Leader Blues

Monday, February 09, 2009

TOP STORY>>Junkyard in Beebe is told to clean up

Leader staff writer

The owner of Dave’s Core in Beebe is in trouble with city and state officials who say he must screen his unsightly scrap metal business from public view.

Located between U.S. Hwy. 67-167 and Arkansas Hwy. 367, David Hepp’s business is visible from both and even he admits that it is an eyesore.

For several months, Mayor Mike Robertson has been unable to get the Arkansas Highway Department to force Hepp to erect a screen around his property. So he turned the matter over to the city attorney and Hepp will be prosecuted in Beebe District Court.

But The Leader learned Thurs-day, after Robertson ran an ad asking residents to call the Arkansas Highway Department and not the city with their complaints, that the Highway Department also plans to prosecute Hepp.

Although Hwy. 367, where the business is technically located, is not on the list of state roads where screening of junkyards is required, Hwy. 67-167 is on the list.

“If you can see it from the highway, you’ve got to keep it reasonably clean,” David Nilles, a spokesman for the Highway Department, said Thursday. “We’ve been out there and given him two or three chances to clean it up and he’s done nothing. We’re going to the (circuit court) prosecutor (Chris Raff) next week.

Like the city, Nilles said the state wants a screen erected.

Robertson also learned on Thursday that the Highway Department intends to prosecute Hepp and says it must have been all the calls that finally moved them to action.

“They have an office in Batesville and an office in Little Rock and they go up and down that road every day,” the mayor said. “They saw it and they should have taken care of it.”

The department is always out on Saturday pulling up yard sale signs, church revival signs and campaign signs, he said. And there can be no good reason for neglecting the condition of Hepp’s property for so long.

Hepp, whose property was annexed into the city about two years ago, told The Leader in late September that he was getting bids for a screening fence around his property as the city had already requested. But he said this week that since his profit from the sale of scrap metal was cut in half when prices dropped in the fall, he can no longer afford to build the fence.

“I’m just barely scraping by,” he said.

He proposes instead to stop using the area beside the freeway for storage. That way the junk beside the “Welcome to Beebe” sign that is so offensive to the mayor and others would no longer be an issue.

Since the price for scrap metal fell, he isn’t buying much from the local scrap dealers who keep him supplied, so he doesn’t need as much storage room, Hepp said he told the mayor this week.

“If I clean it up, I wouldn’t need a fence, but they’re telling me I need a fence anyway,” Hepp said.

The mayor said that is exactly what he told Hepp, who is willing to move the scrap metal away from the freeway now because business is bad and he doesn’t need the storage space. But if business picks up the junk will be back.

The law says Hepp’s business is supposed to be screened and the mayor says he wants it screened.

“Complying with rules and regulations is not based on the economy,” he said.