A Vilonia city ordinance that regulates the cutting of grass may require a potential forest to be mowed down.
During the Vilonia City Council meeting held Tuesday night, officials discussed whether a landowner, under the current city ordinance, has the right to legally allow their property to go natural. Both Fred Fowlkes, city engineer/code enforcement and alderman Kathy French broached the subject with the council. Residents, they said, have questioned why the lot next to the city hall has not been mowed. Fowlkes said it is owned by a private landowner, and that he was told the owners of the property intend to let it grow undisturbed into a "forest" of sorts.
Alderman Sherry Clements said she recalls the current city ordinance states that anything less than five acres must be mowed at least twice per year. While they didn’t have a copy in hand, the council discussed reviewing the ordinance before any action could be taken or questions could be answered.
On another note, a public hearing was held prior to the regular meeting in regard to the closing of a small section of Oak Street that is not currently being used as a city street. With no opposition, the council approved the official closing turning it over to the property owner.
• Fire dept. It was said the department has received a $1,000 grant from the Forestry Commission. Also, it was said that $5,000 has been raised so far as a result of a fundraiser involving family portraits.
• Police dept. Chief Brad McNew told the council officers have been attending additional training courses. As well, he said he is still accepting applications for volunteers to serve alongside officers as a part of the newly instated reserve program. No interviews have been conducted thus far, he said.
• Vilonia Sports Association. In addition to reporting that student participation is growing each season with more than 500 children participating in the 2010 season, Marcy McCroskey of the VSA, addressed the council regarding statements that were made at the July city council meeting giving the public the "wrong impression," she said, regarding the organization’s financial statements.
While McCroskey was not present at the meeting, she specified that she was referring to reports that an audience member had questioned the council regarding the VSA’s monthly financial statements. He called for the VSA’s monthly report to be itemized in a similar way as made by other city entities and to submit them monthly for public review. A brief discussion, Mayor James Firestone ended the discussion at that meeting telling the resident, "I’ll make that request."
McCroskey told the council that she provides the city with a detailed report each month. McCroskey told the council that "rumors are running rampid" throughout the town as to the city not renewing a contract with the VSA.
"If there is something that the VSA is doing that the council does not like, I would like to clear it up tonight and put the rumors to rest," McCroskey told the council. The VSA, McCroskey told the council is a non-profit organization with strict guidelines and obligations to report financial information to the IRS each month which, she said, they do as well as follow other state guidelines.
The VSA, she told the council, is contracted to run the sports program in the city and not contracted to maintain facilities, to upkeep the facilities or to improve the facilities.
Flanked by the organization’s accountant Tracy Schichtl, McCroskey outlined what she said she has been providing on a monthly basis to the council including a compilation page, income statement, liabilities and stockholders equity statement and statement of revenues and expenses.
"Our finances are not under scrutiny by the city council as we are only contracted to run the youth programs at the park," McCroskey said. "We are not an official division of the city and are not under the same financial obligations. We do not spend nor see one dime of tax payer dollars. We fund our program solely on registration, gate, concessions and tournament funds. Our board of directors oversees our financials with the help of an outside accountant and CPA. If anyone has questions regarding money that flows in and out of our organization they need to direct those questions to the VSA Board of Directors."
Schichtl also addressed the council on behalf of the VSA, saying while the VSA is a non-profit, "doing for the benefit of the public," it is also a business and not required as a sub-contractor to provide a general ledger of their day to day operation.
The discussion ended with a couple of alderman voicing that they are happy with the VSA’s cooperation with the city. As well, the VSA agreed to continue providing a five-page detailed monthly report to the council as well as have a representative at the meeting.
• Vilonia Area Chamber of Commerce. Debbie Townsend, chamber president, reported that $5,000 had been raised during Vilonia Fest and is to be split between the chamber and the Lion’s Club. The chamber money, she said, will go toward scholarships and city beautification. On another note, she said, about $600 was made as a result of booth rental during Bargains Galore on 64. She also announced a political forum has been set for Sept. 27 and a Fall Business Expo for Oct. 26.
• Code Enforcement. Fowlkes said one building permit has been issued in August as well as six building inspections. There was also one new building permit in July and 18 building inspections.
• Sewer department. Alderman Joe Maxwell said there have been few applications for the plant operator position although it has been advertised. They plan to continue advertising, he said, and broaden the scope.