A shouting match broke out during the Monday night meeting of the Lonoke City Council, as blame was laid on the city for the recent flooding of homes.
Fay Cox and Raymond Williams spoke, along with many other frustrated citizen, to the Council about flooding problems south of town.
“My house has flooded twice,” Cox said. ” We are not in a flood zone and the mayor was not able to be reached. We finally contacted my brother who contacted Jim Ed Ransom, who finally came got a pump out there but it was too late. It came in my entire house for the second time and it’s due to poor drainage, sludge in the pipes and you know, we can’t even flush our toilets when it’s just raining. I bet ya’ll flush your toilets and take a bath every day, wash your clothes. We can’t.”
“My house flooded,” Alderman Efrem Jones said.
“My house flooded, my neighbors flooded,” Alderman Wendell Walker said. “I realize when you get six inches of rain in five hours, there’s nothing you’re going to do about it.”
“We try to help,” Mayor Wayne McGee said. “But it’s not our job to keep your house from flooding.”
It was then the room broke out into argument, people talking over one another and tension rose a few degrees.
“That’s why everybody is so mad, because no one will show up to do anything,” another resident said.
McGee was even accused of screening and deliberately ignoring calls, while a home was flooding.
“I was marrying my best friend Saturday night, I wasn’t home,” McGee said. “I’ve never failed to come down there and pump at your house, don’t start that. I didn’t read caller ID, I didn’t have my phone. When I’m out of town, I can’t come pump your water. Hold on, have you ever offered to come out and hold the pump? “
More than once, Lonoke Chief of Police Randy Mauk had to step in to regain some order over the outraged citizens.
“That’s enough,” Mauk said.
“Can you flush your toilets, wash your clothes and take a shower when it rains, not a heavy rain,” Cox asked.
“I can’t,” Jones said.
“Would you come and help me if I couldn’t,” McGee asked. “Oh I know, no one wants to help me. I’m the mayor.”
“Talk to her just one second,” McGee said pointing to City Attorney Ginger Stuart, who then tried multiple time to speak up, before Mauk had to once again, step in.
“Are you going to let her answer,” Mauk asked.
“Are you going to let me answer, or are you going to talk over me,” Stuart asked, taking the lead. “The problem we have here, is as much as you don’t want to hear this, is it’s not the city’s responsibility to pump individual neighborhoods. Before Mayor McGee came into office, the city had never done that and when he came into office, the city started doing that where they could. We have limited resources and limited things we can do and they go out there and work their tails off when these things happen. Ask Jim Ed how many hours he worked over that time.”
“We know… I know he was out there all that time,” two citizens responded speaking over one another.
“But earlier, you said they didn’t do anything,” Stuart said. “From a city’s stand-point, the city does not have to do that, but they have attempted to do as much as they can.”
Unhappy with Stuart’s response, the arguing and yelling continued, until the room quieted enough for Jones to speak.
“A lot of people don’t understand, because I didn’t understand a whole lot about flooding,” he said. “Then I learned something. The flooding problem is not within the city, it’s within the county. I learned water backs up. I learned people throw trash away in the ditches and it makes water come back up. The city can’t do the county’s job. The county has to do their job, but we get the backlash of it and it makes the City Council and the city of Lonoke look bad when they are out there doing all they can. Now about Mayor McGee not being out there pumping, Jim Ed was out there so what was he going to do.”
“Show he cares,” someone replied.
“He’s got to care or Jim Ed wouldn’t be out there,” Jones said. ” Do you know how long my house has been flooding, 20 years. Do you know long my wife has set and cried because we just bought new furniture when our house flooded. But I’m not going to come up in here yelling and all. I know you’re frustrated, 20 years, I’m frustrated, but still we’ve got to talk it out.”
“We’re done and if you’ve got to find me, $5 million, I’ll fix it any time you want,” McGee said.
Alderman Wendell Walker explained that the city is working to replace old piping but with a $5 million project, the city is only able to do a little at a time. He added that a lot of the problems are actually on people’s properties, not the city side.
Comments and opinions didn’t end there, as more people spoke up and the arguing continued, until the discussion was cut off. Later in the meeting, when discussing was once again brought up, the council unanimously voted to have the pipe on Chestnut smoked for leaks.
In other business, Jason Dorsey a Kick Start Lonoke representative, Walls McCrary and Terrance Clark spoke to the council about supporting a new branding logo for the city. Clark made a presentation to the council explaining the steps of the process and how the group arrived at the new logo design with the slogan “Cultivating Community in Lonoke.”
After the presentation, Alderman Woody Evans gave this thoughts on the new brand.
“I’m all about moving Lonoke forward, this is my hometown,” Evans said. “I’ve been here 56 years. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a long way to go. I’m on the infrastructure team. I’m all about moving this city forward but if it takes a picture on a logo, we’ve got problems. I’m not for changing the logo. “
“What struck me, and I read it in the creative brief,” Alderwoman Janie Derning added. “It’s the statement that Lonoke is a great place to live, work and raise children. And I’m thinking that’s life as it should be, which is what our logo is now. How can you go any better?”
A motion was then made by Evans to leave the logo as it is, which was seconded by Raymond Hatton. Evans, Hatton, Derning, Walker, Jones and Pat Howell voted in favor of the motion. Koy Butler and Michael Florance voted against the motion.
“So now where do we go with branding and marketing,” Florence asked. “We spent all this time and effort.”
“When all this started a year ago, what I heard in the meeting when they came to the council, we talked about getting our website done,” Evans said. “But I didn’t know we were going to have to spend a bunch of money for changing the logo.”
“I’m not seeing where we are spending a bunch of money,” Butler said. “It doesn’t cost any more to put this logo there than it does our current logo, to put on our website.”
“We’re talking about 400 people here at theses meetings,” Howell said. “I appreciate what everybody has done and the hard work everyone’s put it, but we’ve got 4,400 we’ve got to represent. That leaves 4,000. I’ve talked to many people… and no one can find anything wrong with what we’ve got. Most of them, don’t want the change. And as I listened to the comments and things, I agree with what Janie says. If you apply life as it should be, to what you’re talking about, it seems to me to fit better that cultivating. A lot of people don’t like cultivating, I’ve heard that too.”
Despite the council’s decision, some individual did express their disappointment in the council not moving forward with the new logo.
In other business, the Council unanimously voted to:
-Purchase a pump from Tencarva for $1,4334.65, an emergency bypass for the Hick’s lift station for $1,695.50, fencing for the baseball park for $11,000 and valves from Morrison Supply Company for $4,201.75
-Spend $2,879.93 on wear plates and impellers
- Accept the 1st quarter financial reports
-Table all watch, condemned, and properties being considered for condemnation until the next meeting with the exception of the property at 509 Reynolds, which was given a June extension
-Approve, by resolution, to accept federal aid for the City of Lonoke trail construction and also by resolution, the Lonoke School Districts use of federal aid to improve the district sidewalks,
-Approve the Farmers Market Lease agreement
-To enter into an agreement with CAPPD for the city of Lonoke trail construction and school district sidewalk project
-Approve electrical work for the administration building for $1,271.97.
-Approve the new planning commission members Conya Spencer ad Arturo Nayto
The next regular scheduled Council meeting will be at 6 p.m. June 12 at city hall.