Leader Blues

Monday, December 03, 2007

TOP STORY >>Jacksonville sets election to bring in Gravel Ridge

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville wants Gravel Ridge and has set a special election in February to bring most of that community into the city.
Aldermen voted unanimously Thursday night to bring in about 2,500 acres west of the city, which includes most of Gravel Ridge.

An area of 2,000 acres just north of Gravel Ridge was annexed by Sherwood last year. Jacksonville tried to stop that annexation at the county level and lost, then appealed to circuit court and lost. That annexation issue is now before the state Supreme Court. A decision is expected early next year.

So, is this annexation a move to prevent further encroachment by Sherwood? One Jacksonville official said it could be taken that way.

City Administrator Jay Whisker added that “there’s a lot of tax revenue out there that would be good for the city. I-440 (North Belt) will also be going through there with a planned interchange.”

Whisker said the general area sought for annexation runs from the western city limits to west of Hwy. 107, south of Kellogg Creek and north to Bayou Meto.

But because the city is initiating the annexation, a special election must be held for the voters in the affected area and city residents.

The city council has set Feb. 5 for that election.

The ordinance setting the election states the annexation is necessary “for the orderly and continued growth of the city.”
The ordinance also describes the acreage as “needed for proper municipal purposes” and “valuable by reason of their adaptability for use and to the city of Jacksonville.”

If voters approve the annexation, the 2,500 acres will become part of Jacksonville 30 days later.

According to the ordinance, if the annexation is approved, the city would take over police protection of the area from Pulaski County immediately.

Jacksonville would immediately coordinate and supplement fire protection with the volunteer fire department already active in Gravel Ridge.

Sewer services already in the area would immediately be brought into the city’s control. The city already provides a portion of the area with sewer and other utility services.

The city would pick up the sanitation service with six months of the election.

In other council business:

Aldermen passed an ordinance placing tax liens on various properties in the city for expenses the city incurred correcting violations.

The tax liens will be placed on the property owners’ property tax bill. Liens include the cost of the city mowing lawns, demolishing condemned buildings, towing away nonworking vehicles and other services.

In all, the city placed more than $14,000 worth of liens against a total of 41 individuals or businesses.

Local businessman Glenn Davidson had liens placed against nine of his rental properties for a total of more than $3,000.

Christian Pittman, individually, and doing business as Pittman and Associates, had liens placed on eight properties for a total of about $600.

The council passed a resolution stating that if it ever closed its mulching operations and did not clean up the property according to state and federal levels, the state could withhold about $25,000 in state turnback funds.

“All cities having composting or mulching operations are required to have some type of funding in place for cleanup. We were given a number of options and doing it this way means we don’t have to expend any money at this time,” Mayor Tommy Swaim explained. He added that there are no plans to close the operations.

Aldermen approved the Community Development Block Grant citizens participation plan and updated Housing of Urban Development policy and procedures. The approval helps ensure use of federal money for various low-to-moderate income projects.

The mayor was presented with the President’s Circle Award for the accomplishments of the city’s Keep Jacksonville Beautiful group.

The mayor presented the council with a draft of the city’s $17.9 million general-fund budget for 2008.

“This is your homework,” he told the aldermen. “Go through the draft and be prepared to discuss it at our Dec. 22 meeting.”
In his monthly report, Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said his department responded to 105 rescue calls, 63 still alarms, 13 general alarms and had 237 am-bulance runs in October.

Estimated fire loss for the city was $1,600, while fire savings was put at $28,400.

Police Chief Robert Baker, in his monthly report, said his department responded to 2,778 complaint calls during October. Police made 303 arrests, including 24 for drugs. More than $88,000 worth of items were reported stolen, while $25,366 worth was recovered.

The engineering report for October showed that the city issued 30 building permits and 14 business licenses. The city also performed about 300 inspections, mailed out close to 600 letters warning residents or businesses that there yards needed mowing or trash removal.

Public Works Director Jim Oakley, in his monthly animal shelter report, said the facility received 140 dogs and 115 cats during October.

One cat and 36 dogs were returned to their owners, while another 18 cats and 56 dogs were adopted. Shelter officials had to euthanize 113 cats and 42 dogs.

Four animal bites were reported during October. Two were cats, one was a Rottweiler and one was a Chihuahua.
The council set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Dec. 6 regarding a bond issue for Pathfinder.