Friday, October 22, 2010

TOP STORY > >City looks to appease rural residents

By rick kron
Leader senior staff writer

In a relatively quiet meeting Thursday, the Jacksonville City Council made about a half-dozen changes, then passed the ordinance overseeing the area north of town planned for annexation if it’s approved by the voters Nov. 2.

All nine aldermen said yes, except for Bob Stroud, who abstained as a way to protest the actions of the people in the proposed area set for annexation. “I just don’t like the way they have come into the city and spread lies and rumors and their actions towards us,” he complained. “We are bending over backwards for them.”

The ordinance will not go into effect, even though parts of it affects the city as a whole, unless the residents vote for the annexation in the Nov. 2 general election.

After the meeting, Alder-man Terry Sansing said he couldn’t understand why anyone inside the city would vote against the annexation.

“Why would you throw away almost $2 million in revenue? That will cost residents a lot more than the annexation,” he said.

The six-page ordinance covering a variety of lifestyle issues passed after changes were made to property size to house a kennel, property size to discharge firearms and changes in the dates to shoot fireworks.

Lucian Shockey, who actually lives within the western limits of the city and keeps and breeds dogs, was concerned about the ordinance restricting kennels to property that was two acres or larger. He said his kennels meet all the requirements set by the federal laws and is inspected by the USDA, and has always passed the inspections.

Shockey told the council that he only has 1.9 acres and under the proposed ordinance would not be allowed to continue what he has been doing for years.

He wanted the acreage change and also thought it was foolish to say that kennels needed to follow state laws when there weren’t any. “That’s why we have such a problem with puppy mills,” Shockey said.

Aldermen voted to change the acreage to 1.5 and add that kennels also needed to follow all federal laws, but left the line about state laws in as the city would be required to follow any law the state may initiate.

Bobby Marshall, who raises peacocks and exotic animals on his property, wanted the right to protect them with the use of firearms. He told the council that his property backs up to federal wetlands and there is all sort of wildlife coming onto his property. The ordinance restricted use of firearms to properties of 7.5 acres or larger, but the council voted to change that to 5 acres, which would include Marshall’s property, as well as a few pieces of property within the current city limits.

Partne Daugherty, who, along with her husband, has sued to stop the annexation vote, suggested that the council allow hunting on lands on a case-by- case basis.

“There are some one-acre lots surrounded by much larger tracts that people could hunt on without a problem,” she said.

The council took no action on her suggestion.

No date has been set yet in the Daugherty lawsuit, which is asking that the vote be canceled, or if allowed to be carried out, to be voided after the election. The suit claims the city has acted illegally in its efforts to annex the area. The city believes it has done everything properly.

Alderman Bill Howard was concerned with the number of days the ordinance would allow the use of fireworks. “I’m okay with the July dates, but do we really need to fire off fireworks on Dec. 24?” he asked.

Alderman Kenny Elliott was more concerned about the locations where they could be sold. The ordinance allows them. That means tents could be set up next to residential areas and even city hall.

The council voted to cut back the Christmas-New Year’s date to use fireworks from Dec. 24 through New Years to Dec. 27 through New Years.

City Engineer Jay Whisker will develop a zoning ordinance for the council to vote on in the next meeting or two to restrict the locations of firework sales.

In other council business:

Police Chief Gary Sipes, in his monthly report, said his department responded to 3,854 complaint calls during September. The police arrested 346 adults and 26 juveniles during the month.

During September one homicide occurred, seven sexual assaults or rapes were reported, three robberies occurred, nine felony assaults were reported, as well as 23 burglaries and 82 thefts. There were no motor vehicle thefts or arson during the month.

In his monthly report, Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said his department responded to 203 rescue calls, 85 still alarms, 23 general alarms and had 228 ambulance runs.

Estimated fire loss for September was put at $87,500, while fire savings, based on quick response of the department, was estimated at $243,000.

The council passed a resolution authorizing a water- purchase contract between Jacksonville and the Lonoke/White Public Water Authority. The city is a member of the Lonoke/White Public Water Authority, which is working to bring water to central Arkansas from Greers Ferry. Jacksonville’s share of the project is about $8 million and once water is available the city will receive a proportionate percentage of the water, about one million gallons annually. The project is expected to cost about $65 million.

Jacksonville joined the organization in March 2009.

Currently, Jacksonville’s water needs are met by city-owned well fields and water purchased from CAW. The two sources together supply about 5 million gallons each day to meet the needs of Jacksonville rate-payers, Little Rock Air Force Base, and the neighboring utilities that buy from Jacksonville Water Works – Cabot, Bayou Two and Furlow.

Aldermen approved a resolution allowing the city to use to sell its obsolete and excess city equipment such as vehicles and other items. GovDeals provides services to various government agencies that allow them to sell surplus and confiscated items via the Internet. Each participating agency has its own auction rules and regulations and may be subject to state and local ordinances.

Cities across the country are using the website.

But the city is still hosting a live auction of surplus equipment starting 9 a.m. Saturday at the recycling center.