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County, city strike deal on property

Lonoke County Judge Joe Erwin came before the Lonoke City Council on Monday night during its regularly scheduled meeting to ask for an extension on the demolition of three condemned houses owned by the county.

At the Aug. 12 council meeting, the council agreed to condemn a house located at 320 Wright Street and two houses adjacent to the property — all owned by the county. The properties were deemed dangerous and unsightly by the council. During the August meeting, Lonoke City Attorney Camille Bennett said she spoke with the Arkansas Municipal League about how to handle cases involving county owned properties. She was advised that under most circumstances, a county would want to maintain their property, so a case like this is rare. Bennett said when the council condemns a property and has it torn down, a tax lien would then be filed against the property to recuperate funds used to tear down the building or home. Since the county does not pay taxes on properties it owns, Bennett said the city would no choice but to file suit against the county if they were not to comply, in an effort to have a judge force the county to take action on the buildings.

During the Monday night meeting, Bennett said she has been in contact with the county about the properties and they have contracted someone to tear down and dispose of them.

The county has agreed to have the buildings removed before the October council meeting. Bennett told the council that it would be in the city’s best interest to allow the county to tear down their own property so that the city is not responsible for any liability issues.

In the county’s defense, Erwin said the county has always partnered with the city for what is in their best interest. He said when the properties were purchased, they intended to tear the buildings down for additional parking space.

“They were purchased with the intent of making it a parking lot,” Erwin said.

Erwin said since then they have found that the buildings do in fact have asbestosis. He said they have been undergoing the process of orchestrating proper removal and disposal of the material before having the building torn down.

The council unanimously voted to allow the county until the October council meeting before moving forward with the condemnation of the three parcels.

Third Street Apartment manager Scott Bayless came before the council to discuss issues and complaints with the apartment complex. He said its is his understanding that the previous manager was not properly managing the apartment building and properties, but insured the council he would take care of all the current issues.

Alderman Pat Howell said one of the biggest complaints of the apartment buildings is trash.

“It’s not bad all the time,” Mayor Wayne McGee said to Bayless. “But when it’s bad, it’s bad.”

Bayless said they are in the process of having a fence built around the trash area to decrease that part of the problem. He said he has also found that animals are getting into the trash when bins are put out by the road days before the trash company runs their route. He said tenants will now be responsible for putting their trash cans out the morning of trash pick up day and then be responsible for returning the bins back to their doors that afternoon.

The council unanimously voted to not take any action and re-evaluate the progress of Third Street Apartments, 903 Court Street and Mallard Point Golf course during the October council meeting.

New Public Works Superintendent Ron Gosnell said he received a bid of $2,100 per tap to repair the sewer problems on Cotton Lane. He said the total bid was for $18,900. The line was found to be damaged when lines were tapped during new home construction. The council unanimously approved repair all taps on Cotton Lane.

According to Gosnell, there are currently four hydrants in need of being replaced in the city. He said one was recently struck by an electric company vehicle. He said they have assumed responsibility for damages and a bill has been mailed. Gosnell said as for the other three; one is missing, one is leaning and the third is just not working. Although Gosnell said they have two to already purchased to replace the non-working and missing hydrant, Howell suggested two more be purchased so there are always extra on hand for when they are needed. The council unanimously voted to purchase two hydrants for $3,600 each.

Gosnell said the leaf truck has been repaired and is ready to use this fall. He total cost of the repairs were $6,900. The council unanimously voted to spend $6,900 on repairs to the leaf truck.

Also during the meeting the council unanimously voted to:

•Spend up to $2,000 to have the gym floor at the Community Center stripped and re-coated.

•Purchase a GPS unit for the leaf and limb truck

•Spend $3,000 to fix and repair a traffic light

•Approve ordinance 653, establishing licensing requirements and regulations for sexually oriented businesses.

The next Lonoke City Council meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 14, in the court room at city hall.

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