Tuesday, September 13, 2016

TOP STORY >> Lonoke is ready for a big cleanup

Leader staff writer

Lonoke is about to embark on a major cleanup effort to spruce up the city.

“We’re trying to clean up the whole town,” Mayor Wayne McGee told the city council Monday during a public-comment period.

In attempts to get the city to take action, Delories Allison complained about old junk cars, high grass and trash.

She believes the debris makes the neighborhood “unsafe.”

“We need to get together and do something about it…More needs to be done,” said Allison, who lives on Pleasant Street.

Joyce Jones of East Palm Street also spoke.

“There are 17 (non-running) cars within a four-block radius of my house…Carports are filled with junk. We need to get busy,” Jones said.

In response, McGee said his office had hired two code-enforcement officers who were currently taking code enforcement classes through the city of Rogers for Heating and Air Conditioning inspections.

Mayor McGee said the officers will attend additional classes, covering other areas of code-enforcement laws, in the coming month.

At next month’s meeting, McGee said the city council will draft an ordinance giving the officers authority to issue citations and tickets, as well setting fine amounts.

Once the ordinance is adopted, officers will be issuing warnings and citations, possibly as early as October, he said.

Also, the city has slated as many as 10 properties for demolition, McGee said. If the property owner isn’t willing to “fix it up,” he said the city will eventually tear the building down and remove the debris from the property.

As part of that effort, he said the city has scheduled a fall cleanup from Saturday, Oct. 8 through Saturday, Oct. 15 from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Dumpsters will be located at the Lonoke City Shop at 1219 Barnes St.

For more information, contact the Lonoke Public Works Department at 676-4370 or 676-2422.

Aldermen Pat Howell and Wendell Walker were absent.


Ordinance 712 drew a large crowd to the Monday meeting.

Basically, the city council changed the wording of its R1 rating of day care facilities, allowing service providers to care for up to seven children as long as they are in compliance with the state and meet the definition of residential home day care.

Alderman Pat Howell voted against the measure on the first reading—saying the ordinance wording needed to include a proprietor’s notification of intent to neighbors through public notice.

Once other members agreed to amend the ordinance in the near future, Howell voted in favor of the wording during the second and third readings of the ordinance.

The council approved the day care family homes in R-1 zoning districts by conditional use, which would require consideration by the Lonoke Planning Commission on a case-by-case basis.


The city also unanimously passed Ordinance 711, which allows Lonoke to pay for road construction services on Palm Street.

During the excavation and repair of Palm Street, city workers and Rogers Construction, Inc. of Conway discovered several areas “where the aggregate base was either missing or more unstable than previously anticipated, and where additional rock and shale were needed to correct the substandard base.”

Rogers Construction provided the additional base but that upped costs over the already council-approved $158,300, and the new ordinance approved an additional $11,328 that needed to pay the invoice in full.

It was unanimously approved by the aldermen.


The city also unanimously passed an ordinance at the request of Lonoke Quorum Court JP RD Hopper, allowing a representative of the city to participate in a 911 Advisory Board.

Hopper said when calling 911 from a landline, the dispatch operator knows the caller’s address. However, cell phones ping off the nearest cell tower, so it’s impossible for the operator to determine the caller’s location.

Hopper is leading the county’s effort to establish the 911 Advisory Board, which he hopes will include cities from around the county, as well as one Lonoke Quorum Court JP and members of the various state and local emergency service agencies.

Lonoke Police Chief Pat Mulligan asked the city to allow him and the Lonoke City Attorney Camille Bennett to craft an “unsafe drivers” ordinance that would be presented at the October meeting for passage.

It would allow his officers to issue tickets to unsafe drivers for $150. State-issued tickets for the same offense cost the driver between $200 and $300 and goes on the operator’s driving record.

Lonoke’s violation would not, Mulligan said.

The council unanimously approved Mulligan’s request.

He also informed members that state inmates housed at the Lonoke City Jail can now stay longer than six weeks.

“We can now keep people up to six months,” Mulligan said.

The city jail reserves 28 spaces for their own usage but have an additional half dozen spots to house state inmates. Lonoke receives $30 a day per prisoner from the state, and McGee said it offsets city jail costs and inmates can be used to help on city projects.

“It’s free labor,” McGee said.


In order to accommodate the Thrive team, the mayor allowed Will Staley, Thrive co-founder and creative director, to talk about their nonprofit design services immediately following the public comment portion of the meeting.

Thrive is based in Helena and has done work for the King Biscuit Blues Festival, East Arkansas Planning and Development District, Delta Cultural Center and Southern Bancorp Community Partners and more.

The firm was recommended by the Lonoke Industrial Development Commission and could be an asset to the city’s Kick Start Lonoke effort.

“We create marketing tools but not the (marketing) plan,” Staley told the Council. Their services include website design and construction but not site maintenance, he said.

Ryan Biles, a Lonoke Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors member, said the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce members realize they need a new website.

In early June, the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) at Conway announced it had selected Lonoke as its 2016 Community Development Institute (CDI) community and would work with community and city leaders to help improve its economic climate.

The CDI program is a cooperative effort between UCA and the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Office Breakthrough Solutions Program.

Thrive’s services will cost the city about $40,000.

Council members unanimously approved hiring Thrive, with the money to pay for the services coming from the coffers of the city’s Retail Economic Commission.

Biles said after the meeting, “I’m particularly excited about the methodology and process that Thrive will utilize to first learn what makes Lonoke unique and then develop the tools which highlight those aspects. The opportunity for Thrive to undertake their work in tandem with the Kick Start Lonoke initiative underway now is especially advantageous for our community.”

Also, as part of Kick Start Lonoke program, the mayor said, “We need to have everyone fill out their survey.”

It is designed to identify citizens’ and business owners’ top priorities for the city’s long term and economic development.

A printed version of the survey was included in last month’s water bill but is also available online at https://kickstartlonoke.wordpress.com/…/lonoke-launches-co…/.


The mayor reported that the waste water pump station at Rosemary Street recently “went down” leaving a number of customers, including three Lonoke schools and the Lonoke Community Center, without services.

But he said the city quickly replaced the faulty relief valve and added a quick connect valve that allows the city to bypass the main pump in the future if it ever fails again.

“It won’t be a problem again,” the mayor said.


Fire Chief Jimmy Wallace said his department is responding to as many as 30 calls per month, including a high number of gas leaks, such as the one firefighters responded to earlier that day because a faulty gas line connected to the water heater was leaking.

“We transported two (people who were in the home) to the hospital today,” he said.

His department wants to spend nearly $2,000 on a carbon monoxide and natural gas detector, as well as a calibrator for the detector.

The Council approved the expenditure.

Community center director Mike Brown said there are plans for the addition of an approximately 300 square-foot kitchen to the center’s multi-purpose room. Preliminary drawings by Russ Matson, president of Matson Construction of Little Rock, also include a storage room and men’s and women’s restroom facilities.

The plans include warming ovens, a refrigerator and sink.

“We’re in the process of finalizing our plans,” Brown said. The plans will go to the council for approval and the project will be put out to bid.

He hopes to keep the total cost under $120,000, which the community center has in hand.

The center serves more than 900 members each month.