GF council approves 2018 budget: Reece says code enforcement becoming priority
The Green Forest City Council voted at its Tuesday meeting to approve the 2018 city budget, in the amount of $13,362,000.
“It is up a lot from where it was three to four years ago,” said Mayor Charles Reece. “The bulk of that is from the sales tax increase.”
He said the city also came in under budget for 2017 in the amount of $1.1 million.
“That’s money that wasn’t spent that was allocated,” Reece said. “It makes you feel good to have that much left over in the bank.”
The council also voted to accept a bid of $377,775 from L.E. Davis Construction Inc. of Harrison for the construction of a 14-inch water line to Tyson Foods’ new facility.
Public works director Buddy Fry said L.E. Davis was the low bidder for the project. He said the 14-inch water line will go down South Michael Goins Avenue to the Green Forest Tyson Foods plant and connect with the new facility. The design plans were previously approved by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).
Reece also discussed the state of housing in Green Forest, noting that the city seems to have regressed in the maintenance of real estate.
“We haven’t really had a code enforcement since we lost our last code enforcement officer,” he said. “There are a couple of things in the code I’d like to read and put in the record so people
understand what we’re looking for.”
According to city code, Reece said, all property owners within the city limits of Green Forest are required to cut weeds and grass, remove garbage and rubbish from their property and eliminate, fill up or remove stagnant pools of water or any other unsanitary thing, place or condition that might become a breeding place for mosquitoes, flies, rodents, vermin, germs or other things harmful to the health of the community.
“One of those things is tires from automobiles,” Reece said.
Property owners are also required to eliminate unsafe, unsanitary or unsightly conditions in the event of damaged structures or abandoned structures, he said.
Reece said the Green Forest fire chief, building inspector and code enforcement officer have the authority to determine a violation of any of these sections of the city code. Upon finding a property in violation, he said the fire chief, building inspector and code enforcement office shall deliver any such finding in writing to the city clerk or mayor.
“There are several places in Green Forest that need attention,” he said, “and it’s something that has to be done with the growth that’s going on in the city. People don’t want to build a new home next to an abandoned home.”
Reece said the issue has become crucial because he has been meeting with developers about building new homes in the area to accommodate the population growth in the city.
“That’s going to be something we’re really going to key in on henceforth,” Reece said.
Green Forest Police Chief John Bailey informed the mayor and the council that the police department does have one officer who has taken over the responsibility of code enforcement.
“If anybody does call you with a complaint on a property, feel free to call me,” he told them, “and then I can look at it and see if it’s on the radar. If it is, I can tell you where the property is at. I know he has issued some warnings to people and maybe even a few citations.”
Fry later informed the council that the city is currently discussing plans for the proposed community center with Modus Studio of Fayetteville.
“Behind city hall is where we think we might put it,” he said.
Alderman Tim Hatman asked if there would be room for it there.
Reece said that Josh Siebert, a designer with Modus Studio, has said the community center will have two floors.
“The walking track will be on the second floor, and the basketball court will be on the ground floor,” Reece said, “along with three to four meeting rooms and a kitchen.”
“I think it would bring quite a bit of business into town if we could do basketball tournaments here like in Branson,” Hatman said.
Reece said the community center will be a magnet for growth in the city. Green Forest received an Arkansas Rural Services Block Grant award for $75,000 in October to construct the new community center, he said, and he is speaking with banks and organizations about other grant opportunities to fund the project.
“We’re getting there. It’s kind of a slow laborious thing,” he said. “I think it’s essential that we have a community center.”
The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at City Hall.