Rector Council Updated on Water System, Discuss Carnival

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Significant water infrastructure improvement is one step closer to reality following last week's meeting of the Rector City Council.

A month after allowing engineering firm Horner and Shifrin to officially pursue grant funds for rural development, the council received feedback that a 45- to 50-percent grant may be within reach for the city to make sweeping upgrades to its water system.

The largest project, if the grant is awarded and the city moves forward, will be replacement of 22 miles of cast-iron water pipes - some of which are more than a century old. Another sweeping change would be rehabilitation and modernization of the water department office itself, with additional space being provided.

The grant would also cover parts of the following: Stripping and repainting the water tower, replacing fire hydrants as needed and rehabilitating the city's well houses.

Previously, the council heard from Horner and Shifrin ideas to prevent tying in with an external water district while the tank in Rector is out of service. Mobile water pumps were recommended and approved, with Civil Engineering Associates of Jonesboro taking on that potential task.

Also during this month's city council meeting, the fine for overweight trucks not making deliveries inside Rector yet traveling on the city streets was increased to not less than $250 and no more than $500.

The new ordinance amends a 1980s ordinance by increasing the fees for unloaded weights of 6,000 pounds and loaded weights of 30,000 pounds.

During the fire department report, fire chief Huston Bowden reported the truck damaged in a collision with a building has been repaired and two estimates for repair to the building both came in exceeding the $5,000 deductible.

Bowden also announced the resignation of volunteer firefighter Jamie Diddle.

Superintendent of water/sewer and street departments Todd Watson reported to the council additional paving is needed for the public library and that unused funds from last year would cover the cost.

During his report, Rector Police Chief Glenn Leach publicly thanked the Clay County Sheriff's Department, the Arkansas State Police and all volunteer fire department members for their assistance during the annual Rector Labor Day Picnic.

Leach said the help and strength in numbers made for a lighter load for everyone involved in keeping attendees and visitors safe the entire weekend.

Carnival Reviewed

Key members of Rector leadership used the only megaphones they have - their city council seats - to publicly acknowledge concern over the amusement rides at this year's Rector Labor Day Picnic.

At issue is a scaled-down carnival that was not the caliber long-expected by many picnic attendees and visitors. The week of the picnic, KAIT-TV 8 in Jonesboro aired complaints by some residents and visitors over the fewer attractions and less-lengthy carnival stay.

However, event organizer Nate Henderson told the Times-Democrat the day after the picnic's conclusion, while the amusement midway included fewer rides than in past years, the parade involved more participants and visitors.

"We had a banner crowd first thing Monday," Henderson said. "Since I've been in Rector this is the biggest parade we've ever had," Henderson said. "The parade was booming."

Some council members discussed the issue during their meeting last week. While an air of disappointment was thick at times, most members simply wanted residents to know they have heard the complaints and plan to follow through in keeping informed about future carnivals.

Henderson said the Woodland Heights Cemetery Commission, responsible for inking a contract with a carnival company each year as part of its largest fundraiser for decades, had to settle on a smaller company and a tighter window of opportunity this year after an exhaustive search for midway entertainment.

With growing safety concerns within the amusement ride industry, and government scrutiny following highly visible accidents and fatalities, some companies are beginning to exclusively deal with venues much larger than Rector.

Henderson said the carnival company used this month was signed to participate in late winter of this year. "The cemetery board had some trouble finding a carnival this year," he said. "It wasn't the size carnival we've had at the Labor Day carnival, but we made the most of what we had."

Money may be a factor. This year's picnic resulted in a deposit of $63,174.80, a 10.3-percent dip from the 2015 deposit drop of $70,430.30. It also indicates a 16.4-percent decrease in revenue deposit in just two years, from $75,604.96 in 2014. Prior to that, the picnic drew approximately a seven percent increase in deposited revenue from 2013.

And the lofty-sounding deposit drops are only part of the equation, according to Woodland Heights Cemetery Board treasurer Cheri Boyd. After paying for repairs to the park, raffle tickets, trophies, T-shirts, food and other items, this year's Labor Day picnic netted just $17,319.42.

"I was amazed when all the bills started coming in," said Boyd. "Most people just see the deposit."

The $45,855.38 used to pay for the picnic equates to an overhead cost of 72.6 percent.

As for the amusement rides, Henderson had previously said the board would work immediately to start the search for a carnival to attend next year's picnic.

"They're going to work diligently," he said. "Everybody has their festivals. We're definitely going to reach out as early as we can."

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