Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

TOP STORY >>Mayors discuss their needs

Leader staff writer

The turnout for the first meeting of the mayors of Lonoke County was not as good as planned, but those who did attend got to mingle with State Sen. Bobby Glover, area business leaders, school officials and the new commander at Little Rock Air Force Base before settling in to listen to a presentation on how to clean up a city.

Counting himself, Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams expected at least six of the county’s 10 mayors to attend. But except for Danny Maynard, mayor of England, the only ones who came were from north Lonoke County. Ray Glover, mayor of Carlisle, had a council meeting, and there was a death in the family of Wayne McGee, mayor of Lonoke.

But if the attendance was less than hoped for, the atmosphere appeared to be conducive to building relationships, which was what the Cabot mayor had in mind when he asked the Cabot Chamber of Commerce to find sponsors for the event.
Col. Wayne Schatz, commander of the 314th Airlift Wing since May 16, set the tone for the meeting when he talked about how much he appreciated Lonoke County for providing housing for more than 40 percent of the airmen stationed at the base.

“We appreciate everything you do to take care of them,” Schatz said.

He added that since 300 new jobs will be added at the base within the next year, area cities can expect more. Williams said the catalyst for the meetings was a six-week-long leadership-training program (sponsored by the Lonoke County Coalition for Progress) where the mayors talked one day about how hard it is to keep a city clean.

Williams said he thought immediately about the twice-a-year cleanup programs run by Cabot City Beautiful. But he said he also knows that the factory coming soon to England that will build parts for equipment used in the developing gas industry will also benefit Cabot.

The factory will employ about 175 people. It will be good for the county and what’s good for the county is good for Cabot, he said. The area leaders who gathered for the 30-minute “meet and greet” did not stay for the presentation by Matt Webber with Cabot City Beautiful. Webber said about 400 volunteers work the spring cleanup when area residents, including several outside the city limits, dispose of everything from old tires and batteries to household chemicals and cans of paint.

The city donates about $15,000 to help pay for the services of a trash company and a company that disposes of hazardous materials and Cabot City Beautiful pays about $5,000. But Webber told the mayors, which included Ward Mayor Art Brooke and Austin Mayor Bernie Chamberlain, that the service would cost $47,536 if it was hired out.

The England mayor said that in addition to trash, his city had a problem with abandoned houses and overgrown yards. Williams said he believed Cabot had an ordinance that might help him. The group will get together again the first Thursday in August at city hall in England, hopefully with more mayors in attendance.

Williams promised to see what he could find in the city’s code book that might benefit England. And all four agreed that getting together just to talk was something they would like to try for a while.