Walnut Ridge council chooses wards, gives second chances

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WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. – The June 20 meeting of the Walnut Ridge City Council was a lengthy one and it did not help matters when the air conditioner went out.

However, despite the heat, Mayor Charles Snapp and aldermen moved forward on three properties up for condemnation, chose a new ward map and discussed several other matters with residents. 

The first order of business was several properties in dilapidated condition, including one referenced as the “Krepps Building” at the corner Custom and Miller Roads, owned by Aerotech Machine Company; A building at 121 SE Front Street, owned by the Jansen Family Living Trust; And a building at 3566 U.S. 67 North, owned by Wanda Thorton and Louise Sifford, but maintained by former Mayor JR Rogers.

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A building, up for condemnation, on U.S. 67 North in Walnut Ridge.

Because of scheduling issues, the former mayor spoke to the council first. Rogers told the roomful at the police complex the building, formerly his, was sold to his sisters Wanda and Louise two decades back. He said the building had sentimental value and after the death of his son, he had been unable to address issues with its condition. However, he also said he had spent nearly $10,000 on materials and construction costs to bring it back up to code.

With alderman Jeff Taylor voicing and voting his disapproval, the council voted to condemn the property but also decided to give Rogers and his sisters time under the new “Agreement to Rehabilitate” Snapp and City Attorney Nancy Hall presented to the council. As NEA Report detailed earlier, the agreement is a true ‘final chance’ for owners of property to save their structure.

Rogers talked to NEA Report before the council meeting. He stressed his commitment to making Walnut Ridge a more beautiful community through past acts and said he has purchased buildings and fixed them up to the city’s approval before.

Similarly, the Krepp’s building was also condemned but given the option to enter into a rehab agreement.

“In short, if they don’t agree to the agreement and post up the funds in the escrow account, or file a lawsuit, the building could be ready to raze,” Snapp said.

However, because of several circumstances, not the least of which was the willingness by the representative to fix the property, the building owned by the Jansen Family Trust was given one more month before action was to be taken.

New Wards

Another order of business in the packed meeting was selecting which ward option the city would redesign its boundaries to. Following the recent College City consolidation election, overwhelmingly approved by voters, Snapp said new wards would need to be redrawn to option1allow for residents of College City to run for city office in Walnut Ridge. Both communities will officially be one January 1, 2017.

With the three options all having been made available to the public for review, the council discussed the differences in the three options. The primary difference was in option one, none of the current council members would be outside of their respective wards. This seemed to be a motivating factor behind the vote to approve the choice.

The vote was made in an emergency clause and option one was selected by the city council.

Invisible Fences

With the city still adjusting to a new dog ordinance, some questions were presented to the council about the use of ‘invisible’ electric fences. The current ordinance which went into effect this year requires dogs to be fenced on a property. A couple who own two doberman pinschers were given a warning ticket for not having a physical fence, even though they have an invisible fence which contains the animals as well as any physical fence.

Council members discussed making an exception for these types of fences but with the variety of technology available to the public, no solutions seemed to be one-size-fits-all. A committee was formed to study the options and make recommendations on the issue at a later date.

New Clerk

Because of health reasons, city clerk/treasurer Pam Kopp tendered her resignation effective June 31. With the council meeting in an executive session to decide her replacement, city administrative assistant Sharon Henson was chosen to complete the current term, expiring Dec. 31, 2016. Afterwards, Henson or others may choose to run for the elected office.

Solicitor Laws

While discussion had been placed on the agenda for laws addressing solicitors, either charity or business-based, alderman Jon Walter echoed the feelings of most in the room. He said he was mentally burned out from the meeting’s length and felt no useful discussion would come until a later date. All seemed to agree and the matter was tabled for later discussion.

Future Condemnations

Snapp also decided to wait before moving forward with other condemnations until the ones being addressed presently are resolved.

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