Tuesday, July 27, 2010

TOP STORY > >Gravel Ridge gets city council’s focus

Leader staff writer

Making Sherwood a more beautiful place and keeping it that way was a major theme of the city council’s regular monthly meeting on Monday.

The council passed resolutions condemning five properties, four of which are located at Gravel Ridge Trailer Park at 7922 Jacksonville-Cato Road and owned by Milton Quijano. The condemned properties at the trailer park are lots D, G, J, and I.

The other property condemned by the council is a structure that had been an extension built onto a trailer, since removed. It is located at 5600 Caple Lane and belongs to Ruthie Mae Stanfield.

The owners of the condemned properties have 30 days to refurbish or demolish them.

The council agreed to table a proposal to condemn another property – the burned remains of a trailer at 5939 Roundtop Road owned by Michael Goshen – so that the police could finish collecting evidence in the investigation into the fire.

Council members Steve Fender and Sheila Sulcer – who is challenging incumbent Virginia Hillman in the race for mayor – raised concerns about the money being spent by the city to condemn properties.

Sulcer said that more than $90,000 accrued over several years remains uncollected.

“There are other problems, such as drainage” for which the money could be used, Sulcer said.

Hillman said she considers the money a “small price for keeping the city clean” and she is “in favor of continuing to spend the money” to do so.

She added that during the campaign to annex Gravel Ridge, residents said that they wanted help from the city to clean up the area if annexed.

“We are doing what Gravel Ridge residents wanted us to do,” Hillman said.

City attorney Steve Cobb said now that liens are good for 10 years rather than only 18 months as had once been the case, it is more cost effective now for the city to file a lien to collect from a property owner.

“There is a chance that in that time, someone will want to do something with a property, and before they can do anything, they will have to pay us back, if they want clean title.”

Cobb said state statute provides a way to tack costs for property cleanup, mowing or demolition on county property tax bills.

He plans on having a proposal to the city council about that in September.

The council also considered a proposed ordinance with more stringent requirements for maintenance of property. It addresses mowing grass, keeping lots clear of trash and getting rid of items that would hold water and be mosquito breeding grounds.

The new ordinance would require that grass be cut at six inches on lots in residential districts and on industrial and commercial properties with structures.

Dead trees, vegetation or other conditions that pose a hazard to a property or surrounding property would also be in violation of the new ordinance.

According to the proposed ordinance, the city would notify delinquent property owners in writing. After seven days, if an owner did not comply, the city could then enter the property, clean it up and charge the cost against the property in the form of a lien.

In the event of out-of-town owners who cannot be located, the city would post a notice on the premises and send a registered letter to the last known address.

Alderman Charles Harmon proposed adding to the proposed ordinance a measure that would require inclusion in letters to property owners a list of local lawn-maintenance companies’ contact information. That way, out-of-town owners could make arrangements to get the grass cut.

“Let’s make it as easy for them as we possibly can,” Harmon said.

The council heard the first reading of the ordinance. Sug-gestions from residents for revisions to the ordinance, which will be considered again in August, are welcome, Hillman said.

The council approved an emergency request to release $49,278 from the city sewer budget to replace a 600-foot length of sewer main on the east side of Brockington Road. A recent inspection deemed the length in poor condition and unable to withstand widening of the roadway, now under way.

The work will be done by Arkansas Cleaning and Televising of Little Rock. The one other bid for the job was $64,400.

The existing plastic pipe has “a very thin wall” and “actually, rocks are protruding into the pipe,” city engineer Ellen Norvell told the council. “We anticipate collapse or problems,” if the pipe is not replaced.

The sewer main will not be moved so as to not run under the pavement, Norvell explained, because there is no room along the road to put it.

“It is not something we normally would do, but it is a very congested roadway,” said Norvell said, adding that the plastic pipe will be replaced with heavy iron pipe that could last 100 years or more.

Norvell said that the emergency appropriation was needed to keep the road work on schedule. The project is to be completed by Nov. 1, 2010.

The council passed a resolution creating a military-liaison committee and appointing Alderman Lex “Butch” Davis as its chairman.

The purpose of the committee, Davis explained after the meeting, would be “military appreciation” and other activities to support past and present members of the military, especially those with disabilities.

Davis plans to meet with members of similar groups in other cities, including Jacksonville and North Little Rock and Gov. Beebe, before setting an agenda for the committee or making recommendations to Hillman for committee appointees.

“Military experience is not necessary” to serve on the committee, Davis pointed out.

Davis, a Vietnam War veteran, said that he wants to be sure those who have served their country in the military receive the proper recognition.

“Having gone through Viet-nam and not being thought very kindly of, I don’t want anybody in the military to go through that; it is totally unnecessary,” Davis said.