May 18, 2016 Edition

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WR committee to study
impact if Hoxie consolidated

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp presented plans for a new committee at Monday night's city council meeting. The committee's mission would be to determine the true liability and economic impact the citizens of Walnut Ridge and the soon to be consolidated College City would face should a consolidation with Hoxie ever come to pass.

Snapp stressed this isn't about finding out what it would take to consolidate. Instead, the committee would only be looking at the impacts a consolidation would have on the city of Walnut Ridge.

Since the consolidation of Walnut Ridge and College City passed, Snapp said he has received at least three calls a day inquiring about a consolidation with Hoxie. He also confirmed that several of the calls are from Hoxie residents.

He said should an effort be made by citizens to petition for a consolidation, this committee will have the facts needed for them to make an informed decision.

Findings of the newly formed committee will be presented to citizens and aldermen and could serve as the basis of support or opposition to such consolidation efforts, but the committee will make no formal recommendation.

"I'm not asking anyone to take a stand," Snapp said. "This is a fact-finding committee."

The Walnut Ridge Economic Impact Committee will consist of Jon Walter, Gail Jones, David Coker and John Householder. Advisory members are Frank Owens, Jon Kopp, Chris Kirksey and Sharon Henson.

Also at the meeting, the council discussed condemnation of several properties.

Newly hired Code Enforcement Officer Justin Reed and Fire Chief Frank Owens presented a list of ongoing and considered condemnation efforts.

Owens said that spoken word plans have been presented on several accounts but many still fail to present plans required to gain permits. He said it is not his job to develop the plan for the property owner and that plans have to be properly developed before being presented.

There have been instances where a stop work order had to be issued as owners have attempted to make repairs without proper permits.

Alderman Jeff Taylor said he is familiar with cases where a stop work order was used and felt the work was not of the caliber to require a permit.

City Attorney Nancy Hall said she recommended the stop work order be issued. She explained that not only does it negate the authority of the council and the ordinance to proceed without following the procedure set in place but it is also an affront to other property owners who take the time to go through the correct procedures.

B.J. Hibbard with Twin City Development was present at the meeting and confirmed it would be frustrating to see someone be allowed to work without a permit. He stressed that when he purchases a building, it is his job to bring it up to code and to seek the permits required.

Of the properties presented, Wendell Jones made the motion to move forward on the condemnation process of property at 3566 Hwy. 67 N., 121 Southeast Front and the Aerotech Machine Corp. building near the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport.

During discussion, Taylor explained he felt the council was pushing too hard on some of these property owners and said they should focus on one to start with.

However, Snapp said if they are in violation then action needs to be taken. "If the council doesn't uphold the ordinances it passes, then we don't need the ordinances."

The motion passed 7-1 with Taylor casting the nay vote.

In other business, aldermen:

approved the sale of property donated to the city by Annette Hilburn upon her passing. The property was meant to be used for public or non-profit use, however no interest in the property has been shown since the city accepted ownership in 2014. With the financial burden presented by the property and with the support of Tommy Hilburn, son of Annette, the property will be placed on the market by Snapp and proceeds will go to the capitol improvements fund for Stewart Park.

heard from Jim Pominville who spoke of concerns about the shooting off of fireworks, particularly those that leave the property they were launched on, as fire and injury may occur. Alderman Jones said he would take the time to see what other municipalities have done but doesn't expect anything to come together in time for this year's Fourth of July celebration.

voted to support U.S. Sen. John Boozman in the designation of U.S. 67 to Future I-57.

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