VILONIA — City Council members on Tuesday night added their seal of approval to allowing the city’s fleet of emergency vehicles to increase by two and the employee status to increase by one.

Mayor James Firestone and aldermen voiced positive comments, during department reports, when Fire Chief Keith Hillman announced the fire department is now the "proud owner" of a donated 1994 ladder truck with about 30,000 miles on the odometer.

"The price was right," Hillman said, adding that they had only to pay the cost of freight. He concluded by saying the department has made 88 runs this year — more than the same period last year.

Minutes later, the council approved spending $37,000 to purchase an outfitted vehicle from North Point Ford to be used as a police cruiser at the request of Police Chief Brad McNew. There was also a brief discussion concerning a city-owned vehicle that burned in January while parked inside McNew’s garage at his house. A family vehicle also was burned during the incident. The cause of the fire remains pending, McNew said.

"We are not going to do anything about that right now," McNew said addressing the council, adding that they are awaiting word from the insurance company as to a settlement.           Also, the council hired Daniel Frintz of Conway, as a full-time police officer. Frintz, McNew said, has been working in the Faulkner County Detention Center for about three years and he is certified as a part-time officer as well. There was discussion regarding requirements for full-time certification. McNew said Frintz would be able to achieve that status in the fall. Until then, McNew said, Frintz will be riding with another officer. 

Regarding additional police department matters, McNew said the department has received $2,500 from the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police to help pay for vests that were purchased last year. He also said he anticipates the city’s new radio system will be in operation within another month. Currently, he said, there is a wait on the arrival of a repeater.

The fire department will be holding a pancake breakfast fundraiser from 7-10 a.m., March 12 at the Senior Citizen’s Building.

In department reports:

• Planning commission. There has been no business or meetings in January or February, said Fred Fowlkes, city engineer/code enforcement. However, he said there were three building permits issued and 10 building inspections performed in January.

• Vilonia Sports Association. About 600 children are signed up to play spring sports, according to Greg Lewis, recreation manager, amounting to a 25 percent increase over last year. Taking the growth into account, Lewis asked the council to consider developing a growth plan.

"It could be up to 700 kids next year," Lewis said.

Five fields, he said, would not be sufficient to provide play for that number of children. He suggested beginning the search for additional property to accommodate growth.

"The last thing I want to do is turn people away," he added.

Lewis also said he had been in contact with county officials regarding chip-sealing the parking lot at the park. The county, he said, would provide labor and equipment if the city would pay for the materials and fuel, and the job could be completed by March 26, spring kick-off for sports. The cost, he estimated, would be $12,000 to $15,000. Lewis said he anticipates as many as 2,000 people being in the park on that date because of the activities planned. Alderman Jim King made the motion that Firestone meet with county officials and to broker the deal if feasible rather than hold a special meeting to further discuss the matter after the meeting.  The council approved.                                              • Vilonia Area Chamber of Commerce. Debbie Townsend, chamber president, said it is a sell-out for the annual banquet to be held Saturday night with Walt Coleman as the guest speaker. The next big chamber project, she said, is the Vilonia Royalty Pageant to be held Apr. 9.                             

• Senior citizens. Alderman Al Pischke reported that fifth-graders from the Middle School made a trip this week to the center to bring prizes and play bingo with the seniors.