January 18, 2016 Edition

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Walnut Ridge discusses
improvements, police safety

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council discussed drainage, industrial park improvements and police department safety and liability at Monday night's meeting.

With an overgrowth of trees and brush causing the partial collapsing of a Village Creek drainage tile at West Main, flooding in the area has proven common in heavy rains.

Mayor Charles Snapp said the area can be cleaned out but will have to be done by hand as operating an excavator could damage the integrity of the road over the tile.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $8,500 and assistance from the Village Creek Drainage District will be sought. Snapp said after this repair, the drainage around Lawrence Memorial Hospital and parts of Downtown Walnut Ridge should show some improvements.

Snapp also spoke on the industrial park, saying that there are a couple of industries looking to locate there but the high pressure water system would have to be updated.

Water Supt. Jon Kopp said he is planning to work with the industries to find out what's needed. While operational and providing fire protection, the water system, built in 1973, has had to be patched several times over the years.

Kopp recommended a complete new system install. No official figures have been collected, but early estimates suggest the cost could be as much as $300,000.

The system is currently holding up two industries from building at the park, according to Snapp. One of which, a 180,000- to 250,000-square-foot facility, has been in the works for two years.

The city will apply for a grant to assist in covering the expense. Police

Following a Walnut Ridge police officer being injured on a call in Hoxie, Police Chief Chris Kirksey has begun to research liability on officers providing assistance to other departments.

Kirksey said that it is not uncommon for officers to be paged out to other cities and this happens across the county.

Currently officers are covered by the workman's comp of the department they serve. While the officer in this instance suffered minor injuries and was able to return to work, Kirksey said it's very possible that an officer could get seriously injured on one of these calls.

Kirksey is going to look into ways the policy can be adjusted to better protect his officers and departments across the county.

As a way to further protect Walnut Ridge officers and residents, Snapp said that he is going to review the budget and determine a way to add a second officer for the midnight shift, the only shift currently manned by one WRPD officer.

Community Center
agreement discussed

Also at the meeting, Aldermen Allen Smith and Jon Walter gave an update on the Walnut Ridge Community Center. The center is under an agreement between the city and Walnut Ridge School. However, the agreement is not legal and several requirements are not being met.

Due to the legality of the agreement, and because the school has invested heavily in the building and utilizes it regularly, Walter made the recommendation to donate the building to the school.

"Realistically, we're not going to be able to maintain the building," Walter said.

City Attorney Nancy Hall will proceed to draw up the ordinance necessary for the donation.

In other business:

Snapp said the College City accounts held a total of $148,000, which will be transferred to Walnut Ridge. Additionally, he said there is a drainage project already underway in the newly annexed portion.

Hall informed the council that a statutorily inappropriate ordinance was passed at the December College City City Council meeting granting treasurer/recorder Joy Ring retirement.

Hall explained that when the consolidation was finalized, the council was informed that they should only pass necessary ordinances and any passed would have to be ratified by the Walnut Ridge City Council. She said she would present this ordinance and anything else she finds at a future meeting, where the council may approve or deny it.

the council approved the second reading of a franchise agreement with Ritter Communications to provide cable television service to Walnut Ridge businesses. The city currently holds a non-exclusive contract with Suddenlink for this service. Hall said there is no wording in the agreements that would negate the other. Aldermen did request that a Suddenlink representative be contacted and to report any concerns they have.

the council accepted a bid from Storm Sirens, Inc., of Oklahoma for a tornado siren to be installed in the Williams Baptist College area. The bid came in at $22,950, but included a pole the city already owns. Fire Chief Frank Owens will follow up with the company and report back to the council any bid adjustments that need to be made.

Hall informed the council that she will be working with Kirksey to develop a body cam policy for officers.

Rob Combs was reappointed to act as mayor pro tempore in the absence of the mayor.

Snapp gave his state of the city address, mentioning that sales tax is up and discussing economic development achieved and opportunities missed amongst other updates. The full address can be read on page 9A.

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