Council hears complaint, sees new air packs for firefighters
GRAVETTE — Jimmy Denver spoke during the public comment period at the beginning of the city council committee of the whole meeting March 8 and asked council members to take a close look at the planning commission and its procedures, saying that city planning has long been an issue.
Denver said the city previously had qualified city planners who were valuable resources and had lost those people because the city failed to utilize them. He complained that citizens were not properly informed about planning commission actions and said other cities do things properly, but Gravette keeps going backward. He asked that council members go to other cities and inquire about their procedures.
City clerk Mike von Ree replied that posting signs for proposed lot splits was possible but not required. He said he notified nearby residents by certified letter whenever a lot split or rezoning issue was proposed and very few replies were ever received. City attorney David Bailey said he would check procedures in area cities and would check Gravette’s procedures and make sure they are correct.
A public hearing was held regarding a lot split for property owned by Darrel Fordyce at 16492 W. Highway 72 in Gravette. No one was present to make a comment. The public hearing was closed and a special council meeting was held in which an ordinance was passed approving the Fordyce lot split.
Reports were heard from various department heads. Chuck Skaggs, chief of police, reported a good month and asked permission to make Joe Betz, police department chaplain, a reserve officer and allow him to wear a sidearm so he could defend himself if the need arises. Council members expressed no objections to Skaggs’ request.
Lonnie Mullen, fire chief, reported 165 fire department calls this year to date. He reported 81 incidents of aid being given and 10 incidents of aid being received. He said he had submitted quotes on new ambulances to Mayor Kurt Maddox. Mullen brought one of the department’s 19 new air packs and displayed it. The new air packs last 45 minutes and are badly needed, Mullen said, since old air packs have failed in recent fires. He reported the firefighters are very appreciative of the new equipment and thanked council members for approving the investment in their safety.
Corey Reardon, water department supervisor, reported the new pump is now online. He said a leak study is now being done.
Tim Dewitt, street and parks department supervisor, handed out reports on work being done at the ballfields in Pop Allum Park and proposed work on the concession stand. Paving of the north parking lot is scheduled for March 20. Concession stand work began Monday and county inmates will be working there for the next month.
Dewitt said painting is almost complete at the Hiwasse community building and cabinets have all been installed. Playground equipment and bathrooms are almost complete.
Karen Benson, library supervisor, said the second annual “Blind Date with a Book” event was very successful and reported on upcoming events in March, including a seed swap March 17 and a book signing March 22.
Council members reviewed rezoning of property on Dallas Street owned by John Lykins Jr. from A-1, agricultural, to R-1, single family residential. The property, across from Patriot Park, is a little over seven acres and is the location for a proposed housing addition. An ordinance approving the rezoning will be on the agenda for the March 15 council meeting.
Council members also discussed a lot split for property owned by John Holloway along Highway 279 in Hiwasse and a lot split for property owned by Leon Rose off Highway 72 in Hiwasse. An ordinance approving the Holloway lot split will be on the agenda for the March 15 council meeting.
Carl Rabey, city finance director, gave a bond financials update and said the city has spent $2.8 million of the $4.8 million bond fund, about 52 percent. Rabey also presented the monthly financial report for February. He said the city has hired a new water clerk who started March 5, and is doing well. He reported the auditors are almost done and said he anticipates budget adjustments for the new building inspector, switching from contract labor to a salary, and budgeting for training and for administration.
Maddox reported plans were being made to use the old library as a site where police officers and firemen can work out. Mullen had reported that all firemen now have a one-hour mandatory workout each day. Maddox also reported that heating and air work will begin at the civic center during spring break and said options were being considered for a permanent city council chamber so meetings would not have to be moved between city hall and the civic center. A remodel at city hall is being proposed, taking the city clerk’s office for the council chamber, building two more offices and making a separate room for copying.