June 21, 2017 Edition

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WR council discusses
medical marijuana

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council discussed the potential of facilities related to the medical marijuana industry being established in the city.

During Monday night's meeting, Mayor Charles Snapp said he has been approached regarding three cultivation facilities and one dispensary. While surveying prospective land for the businesses, Snapp said he treated it like any other opportunity for growth.

However, there are laws requiring minimum distances of these types of facilities from churches, schools and day cares. With a minimum of 1,500 feet for dispensaries and 3,000 for cultivation facilities, there are very few places in town that would legally house one.

Snapp also added that FAA regulations would prevent a medical marijuana business from being established at the airport.

While Snapp said he has had many positive responses to the prospect of bringing in a medical marijuana business, a letter was issued by Williams Baptist College discouraging these businesses.

City Attorney Nancy Hall said preventing a medical marijuana business from establishing is not something the city can easily do. The city can't discriminate against these facilities without making itself liable.

Hall said the only way to prevent a dispensary from establishing in the city would be to zone out all pharmacies.

Whether a medical marijuana business is established locally or not, the Walnut Ridge Police Department will still have to go through some training to handle the new laws surrounding the drug.

"There's definitely some education we'll have to go through," Police Chief Chris Kirksey said.

Also at the meeting, the council:

heard from Snapp on reviewing the city's website and making any necessary updates to help attract people looking for jobs or looking to move to the city. A committee of Aldermen Jon Walter, Allen Smith and Rob Combs was formed to review the website.

approved the transfer of the remaining $9,000 in community center funds to the industry/economic development fund. The city has relinquished the center to the Walnut Ridge School. The funds will be an asset in surveying for water and sewer expansion that is going to be required soon for continued industrial growth.

approved a second reading on the abandonment of a right of way on East Fifth Street as petitioned by Snapp Properties, LLC.

approved the purchase of a 2016 Ford Explorer from the Walnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Department for $23,000.

voted to increase the street department materials budget and include contract labor in the line item. The budget will be increased by $25,000, which will come from the street fund checking account. This will allow contract work to be hired out when needed so jobs are not limited by the city's equipment.

passed an ordinance establishing rules for solicitation of donations on public property. The ordinance includes rules set in a 2015 ordinance and the addition of a start time, no earlier than 30 minutes after sunrise, and stop time, no later than sunset. The ordinance also specifies that participants must move off roadways while traffic lights are signaling green.

approved the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport Commission's recommendation to return the country club property to a pre-lease condition and demolish the building. Smith asked if the building could be salvaged and requested it be showed for lease in case it could be used as office space. Alderman Snapp said the roof has been off for some time and rain damage has made the building beyond repair.

heard from Snapp on the elimination of comp time in the police department. Officers will be paid overtime, when applicable.

discussed making the park committee a commission. Hall will review requirements and bring them before the council at a future meeting.

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