Former Lonoke mayor Thomas Privett, owner of 5th Street Apartments, stood before the Lonoke City Council on Monday night to discuss the council’s decision to condemn his apartment complex during the February council meeting.
Privett was accompanied by numerous tenants who spoke on behalf of him and he apartments. The tenants were insistent that Privett was a good landlord and the main problem on the property was a tenant who has since been evicted. The council was asked to not condemn the property over one person.
“We’ve got good people,” Privett said. “Once in a while we get a rotten apple and I can’t help that. I listen and know what’s going on. We did have a problem, I know we had.”
Despite numerous domestic police calls to the apartment complex, the council also took into consideration trash on the property and raw sewage on the grounds when making their decision to condemn the property during the previous meeting. Privett said there were providing six thrash barrels for the tenants to use on the property. He said in many cases following trash pick up, trash would be left by garbage men while collecting trash. Privett’s property manage Jamie Lewis said the barrels have since been removed and tenants are now responsible for their own trash.
Lewis also said what was being considered raw sewage behind the building was actually a tenant throwing food out the kitchen window. He said there has been lime spread on the area and a cap placed on the open pipe at the back of the building.
“It was not open sewage,” Lewis said.
“The place looks a lot better,” Alderman Pat Howell said.
Privett said he has also been remodeling the apartments, installing new stoves, carpet, refrigerators and painting.
“I feel that we are in total compliance,” Privett said. “We got rid of the problem.”
Privett described to the council a scene of how he has been publicly humiliated and lost business because of the council’s decision to condemn the property which was reported in the Feb. 14 issue of the Lonoke Democrat.
“I feel a need for a retraction by the Lonoke Democrat,” Privett said. “Are we damaged? Certainly we are.”
“In the council’s defense, we were not aware the person had been evicted at the last council meeting,” Lonoke mayor Wayne McGee said. “We are just wanting to work with you to make it a good place to live. We don’t want to tear anything down … that’s a last resort.”
The council agreed that if the apartments continue to maintain a clean property and not receive any complaints, it would removed from the condemnation list.
“We are going to leave it on the list and if there are no complaints, it will be off the list,” City Attorney Camille Bennett said.
Later in the meeting, the council had further discussion of the 5th Street Apartments. Council members said they have seen improvements to the property and hope that it continues.
“We’ve got more responsibility to the neighbors than the ones making money on these,” McGee said. “That’s why I said you shouldn’t have to live that way, because they shouldn’t. You should be able to walk out and get your paper without having to listen to that [vulgar language and domestic disputes] or having to look at the trash. If I hadn’t gotten a ton of complaints, I wouldn’t have went this far. We are not trying to pick on anyone. We want it to be pleasant for everyone. Hopefully we are getting on the right track.”
Also while the meeting was opened to the public, Brady Harrison, owner of 903 Court St. property, told the council that his camper, which he was living in, caught on fire March 2. Harrison said everything he owned was in the camper.
“Everything I own is down there,” Harrison said.
Harrison said he is keeping the camper on the vacant lot until he can get it repaired. He asked the council to give him time to clean the camper up and rebuild it. He said is being harassed by city employees about the camper and the dogs he is keeping on the property. According to city ordinance, Harrison is already in violation of city code. Howell told Harrison what he considered harassment was city employees doing their job, trying to make him aware of the violations he is making. Bennett presented Harrison with a list of ordinances so he can be aware of what is allowed in the area where the property is located.
Alderman Danny Whitehurst, Koy Butler, Michael Florence, Raymond Hatton and Wendell Walker voted in favor of allowing Harrison 30 days to remove the trailer, trash bags and dogs from the property. Pat Howell and Jamie Derning were against giving Harrison 30 days.
Also during the meeting, the council voted unanimously to allow an addition 30 more days for the clean up of the condemned properties located at 519 Hamburg and 519 Reynolds; to keep Fifth Street Apartments, the Mallard Point Golf Course and 302 Teresa Lane on the list of properties with issues for an additional 30 days; to give Gloria Heard, who owns the property adjacent to 519 Reynolds, until the May council meeting to remove the large fallen tree on her property.
