Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

TOP STORY >> Where is your alderman?

Leader staff writer

Two aldermen in Sherwood have disconnected or wrong numbers listed on city or county Web sites for their constituents to contact them, and none have e-mail addresses listed.

After some residents complained about not being able to talk to city officials, The Leader placed calls to aldermen in Cabot, Sherwood and Jacksonville using phone numbers posted on city or county Web sites.

The numbers listed for Sherwood Aldermen Keith Rankin and Dr. Steven Fender were “disconnected or no longer in service.”

No phone numbers are listed for Sherwood aldermen on the city Web site; only their home addresses are listed. But the Pulaski County Clerk’s Office maintains a list of aldermen’s phone numbers on its Web site.

The listing, however, is outdated because it still lists David Henry as an alderman. Henry opted not to run for re-election last year and Kevin Lilly has been the alderman from that ward since January.

The number listed for Rankin on at least two files on the county site, 835-9629, has been disconnected or is no longer in service. A check through local phone books and Yahoo! People Search produced the same phone number.

Another number listed under Rankin’s full name, Richard Keith Rankin, 835-7593, was also disconnected.

The city clerk has a work number and e-mail address for Rankin and the mayor has a cell-phone number, but how do citizens connect to him?

Fender’s number, 834-0474, also listed in a number of locations on the county Web site, was disconnected or no longer in service.

He can be reached through his chiropractic service, which is across the street from Sherwood’s city hall complex.

All the other Sherwood aldermen either answered their phones or had answering machines that identified themselves.

“I’ve never failed to call someone back,” Alderman Becki Vassar said.

Alderman Sheila Sulcer echoed the same sentiment. “I return all my calls and always try to be available.”

Butch Davis, another Sherwood alderman, was appalled that citizens couldn’t get hold of city officials. “If someone has a complaint, we’ve got to be available to listen to it,” he said.

All of Jacksonville’s aldermen seem to have valid phone numbers on the city Web site. All listed e-mail addresses except Reedie Ray.

Ray’s phone had voicemail that identified him. Kenny Elliott’s phone message, although personalized, didn’t identify him.

Kevin McCleary’s voicemail only repeated back his phone number, and Avis Twitty had no message machine connected to her phone.

Alderman Bob Stroud said he had some problems a while back when he switched phone service.

“My last four numbers were 7784, but the new company couldn’t give me the four, so now my numbers are 7788,” Stroud explained, so for a little while some people were getting a wrong number instead of reaching him, he said.

The only Cabot alderman who was unreachable on the number given for him on the city’s Web site was Tom Armstrong.

His number was a fax machine belonging to a traveling nurse.

In the nine months that Julie Barnes and her husband, Michael, have had their phone number, she says only about five calls have been for her.

“We are getting all sorts of calls and faxes, including ones for Armstrong,” she said, adding that on a recent vacation they had to turn off the fax machine. “If we didn’t, we would have run out of ink from all the faxes.”

Armstrong has been undergoing treatment for brain cancer.

Phone numbers for the rest of the Cabot council checked out, although both Eddie Cook and Jon Moore had answering machines that only gave out the phone number and not their names, making it hard for residents to know for sure that they had the right number. Rick Prentice also had an answering machine, but it gave his name.

Moore said he thought he had a personalized message on his phone. “I’ve got a new I-Phone and haven’t figured it all out yet,” he said.
Moore said he would put a personalized message on his phone quickly because he didn’t want to miss any calls.

Alderman Eddie Long said he was available 24-7 on his phone. “I just came back from my daughter’s wedding in Alabama,” Long said Monday, “and I took three calls while down there. I don’t hide.”

Ann Gilliam said, “I always answer my phone, I can promise that.”

Lisa Brickell, who called back after a message was left on her machine which had a personalized message, said the number listed on the city Web site was her “home, cell, everything” number and she always calls people back.