Rector Council Discusses Armory

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Rector City Council discussed the former armory, a fall limb pickup day and passed grant application resolutions for the Rector Fire Department and the future skate park at Monday's monthly meeting.

The council read a letter from Rector School Board president Jody Simmons encouraging the council to donate the armory to the school. In the letter Simmons expressed concern about the high cost of renovating the former armory and suggested the city donate the building to avoid those costs. (The full letter accompanies this article).

Mayor Teresa Roofe voiced her desire to donate the building to the school -- "the children are our future, but it isn't up to me; it's up to the council."

Alderman Ryan Lawrence voiced his concern about denying the city the opportunity to make some revenue from the building for the city. "We have a very large project coming up and it could relieve some of the burden of cost from the citizens," he said. Alderman David Romine voiced concern of the legality of selling the armory at such a low cost or donating. All of the council agreed in the absence of the city attorney Kimberly Dale it would be wrong to move forward with any decision, so the council tabled the subject until its August meeting.

The council also decided to bring back fall cleanup with a small twist. This year the fall cleanup will be for yard debris only, meaning limbs naturally occurring or having fallen onto property. The weekend of Friday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 23, citizens are encouraged to move limbs to the edge of their property near the road, "not in the road," where city crews can collect them the following week.

City employee Christina Boyd presented a resolution to allow the skate park committee to apply for a $100,000 GIF 1 grant to begin building the skate park. The council passed the resolution and thanked Boyd for her diligence to the city.

The $100,000 request is based on estimates of the design picked by the committee. Boyd also will apply for a smaller grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation to add to the skate park budget. The skate park will be built on the parking area near the Saddle Club arena.

Fire chief Huston Bowden presented a resolution to apply for a $15,000 matching grant through the Arkansas Rural Community Development program. He explained the grant will be used to add a 30X75 addition to the backside of the current fire station. "The biggest expense will be the cost of the additional building we plan to add, which is estimated to be approximately $45,000 to $50,000," he said. The council approved the resolution.

Department reports:

*The water department reported an ending balance for the month of $5,143, 12 new service connections, six disconnects, three meters replaced, eight sewer and/or water lines repaired and $274.55 in vehicle repair expense.

*Code enforcement reported five dogs picked up, one yard letter and one building permit.

*The street department reported two cuts made, three cuts repaired, 24 signs replaced or repaired and 20 street repairs.

* The community center reported four events, two of which were paying and a collection of $150 in rental fees.

* The fire department reported four calls with three being in city. Bowden also asked for Wes Stallcup to be removed from the roster as he would like to retire. The council removed Stallcup and alderman Lark Sigsby said, "the council thanks Mr. Stallcup for his 30 plus years of service." Clay County Sheriff deputy Robert White was added to the fire department roster.

*The police department reported 46 court docket items in the month of June. $3,240 in court related fees and fines collected, two car letters sent out, two dog citations and two yard citations.

*The Northeast Arkansas Innovative Training Center reported Movies in the Park a great success. "Thanks largely to Dixie Lawrence," Boyd said. The Rector Downtown Central (RDC) organization will be able to donate more than $1,000 to the Rector Downtown Central Park bandstand for roof repairs. RDC has also received another $1,000 mini-grant to offer local downtown business owners to improve the look of their stores. However, the projects already awarded in December must be finished before issuing of the grant will occur. RDC's next event will be the second annual ice cream social held Labor Day weekend.

Aldermen Ryan Lawrence, David Romine, Lark Sigsby and Iva Fahr were present for the meeting.

(The following is the letter from Simmons)

To the Mayor and members of the City Council of Rector, Ark.:

I am writing this letter to voice my strong support for the city of Rector to donate the former armory building to the Rector School District.

I was initially hesitant for the school district to pursue acquisition of the armory due to the high projected costs of repair and retrofitting. Preliminary estimates are that the school would be required to spend in excess of $100,000 to repair the roof, to add air conditioning to the main structure, and to reconstruct the interior of the armory to meet the school's needs.

However, after much discussion and reflection, I am now wholly supportive of the school's possible acquisition of the building. Likely uses for the armory that have been discussed include an indoor practice facility for the school's athletic teams and band. Additionally, due to the close proximity of the building to the football field, the armory is perfectly situated to accommodate a field house for the football program. Currently, the baseball team conducts its indoor practices in the school's multipurpose room located in the elementary school building. Hundred's of the area's youth (ages 3-12) on recreational sports teams also use the school's multipurpose room for practices after school hours. Acquisition of the armory by the school would allow many of these activities to be moved to the more spacious armory. As a side benefit, the school's multipurpose room would be more available for other uses.

While I am not entirely familiar with the finances of the city, it is my understanding that the city would prefer not to be responsible for the future repair and maintenance of the armory. In my opinion, the city would greatly benefit by donating the armory to the school. Thereby, the city would save the expenses of future upkeep and utilities associated with the armory building.

I have a few more critical points to share with you that strongly support this proposal. First and foremost, the school is the "lifeblood" of Rector, as is the case with most schools in rural areas. I am extremely proud of our school and hope it continues to flourish. After many years of decreasing enrollments, the school's enrollment numbers have stabilized and have even increased in the last two years. While the school has no control over local population trends, I think the recent increases in enrollment are a testament to an attractive school facility with effective teachers and administration. I can think of no better beneficiary of the armory than the school -- the epicenter of the community.

Secondly, donation of the armory would alleviate legal concerns that might complicate the purchase of the building. At our last meeting, the Rector School Board did vote to authorize $10,000 for the purchase of the armory from the city. The board considered higher purchase amounts. However, the board concluded that, with the added costs of updating the armory to fit the school's needs, a larger purchase for the armory is not possible. After voting for the $10,000 purchase amount, the board was informed that there might be legal obstacles preventing the city from selling the armory at that price due to an existing appraisal.

The legal issues are not fully clear to me, but I believe the option of donating the armory to the school certainly needs to be explored. I encourage the city to consider the option. A donation would save the city future expenses related to the armory. At the same time, the city would provide the school with a building that could be converted into a superb facility that would benefit countless future students, as well as the whole community of Rector.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Jody Simmons

Rector School Board, President

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