Intergovernmental council discusses dilapidated housing

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Mayors from around the county met in Marked Tree last week for the quarterly intergovernmental cooperative council meeting to update each other on local projects and discuss issues facing their cities. Part of the discussion centered around dealing with dilapidated houses. The group invited Wynne Mayor Bob Stacy to talk about his city's success in dealing with the issue.

Stacy said Wynne is fortunate to have a high garbage rate of $18, which has helped generate money for tearing down dilapidated houses. Additionally, he said that when they have a property that is run down or partially burnt, they have the owner sign a waiver in which they understand the city will raze the building while the owner will keep the lot. "We've torn down 73 to date," Stacy said. "The whole town loves it."

The cleanup is paid for through the sanitation department. Stacy said he has been asked by several mayors how they are tearing down so many houses, and the simple answer is that the sanitation fee is helping the city pay for it. "We're paying it out of pocket," Stacy said. He said the city has a list with about a dozen more houses to be torn down, and they try to do one house a month. So far, the city of Wynne has spent around $200,000 tearing down dilapidated houses, according to Stacy.

In Poinsett County updates, County Judge Bob Cantrell said there has been a lot of work around the county courthouse, including putting in new sidewalks, a sprinkler system, and partial landscaping with the rest to be landscaped in a couple weeks. Cantrell also spoke about the chiller at the jail. He said they put out bids to replace it, but the lowest was $266,000, which would have seriously depleted the budget. Instead, they managed to fix the current chiller for $18,000. Cantrell said it is running at 100 percent. He said they are going to try to get an energy audit done on the jail in the next eight months to see how they can get energy costs down.

Lepanto Mayor Dale Dunlap said they have torn down some houses and are still working on the project to replace the city's galvanized water lines, a project which has been ongoing for two years. He also said the Terrapin Derby had a good turnout this year. "I went at 11 and thought it would be a dud, but when I went back at two o'clock, it was unreal," Dunlap said. "It costs the city money, but if people come and enjoy it, it's worth it."

Harrisburg Mayor Randy Mills said he is trying to put together an economic development incentive program and is trying to attract new businesses. He also said Harrisburg School District is starting a charter program.

Trumann Mayor Barbara Lewallen spoke about the recent Wild Duck Festival, saying they had 40 vendors--which is the most they have had in a long time--and a really good turnout. She said a lot of projects are in the works thanks to the 2015 bond money such as building a new city shop, putting out bids for paving streets, a sewer extension under I-555, renovating a water tower, and renovating the municipal office. In businesses, she said the city is getting a laundromat, the Ford dealership's new building by the highway is coming along, and the Dollar General is building a new store.

Marked Tree Mayor Mary Ann Arnold mentioned that Marked Tree has a new strip center building with one business and people interested in renting the other bays. She said the city also received a grant for a new jaws of life to replace the one that burned out during the rescue of the two men who were trapped in the grain elevator in July. "I'm so thankful we all have that piece of equipment in our cities," Arnold said. She added that Fire Chief Jamie McCrary told her Marked Tree's jaws of life had been used 14 this year between January and June.

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