Rector Council Addresses Condemnation Proceedings

Thursday, March 7, 2019

One of the primary items of business addressed at Rector’s monthly city council meeting Monday evening at City Hall involved condemnation proceedings for 402 East 1st Street. The parcel considered has been the site of a burned-out trailer long considered an eyesore for the neighbors and the community. The matter had been delayed from February’s agenda to allow identified owners time for response.

Belonging to Richard and Karen Langille, who did not appear at the meeting, the trailer met the criteria for condemnation under ordinance 498. After reading resolution 2019-04, Council member Lark Sigsby made the motion to condemn, seconded by Council member David Romine. Council members voted unanimously to condemn the parcel.

Afterward, City Attorney Kimberly Dale answered council members’ questions regarding next steps and how best to use the property for the good of the neighborhood and the community. Romine also asked about the timeliness of the city’s action.

Attorney Dale responded the work needed to be accomplished within a reasonable time, noting it should be done within several months to avoid questions regarding due process.

City superintendent Todd Watson and city water department technician Brad Green discussed the most recent situations involving Rector Water Well #1 at the water tower, and the resulting spike in pressure at Well #2 at the community center.

Recently, with no provocation, a pipe connected with Well #1 ruptured resulting in the well’s shut-down with service picked up at Well #2. In turn, Well #2 spiked high pressure because it is especially deep and the motor was forced to run “wide open” at high speed to pump the water to the surface and out.

“We had this back under control until today when it again spiked at high pressure,” Green explained. Calling on Council member David Romine’s experience in his professional capacity with the Paragould utility, Watson said the department had also called on plumbing engineers, well engineers, and others to gather recommendations to bring to council.

Following the discussion, council determined the best course of action was to repair and upgrade the system at Well #2 and to repair the section of pipe at Well #1 which had ruptured.

Of concern to the council, Watson and Mayor Teresa Roofe was the most recent heavy rain which resulted in several inconveniences for city residents. In response, Romine presented information and technical literature regarding individual pump stations can be implemented to relieve situations where residents can not use their plumbing during heavy rains. This would come into play during times which flood the low-lying sewer pipes and cause overflow which is visible around manhole covers. He explained that overflow drains into nearby ditches and does not backup into the resident’s home. Regardless, the situation needs to be rectified.

“Hot Springs has thousands of these systems, installed by the city and maintained by the resident,” Romine explained. Mayor Roofe and Superintendent Watson agreed this is something the city needs to seriously address. “Every city in the United States has some degree of problems like this due to aged infrastructure,” Romine concluded of the situation.

Mayor Roofe and Superintendent Watson reported that on Thursday, March 8, the new tornado siren will be in place. It will be tested a few days later. Council member Sigsby stated that the One-Call system also needs to be tested and utilized to keep the public aware of important issues or situations within the city. “We need to remind the citizens that they need to renew their memberships and change their phone number as necessary,” she added.

In other council business, Mayor Roofe reported that Superintendent Watson is driving a new Dodge truck obtained through the government bid process. His 2008 truck is now being driven by city employee David Jones.

In reports from Code Enforcement, 10 dogs were picked up, 10 street signs were repaired or replaced, 10 pot holes were filled and the signs at the school crossings seem to be operating successfully.

“If they are not working now, we’ll just send them back,” Watson said of recent issues with the signs. “We’ve done all we can and so has the school.”

Huston Bowden, Fire Chief, reported 16 calls, nine of which were in the city. He also reported nine first-responder calls. He suggested monitoring the number and type of first responder calls because the citizens may need an ambulance and are just hesitant to ask for one.

“An ambulance is the first to report to a 911 emergency unless the ambulances are on other calls and a first responder would be dispatched in that case until the ambulance arrived on scene,” he explained. “The concern is that “first responder” terminology is misunderstood by some to mean “one step down from a paramedic.” Bowden noted as a result, phone calls to dispatch instead of calling 911 sometimes result in a conversations such as, “I need some help. The situation, however, is not a specified emergency, per se.”

“We don’t want to stop people from asking for help. We want to respond. We want to help people,” he added. “But, the idea of first-responder has changed and I don’t know how this has happened.”

“We don’t want dispatch to be called upon to decide by telephone call what service is needed,” Attorney Dale added. “We need to send the ambulance if it is available. There must be a specific protocol and the dispatches need to be logged. It’s a legal concern.”

Chief Bowden concluded his remarks and then recommended Sam Shavalia be added to the fire department’s roster. Council affirmed.

Police Chief Glenn Leach noted no accidents in the city. He reported 63 items on the court docket bringing $3,410 to the city from court fines and fees.

Council was reminded of the upcoming Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home parade and program to be held at 2 p.m. on March 30. As part of the celebration, flags will line city streets and musical entertainment will be featured along with a program at Veteran’s Memorial Park. Council members stated they would be willing and able to assist chairman Joey Pruett and his committee. Council also congratulated Mayor Teresa Roofe and city employees Jerry Mansfield and Brad Green for their third-place entries in the annual Ryan Rogers Cook-off and Supper to benefit the Community Center.

Also during the meeting, council heard from audience members. Bob Summers of Horner Shifrin Engineering Firm, of Poplar Bluff, returned to report that he and Watson and Green had met with the Rural Development Corporation in Jonesboro. He reported they were going forward, with the assistance of Mayor Roofe, to seek grant funds which could be earmarked for repair and improvements at the waste water treatment plant and possibly within the waste water system.

Audience member Marvin Gatewood addressed a safety concern regarding rampant speeding down Main Street not only by tractor-trailer trucks but by private vehicles. He mentioned also that 3rd Street is being used more heavily and he’s seen numerous people driving with no regard for stop signs and with seeming no obligation to obey the posted speed limit in residential areas.

“I saw one car almost leave the ground as it sped over the railroad track on Main Street. It’s just not safe,” he offered. “Even a warning ticket would help, would let drivers know they need to slow down and obey traffic signals. Stop means stop.” In closing Gatewood added, “every employee serves at the pleasure of the Mayor. I think it’s time to address this situation to keep the city safe.”

Prior to adjournment, Council member Iva Fahr asked about the status of the annexation discussion in light of the fact the medical marijuana dispensary requested a move to the Brookland area. City Attorney Dale and Council member Sigsby noted the deadline for annexation for purposes of inclusion in the upcoming 2020 Census had passed.

“You can still consider annexation to gain more revenue for the city,” Attorney Dale offered. “But we don’t need to discuss that right away.”

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