Council discusses gym, garbage

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tribune Editor

The Carver Center Gym once again headlined the meeting of the Marked Tree City Council as members met in regular session Monday, July 9. New vandalism problems have caused the city to look again at the property which has been a topic of debate among the council and citizens for several years.

In an incident on July 3, three juveniles set fire to playground equipment next to the gym. According to chief of police Chester Ford, the children ranged in age from eight to ten.

"At first they tried to say it was an accident with fireworks," Ford said. "Then they admitted to burning it themselves."

Ford said the children lit paper on fire underneath the equipment. Adults in the area tried to contain the blaze before the fire department arrived, but several pieces of equipment were destroyed.

"We can't keep this up," Mayor Dixon Chandler said. "I think it's time to let someone else take up the responsibility."

Dixon said he talked with the state department about selling the gym and property. Because the facility has received grant funds designated for parks and recreation, the funds will have to be transferred to another similar project, such as the proposed recreation center that will be voted on next month.

"If people want to purchase the building and the land, the city will be out from underneath the liability of it," Chandler said.

Chandler said Living Water Ministries in Marked Tree has expressed a desire to purchase the building.

"I recommend that you let me look into that to see what we can do," Chandler.

Alderman Cleo Johnson Jr. expressed concern over selling the building to the church.

"We need to sell it to a group that cares about the kids," Johnson said. "[If they buy it] it's not for the kids, it's for their church."

Alderman Dean Tucker suggested that they bring the church in to have them explain their intentions for the building, although Alderman Ves Smith pointed out that the council couldn't legally hold them to any such promises.

"I'm just not for it," Johnson said.

The council agreed to table the item until more information could be obtained.

In other discussion, Mayor Chandler presented the council with a plan to implement a city run garbage program. Under the plan, the city would lease a garbage truck for two years a time. They would also purchase the bins, and run regular garbage routes to pick up the trash.

Even with the creation of possibly two jobs and equipment costs, Chandler said the city could still make a reasonable profit while keeping garbage rates at the current cost.

The discussion was tabled until next month's meeting in order to give council members more time to review the proposal.

In other business the council:

*Presented a proclamation to the Tri-City Tribune to congratulate them for being named the best small weekly in Arkansas for 2007.

*Passed an ordinance to include a portion of Highway 63 into city limits. The section of street in question is past where Highways 308 and 63 intersect. The street became a dead end when access to the interstate was eliminated.

Alderman Tucker expressed concerns about the city incurring maintenance costs for the road. City clerk and treasurer Pam Wright said the city was already performing most of the roadside maintenance such as mowing the grass and cleaning the ditches.

The section of road is currently being used by truckers as a parking area, something that would no longer be permissible if the highway remained in the state's hand. Mayor Chandler said under the city's ownership the city could collect a small monthly fee such as $15 per month from the truckers in exchange for parking.

The measure to adopt the section of road passed 6 -- 2 with alderman Michael Scott, Ves Smith, Jerry Jones, Shirley Moore, Ritter Arnold and Cleo Johnson Jr. voting in favor of the ordinance and Dean Tucker and Waylon Dunn voting against the adoption.

*Voted to lease a tractor for the street and water departments.

*Passed a resolution to seek grant money for a walking trail to be located at the proposed recreational complex.

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