August 19, 2015 Edition

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Limb pickup is strain on WR

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council discussed costs and assets tied up in limb pickup and how to make it financially viable.

A recently held pickup included 65 loads at a cost of $5,921. Mayor Charles Snapp said the estimated annual cost is $48,000 and does not include shredding costs.

"I don't know what the answer is, but on a tight budget, we can't do pickup daily," Snapp said.

The manpower required has also caused strain on the city as a lot of city workers are required effectively halting work in several areas around the city.

Discussion on making a dumpsite available for those able to haul their own limbs was discussed, but having an open dumpsite is in violation of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality regulations. The issue occurs when people dump unacceptable material such as couches or pallets.

One proposal was to have volunteers monitor the dumpsite and have set hours for when limbs could be brought.

Aldermen also discussed safety concerns with not providing limb pickup more often as limb piles can cause fire hazards as well as places for mosquitoes to harbor; however increased pickup would require increased resources from the city, which Snapp said he doesn't believe are available.

Snapp also discussed a proposed improvement cut at Stewart Park, which would remove 20-30 percent of the more forested area, focusing on rotten and unhealthy trees.

Snapp said this was advised by the Arkansas Forestry Commission as a way to open up the canopy. This would benefit the younger trees, allowing them to get more sunlight, while keeping the healthier older trees to provide shade.

The canopy also holds mosquitoes while preventing aerial spray from getting through.

The Arkansas Forestry Commission marked trees that would be the best to remove, a service offered for free due to Walnut Ridge's Tree City status.

Josh Blakeney has offered to give a quote and possibly donate the labor of the cutting for the project.

The council agreed the project needed to move forward.

"It should be a park, not a forest," Alderman Allen Smiths said.

Also at the meeting, aldermen discussed the city's laws in regard to soliciting door-to-door.

Currently an outright ban exists due to an ordinance passed in 1955, declaring soliciting door to door punishable as a misdemeanor. A company out of California has contacted the city, stating this is in violation of First Amendment rights and threatening to take legal action.

City Attorney Nancy Hall provided a proposed ordinance that would develop a no solicit list and established fees for door-to-door soliciting. The ordinance is under review and will be revisited at a future meeting.

In other business:

aldermen discussed whether to continue to waive property tax on the Douglas Quikcut property, which is under a long-term lease. Smith said he understands the lease will have to be renegotiated anyway due to new laws restricting lease length. Councilmen discussed if continuing the exemption is fair to other businesses. The issue was tabled for further research.

aldermen voted to allow the installation of six stop signs and three three-way signs in the Northridge subdivision.

the fire department provided an update on condemned properties. According to the report, three buildings have been completely removed in the past six months and others are being repaired or are working toward demolition.

further discussion on a proposed remembrance garden at Stewart Park was tabled until next meeting to allow more time to review recently acquired information.

an ordinance specifying that health and life benefits will not be offered to aldermen at the city's expense passed on its third reading. The ordinance will take effect on Jan. 1, 2017. Snapp commended the aldermen who currently receive the benefits for passing the ordinance and saving money for the city.

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