Leader Blues

Saturday, March 22, 2008

TOP STORY > >Aldermen question Sherwood land-feud sincerity

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

With the third and final vote coming up to decide if Gravel Ridge will become part of Jacksonville or Sherwood, Jacksonville aldermen Bob Stroud and Gary Fletcher took time to try to set a few things straight at the council meeting Thursday night.

“There have been some half truths and innuendoes spread around or printed on the annexation issue that I need to address,” Stroud said.

“First, it’s been said and printed that Jacksonville went after Gravel Ridge first. That’s a half-truth. We did go after Gravel Ridge first, but only after we got the word that Sherwood wanted to annex just the commercial strip on Highway 107 and not the whole community. We’ve always wanted everyone,” Stroud said.

“I also don’t like that it has been insinuated that Jacksonville had something to do with that negative phone survey in Sherwood. I don’t know who was behind it, but I can guarantee that Jacksonville had nothing to do with it,” Stroud insisted.

Finally he lamented he was distressed that a sister city that has worked so closely with Jacksonville in the past has said so many negative things.

Fletcher was equally disheartened.

“It’s a shame that one city has to win and the other loses on this issue,” he said.

Fletcher told the council he contacted one of the leading Sherwood aldermen before the holidays to see if a compromise could be worked out. “I never heard back,” he said.

“It seems that they don’t want to work out something for the betterment of the area. It’s a shame that we can’t sit down and work out something,” he added. “The aftermath of this will last a long time.”

Gravel Ridge residents will vote April 1 to decide whether they’ll be taken in by Jacksonville or Sherwood. Both cities already had elections approving the annexation of Gravel Ridge.

In other council business:

Aldermen accepted the 2007 consolidated annual performance and evaluation report from the city’s Community Deve-lopment Block Grant office. Al-derman Reedie Ray commended Theresa Watkins, head of the program. “For what little money you have to work with, you and your staff have done a wonderful job,” he said.

Mayor Tommy Swaim added it’s getting harder and harder to run the CDBG program. “The federal funds get cut a little bit more every year,” he said.

In 2007, the program received $279,496 aimed at improving neighborhood conditions for the very low to low-income households.

In his monthly report to the council, Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said his department responded to 133 rescue calls, 44 still alarms, nine general alarms and had 220 ambulance runs in February.

Estimated fire loss for the city in February was $11,001, while fire savings, based upon the quick response of the department, was estimated at $35,000.

Police Chief Robert Baker, said in his monthly report, the department responded to 3,059 complaint calls in February and made 290 arrests. More than $82,000 worth of items was stolen during February, while $20,828 worth of items was recovered.

The monthly engineering report showed that the city issued 24 building permits and 16 business licenses during February. The engineering department also conducted more than 200 inspections and mailed 146 letters to residents and business owners for have excessive trash on their property.

The council approved the fire department’s request to purchase new turnout equipment for firefighters. Each set will cost slightly more than $2,000.

The council also approved rezoning a portion of land off Hamilton Street from R-7 to R-3 (multi-unit residential).

Public Works Director Jim Oakley, in his monthly animal shelter report, told the council that the shelter took in 149 dogs and 41 cats during February. The shelter was able to return 32 dogs and one cat to their owners, while adopting out 71 dogs and 11 cats. Twelve cats and 34 dogs were euthanized.

Also six animal bites were reported during the month, but only one of the animals, a Rottweiler, was declared dangerous. The dog broke through a fence and attacked a man.