January 21, 2015 Edition

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WR to remain NEARIFA member,
city employees to receive pay raise

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council passed the 2015 budget at its meeting on Jan. 13. The total anticipated revenue is set at $2,718,736 with the total anticipated appropriations being $2,304,205.

"For the first time in a long time we have cut this budget to the minimum," Mayor Charles Snapp said.

Prior to taking office, Snapp worked with outgoing mayor Don House and city officials to cut unnecessary spending. The council did vote to remain a member of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority, which increased its annual fee from $1,000 to $10,000.

Both Hoxie and Lawrence County have voted to not appropriate the $10,000 in 2015. Hoxie Mayor Lanny Tinker has expressed that Hoxie isn't financially able to remain a member, but the city does hope to support the Intermodal Authority in the future. County Judge Dale Freeman recommended the county pull support due to poor communication with him and the county. Justices voted against the appropriation 5-3 with one abstaining in its December meeting.

Alderman Jon Walter, who was appointed to the NEARIFA Board at the city council meeting, said it is more important to support the Intermodal now that Hoxie and the county aren't to keep people from Lawrence County active in its regional effort.

Councilmen agreed that the Intermodal Authority is a benefit to Walnut Ridge and industry such as Peco Foods will have lasting impacts on the city.

"I think we'd be very shortsighted if we didn't appropriate this $10,000 to the Intermodal Authority," Alderman Robert Combs said.

During the meeting, the benefits committee informed the council of changes being made to accommodate the minimum wage increase passed in the 2014 General Election.

City employees working hourly will receive a 25-cent-per-hour pay raise, except those hired after Jan. 1, 2015, or those who received a mandatory pay raise of at least 25 cents per hour due to the change in the minimum wage. Employees retiring in the first quarter of 2015 are not eligible for this pay increase.

The committee also said the city will continue to offer its current health insurance plan, but vision and dental will no longer be paid by the city. Employees can have these benefits held out of their paycheck. A letter was sent to every city employee explaining the health insurance changes.

Also at the meeting, the council passed the appropriate ordinances and resolutions to split the city attorney and city prosecuting attorney into two separate positions.

Snapp explained this was required to allow City Attorney Nancy Hall to continue her practice in the Third Judicial District. "If a city attorney also does the city prosecution, it is advised that the city attorney not practice criminal law in that judicial district," Snapp stated in correspondence with the council and media prior to the meeting.

To allow Hall to continue practicing in Lawrence, Sharp, Jackson and Randolph counties, the council hired Ryan Cooper as prosecuting attorney for the city. Ordinances were passed to establish all changes in compensation for these two positions.

In other business:

  • the dangerous dog ordinance concerning a pit bull ban was tabled to review existing dog laws prior to creating new ones.

  • Snapp announced that the council is considering changing the night of the city council meeting. He said it would be decided in the next couple of months.

  • Combs was reappointed as mayor pro tem and will serve as acting mayor in Snapp's absence.

  • Ron Ingram was appointed to the Airport Commission.

  • Roger Duckworth, Mike Shelton and Roger Swindle were appointed to the planning commission to fill positions left by Billie Gail Dunlap, C.L. Clark and Snapp. Dale Leatherman was appointed to the commission as an ex officio liaison for College City.

  • a resolution adopting a mutual aid policy between Walnut Ridge and Hoxie police departments was passed.

  • a $20 incarceration fee was established to offset the cost of jail fees. Walnut Ridge was the only city in the county that did not have this fee in place.

  • the council approved the city of Hoxie joining the county dispatch.

  • a bid from Lazerfiche received in 2014 for a cloud storage service to house ordinances and resolutions was tabled with intentions of looking into other options.

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