Rector Council Talks Livestock, Parking Lot Project

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Crystal Parrish, representing Rector 4-H Club at Monday’s meeting of the Rector City Council, presented a proposal asking for the council to consider amending the current city ordinance regarding livestock within the city limits. Her request centers on 4-H children who wish to keep their show animals at their houses. These children are age five through age 19 but are not affiliated with Rector FFA Chapter.

She said 15-20 children who live in town want to keep animals in their yards so they may attend to them three to four times a day. These chickens and goats are intended for competition in the fall.

Parrish said the proposal calls for restrictions, including permission of the homeowner if the child’s parents do not own the home. She further acknowledged that permits and fees would be expected. Other stipulations mentioned by Parrish included no free-range birds, no roosters, no swine -- only chickens and goats for show purposes would be raised in town. She and several parents in the audience mentioned that raising animals for show gives the children an incentive to learn responsibility and engage in a positive activity.

Aldermen questioned the space required to raise a chicken and a goat and asked how many animals per child would be in the program. They acknowledged that neighbors would view livestock in town as a considerable disruption, which was countered by Parrish relating the chicken and goat nuisance to noise complaints for barking dogs.

Aldermen also asked city superintendent Todd Watson about set-back requirements from property to property. Alderman David Romine asked about fencing, shelters, coops saying, “we do not need any more eyesores or ‘cobbled up’ structures.”

Parrish said the Extension Office has plans for the out-buildings which would be constructed by the family according to those standards.

Aldermen also raised the issue of enforcement regarding the regulations, stating that the parents in attendance would most likely comply with the ordinance, but they could not, nor could the council enforce parental supervision and compliance.

“What will happen when some of the town’s problem dogs get in a chicken pen?” alderman Ryan Lawrence asked. “Everybody knows we’ve got trouble with stray dogs and dogs being unleashed.”

Several other questions and observances were presented, including those about the age and gender of the goats, the need to control the smells emitted by chickens, and how one element seemed to grow into multiple issues to be further discussed and researched.

FFA sponsor and ag teacher Michael Hollis was present and said “early, supervised experiences with agriculture do promote the FFA program since showing animals is a favorite component of the FFA.” Nevertheless, he did clarify that the FFA is not the parent organization for 4-H clubs.

Mayor Teresa Roofe thanked Parrish for her preparation and the audience for their attendance and input. She asked for copies of city ordinances from neighboring communities and said the council will take the matter under advisement.

Parking Lot Project

The council then welcomed Shannon Todd with Horner-Shifrin Engineering of Poplar Bluff. Todd brought to the council a set of plans and the specifications for paving and curbing the library parking lot. He gave those plans to Watson.

Todd further acknowledged that he’d received the notice of award of the bid for painting and reworking the water tower. Kimberly Dale, city attorney, said the loan with Regions Bank for the project would close by the end of June and that Todd should proceed with the project.

Watson said he would contact museum director Johnny Williams to set dates for raising the existing door to the facility prior to the resurfacing of the parking lot.

Mayor Roofe brought to the attention of the council that the loan resolution needed to be addressed. Dale read the resolution, which was approved by the council. The loan is in the amount of $375,000 over 60 months, requiring a payment of $6673.46 per month.

The replacement of fire hydrants throughout the city was included originally in the amount the city would borrow, but Roofe researched the issue and determined that the city could replace eight to nine hydrants per year, paying for them from a separate source: the depreciation fund. The council will discuss an adjustment to the water rates and the city budget will meet the remaining monthly obligation.

In other business, the council heard a report from the street department. Watson was pleased to show members a picture of the new street department truck which is now paid for, in operation, licensed and identified with the city logo.

Watson reported 12 new connections and 11 disconnects in the water department. In the street department, there was one cut, one repair and 11 potholes filled. He then led a discussion on the code enforcement department. In February, 43 non-compliance letters were issued and of those, 15 homeowners are now eligible to receive a citation. There are many properties that have been certified to the Arkansas Land Commissioner, where they will languish for years, awaiting absentee landlords or auction.

Fire chief Hutie Bowden said “we’re moving dirt for our new building, but Square Post said it would be eight weeks before the construction start, for the components to be shipped here.”

Alderman Lark Sigsby presented Watson with several properties in need of a letter for upkeep. Upon examination of the addresses, several were well-known to Watson and again, absentee landlords and property certified to the state awaiting public auction on Aug. 1 were ongoing issues. “It’s a no win for us. I wish I had an answer. Some of these properties went up for auction and no one bid even one dollar for them,” said Watson. “One of these houses has been condemned four times and four times the family has begun to tear it down. Now, it’s on Main Street, and it’s just sitting there, half-way down.”

Romine mentioned the building that once housed the wrestling arena. Roofe said she is concerned about the loose tin, further loosened and hanging from the last big windstorm. This building was sold to a couple from Greene County. Todd Watson will be in contact with them to see what plans are in the works for this building as it remains open in both the front and the back for vandals and varmints.

Prior to council business, Ryan Rients addressed the council regarding race cars and their parts, including tires, being kept at his house. He had received a citation and asked that the council re-read the ordinance stating that there is no distinction between commercial and residential properties and hobby cars, boats, RVs and four-wheelers. He requested a clarification of the rules. He also asked the city attorney about an issue relating to his wife which could not be discussed with anyone other than his wife. Third, he raised the question of city personnel policy regarding drug testing should city property be involved in an accident.

Dale asked for more specific information. She said citizens may access anything the Freedom of Information Act allows and said the City of Rector’s personnel handbook was written with the stipulations within the Municipal League document. Later, Dale said any employee can and will be drug tested if a “safety sensitive” issue is involved and if the job description of the employee states such.

With the Independence Day holiday and out of town plans being near the usual council meeting date, the council voted that July 10 would be the date for the next meeting.

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