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City prepares suit on properties

A dilapidated home located at 320 Wright Street, was one of three properties owned by Lonoke County, that was condemned on Monday night by the Lonoke City Council. The council is preparing to file suit if the homes are not removed. (Photo by Allison Goodman)Buy Photo
A dilapidated home located at 320 Wright Street, was one of three properties owned by Lonoke County, that was condemned on Monday night by the Lonoke City Council. The council is preparing to file suit if the homes are not removed. (Photo by Allison Goodman)

The Lonoke City Council voted unanimously during Monday night’s meeting to condemn three houses owned by Lonoke County and to authorize city attorney Camille Bennett to begin preparations to file suit against the county.

According to Bennett, she has spoken with the Arkansas Municipal League about the case. She said under most circumstances, a county would want to maintain their property, so a case like this is rare. She 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 a building or home. Since the county does not pay taxes on the property it owns, the city has no choice but to file suit against the county in an effort to have a judge force the county to take action on the buildings.

“If you just tear it down, your doing them a favor,” Bennett said.

During a previous council meeting, Bennett informed the council of a letter from the county, agreeing to tear the building down by the end of July. The initial house in question is located at 320 Wright Street. The additional houses the council agreed to condemn are located next two the home at 320 Wright Street.

“They are very dangerous houses,” Bennett said. “Not only unsightly.”

Bennett said before the suit is files, the county will have the option to defend its self and plea to the council during the September meeting.

In condemned property issues, by resolution, the council unanimously voted to condemn the property of Maudie Grigsby, located at 1222 Oakdale, and the property of HW Finklea, located at 321 Harrison. The vacant houses have fallen into severe disrepair, making them unlivable. They were found to be dilapidated, unsightly, unsafe, unsanitary, obnoxious or detrimental to the public welfare.

The council also unanimously voted to move forward with clean up of the Harrison Property, located at 903 Court Street.

In other property issues, the council voted unanimously to keep Third Street apartments and Mallard Point Golf Course on the watch list until the next meeting.

Public Works superintendent Brian Whitworth informed the council of the actuator behind the waste water pond needing replacement. He said due to flooding, the control panel was ruined. Whitworth presented two bids he received to the council, the lowest from Calibration and Controls of Benton for $12,477.52. The council unanimously approved the purchase of the control panel from Calibration and Controls. Whitworth said the panel should be installed within the next month.

Whitworth also said the control panel at the Wal-mart Pump Station needs to be upgraded, due to a new hotel being built. He presented two bids from the same companies, the lowest being $1,253.78 from Calibration and Controls of Benton. The council unanimously approved the purchase of control panel from Calibration and Controls for $1,253.78.

New rollers are needed for the Case track hoe, according to Whitworth. He said there are a total of 10, eight costing approximately $360 each and two, costing approximately $270 each. The council unanimously approved the $3,420 purchase of the rollers for the track hoe.

At this time, Whitworth said he has received a quote for the repair of the sewer line on Rosemary. The quote was for $24,250 from Environmental Process Systems of Conway. Due to the amount of the project, it will have to be advertised and bid out. The council unanimously approved to put out for bids on the 12 service prepare on the Rosemary sewer line.

Fire Chief Jimmy Wallace said with the approval of the council, the fire department would like to apply for a GFI Fire Protection grant through the Arkansas Rural Development commission. Wallace said they will be using the grant to purchase two thermal cameras, one which will be put on the county fire engine and the second will be put on the city fire engine.

According to Wallace, the thermal cameras can be used to locate missing persons, such as the elderly, fire within walls of homes and in the event of a house fire it can used to locate a person within a burning building.

The council unanimously voted to authorize the mayor by resolution, to apply for the grant.

Wallace also told the council the fire department has applied for a $1,000 matching grant through the Arkansas Forestry Commission. He said the grant will be used to purchase harnesses and ropes for grain bin rescue equipment.

The near 20-year-old air conditioning unit at the fire department is in need of replacing, according to Wallace. Two bids were presented to the council, the first from Danny Elmore Heating and Air Conditioning L.L.C of Lonoke for $3,850 and the second from Lonoke Service Company LLC. also of Lonoke for $3,619.74. The council unanimously voted to accept the bid of $3,619.74 from Lonoke Service Company.

Also by unanimous vote, the council approved moving funds from the pager and radio fund into the equipment and uniform fund, for the purchase of new uniforms.

Construction of the ballpark bathroom is beginning to sound like a far cry from reality after recent bids were presented to the council. Park Director Roy Don Lewis said despite he and the mayor reviewing and scaling back the construction project, bids for bathrooms came in higher the second time than the first.

Four bids were received, the highest from Arnett & Associate Construction of Cabot for $231,927 and the lowest from Gerald Prince Construction of Benton for $205,000.

Lewis said he is speechless by the amount of the bids. He asked if there was any way the city could subcontract the work out themselves in an effort to save money.

“I want to build something that will last,” Lewis said. “But it is just concrete, blocks and a metal roof.”

The council voted unanimously to reject all bids received for the ballpark bathroom.

During a meeting on July 29, the budget and finance committee met to discussion the 2013 second quarter budget. Recommendations for the council discussed during the meeting were not only the second quarter budget, but also moving $40,000 from the water and sewer checking into an existing CD to earn additional interest and to give a 30 cent raise across the board for employees.

After much discussion motion was made to accept the recommendation of the committee and give a 30 cent raise across the board. Janie Derning, Danny Whitehurst, Efrem Jones, Raymond Hatton, Michael Florence and Koy Butler were in favor of the raise. Wendell Walker and Pat Howell voted against the raise. The motion carried 6-2.

In two separate motions, the council unanimously approved the second quart budget and moving $40,000 from the Water and Sewer checking account into a CD.

Also during the meeting the council unanimously voted to:

•Take bids on removal of the old Petco building

•Approve the codification ordinance 655, to repeal ordinances that are longer in effect and modify ordinances to update the code

•Table ordinance 653, to regulate the placement of a sexually oriented business

•Approve ordinance 654, regulating door to door solicitation with the city of Lonoke

•Approve ordinance 652, vacating the alley running east and west through Block 2, Wight’s Survey

•Approve the installation of an antenna on the water tower for the school district bus radios.

•Take bids for painting of the water tower.

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