The Lonoke City Council on Monday rejected an ordinance that would have required residents to apply for a permit before burning yard waste under the newly-repealed burn ban.
The ban, which dates back to 1990 and applies to the burning of all types of materials within city limits, will be officially reversed in January after voters in November’s General Election narrowly approved a measure to repeal the ban.
City attorney Camille Bennett presented the ordinance during the council’s regularly scheduled meeting Monday night and described the purpose of the permits. In order to encourage safe burning practices, the permits would contain general guidelines for burning, she said. Bennett also said the permits could help prevent uncontrolled burns.
"The good thing about the permit is if there’s a fire in a ditch somewhere, we know who started the fire. We know who’s responsible to be watching it," she said.
Alderman Pat Howell expressed opposition to the ordinance, saying that it placed too many restrictions on residents.
"We passed an ordinance to allow people to burn. If we’re going to put so many restrictions on it — they’ve gotta go get a permit, get it filled out, get the police, the fire departments number … why’d we even pass the thing?" he asked.
Alderman Efrem Jones was also vocal on the matter, expressing support for the permits.
Alderman Wendell Walker suggested the possibility of zoned burning, in which residents would be allowed to burn only on certain days of the week, depending on which zone they live in.
Ultimately, the council resolved to distribute a letter to residents outlining acceptable burning practices and encouraging individuals to take advantage of the city’s leaf and limb removal services, rather than burning their yard waste. The letter will also emphasize the fact that the only material allowed to burned within city limits is yard waste, not household trash and other items.
In other business, the council heard an update from Attorney Jaimie Moss from Wright, Lindsey & Jennings Law Firm on behalf of Bank of America regarding the condemned property located at 521 E. Eighth St., which is owned by BAC Loan Services.
Moss said repairs to the property will begin Dec. 17 and will be completed by Dec. 21. Safeguard Properties, a contractor working on behalf of BAC, will complete the work, she said. Safeguard Properties will also perform monthly inspections every month until the property sells, according to Moss.
Moss said BAC "realizes that they have not been a good neighbor" up unto this point, but that the bank is serious about repairing the property and getting it ready to sell.
The council will re-evaluate the property at the next regularly scheduled meeting in January.
The council heard updates from Mayor Wayne McGee and Bennett on other area condemned properties. No further action was taken on the properties at 519 Hamburg and 519 Reynolds St. at this time. What remains of the house at the Reynolds Street property will be removed from the lot by the end of this week, McGee said.
Bennett gave an update on the property at 302 Teresa Lane and said there is a possibility it will be sold in the next 30 days. Bennett said she wrote a letter to owners Farris and Dorothy McClain stating what needs to be done at the property and that work must be complete by the end of January.
The Third Street Apartments and Mallard Point Golf Course will remain on the watch list for at least another 30 days. McGee said he wasn’t aware of any disturbance calls from the apartments during the last month.
The council reviewed the preliminary budget numbers for next year and voted unanimously to approve it.
In addition, the council heard updates from Brian Whitworth from public works and George Rich on behalf of the fire department, as well as Mike Brown regarding updates at the Community Center.
Whitworth said a new water line will be installed on Fannie Lane. The line will improve water volume in the area. Whitworth estimated the work and labor on the project to cost $5,559 and the parts to cost $5,854. He requested a total of $13,000 for the project. Howell made a motion to begin work as soon as possible, pending funds. The council approved.
Brown discussed the Community Center renovations and said the carpet is worn in areas. He suggested that it be replaced with a rubber tile floor, especially in high-traffic areas. Brown is in the process of getting quotes for the rubber floor, he said. The council approved a motion to put out bids for all new equipment at the center.
The council reviewed a policies and procedures book for the volunteer fire department. Council members will continue to review it individually and submit any comments to Bennett by Dec. 17. The council will vote on the handbook at its January meeting.
Roy Don Lewis was also present and gave spoke on behalf of the parks commission, discussing mosquito control for the residents of Lonoke. Later in the meeting, the council voted unanimously to pass ordinance 635, waiving the requirement of competitive bidding for chemicals used in spraying for mosquitoes. Bidding was waived because the city has a limited opportunity to secure the chemicals at a reduced price, according to the ordinance.
The council also passed an ordinance waiving the requirement of competitive bidding for liability insurance for the city of Lonoke. Such coverage has been provided by APERMA since 1989, according to the ordinance. Taking time for bidding could result in an increased price or lapse in coverage, the ordinance states.
This was the last meeting for Todd Wheat, who is retiring from city council. He will be succeeded by Danny Whitehurst.
Police Chief Mike Wilson was absent from the meeting.
The next regularly scheduled meeting will be on Jan. 14.