July 19, 2017 Edition

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Front St. property
lawsuit to be filed

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge City Council voted to allow City Attorney Nancy Hall to file a lawsuit for the abatement of property located at 108 Front Street.

The property, owned by J.R. Rogers, has collapsed in the back and the front is showing cracks and signs of leaning that indicate collapse is imminent. Hall said in her opinion there is no structure in Walnut Ridge that better represents the definition of dilapidated.

A study conducted on May 17 supports concerns that have been surrounding the building for years. In early July, Mayor Charles Snapp received the report on the building and sent information to the council about the threat of the building. Notice of consideration of condemnation was posted on the building and served to Rogers.

Hall said while the standard process for condemnations is preferred in many scenarios, filing a lawsuit will help to enforce the actions the council takes toward correcting the hazardous structure.

Attorney David Tyler, who represents Rogers, asked the council to reconsider the lawsuit and give more time for Rogers to address the property. Tyler confirmed that Rogers has contacted Cromwell Architects Engineers to assess the property and determine the best course of action.

Tyler said Rogers is looking into tearing down the second level, where the biggest threat of collapse exists, and saving the first level. More time was requested to follow through with the engineering firm before considering a lawsuit, especially due to the short notification.

Alderman Rob Combs said ongoing issues with other properties owned by Rogers makes him hesitant to believe that he will get this issue handled in a timely matter.

"How many years are we going to do this?" Combs asked.

Alderman Everett Hart also commented that the issue is beyond the safety concerns. He said the property needs to be cleaned up so a business could go there.

Former Alderman Jeff Taylor said the properties are listed for sale and could be bought and renovated for new business at any time. Alderman Jon Walter confirmed that the property under discussion is for sale and said he has made an offer on it, which was rejected.

Walter also said he installed a fence at the property with Rogers' permission due to the danger of the building. He said when he installed the fence seven years ago, Rogers said he would be working to restore the building. Walter said he believes he got a permit to work on it then but the building was never made safe.

Alderman Wendell Jones, based on the history of condemned properties owned by Rogers, made the motion to approve the resolution allowing the lawsuit. Due to owning a nearby business to the property under consideration, Walter abstained from the vote, which passed with all yeas from the remaining council members.

Snapp said he feels it is best for a judge to handle the decision on the property because he will do so based on facts with no emotional bias.

In other business:

voted to increase the planning commission to seven members. Snapp said not only will this allow the commission to more easily have a quorum but will provide a wider scope for the commission. Existing members David Coker, Vickie Mitchell, Roger Duckworth, Ron "Punk" Woods and Roger Swindle were reappointed to the new commission and Alderman Larry Abbott, who had been acting liaison for the council, was also appointed. Snapp said the seventh seat will be filled at the next meeting.

approved an ordinance to adjust privilege license fees for businesses located in Walnut Ridge. The fees hadn't been updated since 1980.

authorized the purchase of bullet proof vests for the police department. The vests will cost $6,368.19 from Teeco Safety. Chief Chris Kirksey said a grant may be available to pay part of the expense, but either way it is a small price to pay to save a life.

approved the final reading to close a section or right of way on East Fifth Street.

Vacancy remains

The Walnut Ridge City Council tabled the filling of the vacant seat left by Allen Smith. The action was tabled until the next meeting due to one of the candidates being unable to attend the meeting to address the council.

Candidates under consideration are Dale Leatherman, Rickey Ditto and Steven Benesch.

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