimming pool in Stewart Park. The council also agreed to purchase $2,800 worth of processed mulch for the playground at the park that will improve the structure of the playground and the safety of children playing there.

  • passed three oral resolutions: (1) The council acknowledged National Emergency Management Services Week and expressed pride in the work the city's two ambulance services provide and that of the many firemen, policemen and paramedics; (2) The council recognized the students whose hard work and perseverance led to their high school graduation on May 24 at Sharum Gymnasium; (3) The council congratulated the Walnut Ridge High School Baseball Team who made it to the state finals in Fayetteville on May 24.

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