July 23, 2014 Edition

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Walnut Ridge Mayor Don House (right) discusses the demolition of a building owned by J. R. Rogers (left) at a special meeting on Monday night as City Clerk/Treasurer Pam Kopp takes notes.
TD Photo ~ Gloria Wilkerson

Deal reached on
West Elm property

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

After months of stalled progress and negotiations, an agreement has been reached that should result in the demolition of a condemned building in downtown Walnut Ridge.

Former Walnut Ridge mayors J.R. and Michelle Rogers attended a special city council meeting Monday night to discuss plans to demolish the building they own at 116 West Elm Street. The building was condemned by the city in November.

City Attorney Adam Weeks told the council that the ongoing issue needs resolved and asked that they allow condemnation action to begin.

"I hate it that it has come to this," J.R. said. "I want to help Walnut Ridge, not hurt it. I bought that building and several others with the intent of bringing them up to date and preserving them. The downturn in the economy hasn't allowed me to do that.

"I have talked to two construction companies that were willing to take the building down, but the first one accepted another job while the city was in the process of providing me with a contract I felt comfortable signing. The second company currently has insurance that covers only the company and its employees. They don't have coverage that would protect the public, the city or us in the event someone was injured or if there is property damaged by the work being done."

He told the council that he has been trying his best to see if the company will provide the type of insurance needed, but so far has not been able to confirm that they will.

After much discussion, J.R. agreed to a motion by Alderman Wendell Jones and passed by the council that the Rogerses be given 90 days to demolish the building, have the necessary insurance coverage, clean the property after the building is down and then donate it to the city, as well as sign a contract that will include a $100-a-day fine till all work is completed if it isn't completed within the 90-day period. The 90 days were to start on Tuesday.

J.R. also told the council he plans to shore up the building until the work begins. "I would like to stabilize the side next to the Department of Workforce and get a few loose bricks off the top of the building as well," he said.

In other business, the council:

  • agreed to make no changes in the compensation for aldermen.

  • discussed signing a contract with the Lawrence County School District for a special resource officer.

  • was informed that Thursday will be a work day at Stewart Park for all city employees and jail inmates from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. All volunteers will be welcome.

  • learned that there will be a pool party for city employees and their families on July 29 from 6-8 p.m. Mayor House will provide hot dogs.

  • were updated on the recycling bin that has been placed at the old fire station that is now in use.

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