Oak Grove Council members air concerns over lawlessness

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

OAK GROVE ---- Arson, vandalism and gun shots in the small town of Oak Grove have city leaders concerned for their safety and the safety of the citizens.

The matter was discussed last week when the city council met for its regular monthly meeting.

One council member went so far as to say the lawlessness was akin to terrorism.

Alderman Sam Jones reported that someone had fired shots into his home while he was in the shower.

Another said a resident filed a report after a rock was hurled through their window.

Mayor Morgan said she was aware of an arson fire that destroyed hay bales behind her home recently.

A storage shed also burned, believed to be the work of arsonists.

Jones suggested the council seek a sales tax to pay for law enforcement, saying residents had asked if it were possible.

Mayor Jean Morgan was quick to respond, saying a one-cent tax, or even a five cent tax wouldn't support a police department because there weren't enough businesses in the town.

She said the existing one cent tax generates between $200 and $700 a month, or approximately $5,000 a year.

The Gas and Grub convenience store, an automotive garage and taxes collected on franchise fees are the only revenue sources.

"We don't have the tax base," she explained.

"What's the use?" asked Alderman Pat High, "If the crooks are caught, they (the authorities) don't do anything with them."

High suggested the city seek help from Carroll County Sheriff Chuck Medford, who had visited with the council at the beginning of his term to promise increased patrols in the town.

"The drug problem has quieted down," Alderman Gary High noted. "The problem is vandalism."

Alderman Vicky Allen suggested that Mayor Morgan contact the sheriff and remind him of his promise, and the fact that he has a key to the fire station where he was offered the facility to use as a substation.

"It is an election year," noted one of the council members.

Jones again asked what could be done to have someone, even part time, to patrol the town in an official capacity. No one had an answer.

In other business, the council voted to pay Janette Reynolds, who has been taking care of fire department computer entries on her home computer, $300 for the work she has already done, another $100 to transfer the work to a fire department computer once it arrives, and $7 an hour for future computer entries.

Reynolds' help was sought after the fire department received a $33,000 grant for equipment purchases. One of the items the department plans to purchase is a computer system to keep up with reports that must be filed with government agencies.

No one in the fire department has the expertise to handle computerized reports or the paperwork involved with the grant money distribution and reimbursement process.

Recorder Patsy Carlton reported that roadside signs to alert motorists of the "no jake brake" rule inside city limits had arrived along with sign posts.

The city recently passed a noise ordinance forbidding jake brakes, a practice used by truck drivers to slow their rigs without the use of brakes, because of the annoying noise.

The state highway department granted permission for the posting of signs, but left the purchase and installation up to the city.

Other items discussed by the council included: the possibility of replacing a rickety ramp leading into city hall with another to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act; the ordering of 911 address signs for city hall and the fire station, and remodeling work that is under way at the fire station.

Alderman Gary High suggested the use of steel studs to replace rotted wood 2x4s in the fire station building.

Remodeling of the building has been planned ever since the city purchased the old filling station more than a year ago.

Interior paneling is being removed along with rotted timbers to make way for new studs and sheetrock walls.

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