Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

TOP STORY > > City saves $1M in annexation loss

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

A million dollars that Jacksonville had earmarked for Gravel Ridge could now be used to straighten out a dangerous curve on West Main, the mayor said Thursday night.

Mayor Tommy Swaim tossed the idea out to the council after Alderman Gary Fletcher voiced concern about the 90-degree curve near Emma Street.

“Just this week four cars slid off the roadway at that curve, including a police vehicle,” Fletcher said, addressing Public Works Director Jim Oakley.

“I’d like to see us at least put down some rumble strips to warn drivers to slow down around the curve,” Fletcher said.

Swaim said the city has been looking at various ways to make the curve less dangerous. “It will be straightened out as development happens in that area,” he said.

But in the meantime, the mayor said the city would look into adding the rumble strips to the road.

The million dollars the mayor referred to was a combination of money the city had and money the city will save by not having to provide services, explained City Administrator Jay Whisker.

Whisker said Jacksonville first thought of annexing Gravel Ridge back in 1976, but at that time did not have the money to provide required services. “We had it now and that was one reason we tried to annex the area,” Whisker explained.

Fletcher also said that since Gravel Ridge went into Sherwood, that Jacksonville sewer and water departments, which have been investing heavily in infrastructure on the western side of the city, anticipating that Gravel Ridge would hook into Jacksonville’s system, could now turn its attention inward.

“Keeping our infrastructure in good shape will keep our rates low,” he said.

The fire department, which received approval last month to purchase a new ambulance, had planned to keep the older model to make sure it had enough ambulances to cover Jacksonville and Gravel Ridge. Now the department has options.

The council, as a whole, said the recent annexation vote went as they expected. “It may be a blessing in disguise,” said Alderman Marshall Smith.

Alderman Bob Stroud took time to thank those aldermen who spent time knocking on doors in Gravel Ridge, talking to the residents and asking them to vote. Those he thanked included aldermen Kenny Elliott, Bill Howard, Gary Fletcher, Kevin McCleary and Smith.

In other council business:

The mayor introduced the new city planner, David Joe “Chip” McCulley, 28. “Our city engineer position has been open for about 18 months,” the mayor said. “That’s still open, but we did hire a city planner.”

McCulley will be responsible for most of the work that City Administrator Jay Whisker did when he was the city engineer.

Swaim also introduced the new police chief, giving the new hire a scare by saying, “and here’s a person that will have a real short stint in his job.”

Instead of introducing Gary Sipes, the new police chief, the mayor introduced Kenny Boyd, who was serving as the police department’s interim chief.

Sipes, 51, the new chief, will start on the job Monday.

The council agreed to spend almost $32,000 to purchase four backup power generators for the fire department.

The mayor reminded the council that the citywide cleanup was set for 9 a.m. Saturday beginning at the chamber of commerce, and that an informational meeting on the proposed Two Pine Landfill expansion will be 6 p.m. Monday.

Aldermen reappointed Joan Zumwalt to the sewer commission.

Her term will expire April 2013.