Tuesday, August 23, 2016

TOP STORY >> Lonoke looks to bond issue for upgrades

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke City Council may ask for some type of tax increase in the future to support a bond issue.

City Treasurer Phillip Howell floated the idea at last week’s council meeting after the city had paid $160,000 to repair Palm Street, agreed to spend another $170,000 to replace water lines along Barnes Street and for the second year in a row the city’s water and sewer system finished slightly in the red.

He said the council talked about a bond issue a year ago to help with needed water and sewer maintenance and repairs and other needs in the city.

Alderman Pat Howell reminded council members that most of the sewer system is more than 50 years old and that raising water rates only was not going to allow the city to keep up with repairs.

“We need to define it (the bond issue) and let the people know what exactly it would be used for and we need to have it a special election even though that will cost us some money,” Howell said.

Howell suggested a tax with a sunset clause for most of it but keeping a portion of it permanent for water and sewer maintenance.

No formal action was taken on the idea of a bond, but there are plans to discuss it further as Alderman Michael Florence said, “Let’s get it down on paper and take a look at it.”

In other council action:

Jim Ed Ransom with Public Works said the city was becoming a lawn mowing service because it was charging just $50 to mow lawns that had been cited for high grass. “Residents can’t beat that and are taking advantage of us,” he said.

City Attorney Ginger Stuart said the ordinance actually calls for fines of $50 a day up to $350 for properties out of compliance with the grass ordinance. Council members quickly suggested that the city start fining people.

“We do that a few times, and they’ll start taking care of their own yards,” Florence said.

Ray Don Lewis, with the parks department, told the council, “This had been the worst year for mosquitoes in a long time.”

He explained that excessive summer rains are part of the problem. “We’ve laid down ‘larva-cide’ twice and the rains have washed away. We are going to try again, but it needs eight to 10 dry days to be really effective.”

The council approved the fire department’s plan to pay off the recent $220,000 purchase of a fire truck.