Police Chief Mike Wilson said the police department is working to have officer Doug Carter’s police car prepared for his new k-9 partner. He said the car will have many new features including rolling the windows down and setting off an alarm if the vehicle was to shut off and become to hot while the dog is inside. Wilson said Carter will be going to pick up the dog Friday. This will allow the dog to get to know Carter and the vehicle. He said the duo would then begin two weeks training. Wilson said the dog will hit the streets at the end of the month.
Wilson also asked for an addition $2,500 to purchase three consoles for the new vehicles purchased during the February meeting. He said $10,000 was enough for the new equipment, but it unfortunately was not. The council voted unanimously to approve an additional $2,500 for the purchase of equipment.
Parks Director Roy Don Lewis said the city held a held a tournament at the ball park over the weekend. He said the regular baseball and softball season would begin April 6.
Lewis said concrete pads for benches on the walking trail have been poured. He said he has found benches which match the ones currently located on the walking trail for the cost of $872 each. Lewis said to finish out the benches on the trail, the cost is $2,851.44 with taxes, excluding freight. The council voted unanimously to purchase the benches for $2,851.44 plus any additional costs for shipping.
Lewis said he is also working on getting a quote for resurfacing the tennis court and has put in to hold the 7-8 year old regional tournament. Lewis said he has to put in for them two years in advance and that he should know something in 4-6 months.
The Lonoke Fire Department will see a new shift in department heads following an volunteer fire department election held on Feb. 21. According to Fire Chief George Rich, he will be resigning as chief upon approval from the council. Rich said he is resigning as chief due to health reasons but plans to stay on the fire department.
The council voted unanimously to approved Jimmy Wallace as fire chief, Justin Whittenburg and Brook Knox as assistant fire chiefs, Steve Holt as secretary and Shane Whitehurst as assistant secretary.
Following the council’s approval, Wallace took on his first duties as new fire chief and gave the fire department report to the council. Wallace said during the month of February, the fire department received six calls, including one structure fires, two fire alarm calls, on brush fire and two mutual aid assistance call.
Wallace said the fire department is now more trained they ever before. He said they recently had fire fireman and one police officer finish Emergency Medical Response Class.
“Under George’s supervision we have the best trained fire department,” Wallace said. “I’d like to thank George for that.”
The fire department now has 12 EMR trained responders.
Wallace said the fire department is in the process of going through each truck to address what is need of repair. He said they have gone through engine seven, which needs $4,200 in repairs. The council voted unanimously to approve the repairs for engine seven for $4,200.
Prior to the council meeting, there was a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. to hear any comments regarding the city’s amendment to the City’s Unified Development Code and the closure of an alley running north and south in Block 20 of the Hicks and Reynolds subdivision. During the meeting, by ordinance, the council unanimously approved to vacate and abandon all its rights to the alley, which runs north and south through Block 20, Hicks and Reynolds. Also by ordinance, the council voted unanimously to rezone 1581-1595 South West Front Street from Multi-Family Residential to Planned Unity Development.
Center director Mike Brown said the Lonoke Community Center will be receiving new equipment this Friday. Members of the Community Center should be aware that the gym and walking track areas will be closed to the public for a minimum of five days beginning March 15. Brown also asked for an additional month to address how the center plans to resolve issues with the computers and software at the center.
Public Works Superintendent Brian Whitworth gave an update on public works. Whitworth said water lines on Alice Lane have been laid and ready for Waffle House. He said the new pond aerator is up and running and the new F250 has been ordered and should arrive in about a month.
Whitworth also said the department is working to replace unusable fire hydrants. He said they will be replacing two, which have already been purchased and will then need to order four more. Whitworth said once these hydrants are replaced, every hydrant in town will be functioning properly.
The council voted unanimously to purchase four hydrants.
“Now every fire plug in the city will work,” Howell said.
Also during the meeting, the council voted unanimously to: Pay two invoices from Garver of Little Rock for $6,290.52 and $7,118.16 for the first phase of State Highway 89 and Interstate 40 over pass project.
Pay $5,876.98 for a server upgrade and laptop for the district court.
Have clean up day April 20 and April 22-27
Efrem Jones was absent from the meeting. The next regular scheduled City Council meeting will be at 6 p.m. on April 8 in the court room at City Hall.