BY LINDA HICKS

SPECIAL TO THE LOG CABIN

The Vilonia City Council wants answers to some of their questions before a proposed burn ban ordinance is placed on the table next month.

A brief discussion, the council tabled action regarding the passing of a burn ban ordinance Tuesday night. Mayor James Firestone called for a committee to form and meet in a work session with Fire Chief Keith Hillman to "tweak" the proposed ordinance which he said was recommended by Hillman.

"Some of the questions, he will need to answer," Firestone said, after fielding questions from the council, will be regarding the burning of leaves, brush and yard debris.

Some of the stipulations may not be suitable for Vilonia due to the rural setting, Firestone said. Alderman Sherry Clements said she believed a lot of the wording in the proposed ordinance to be derived from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ).

Tuesday night’s proposal does away with open burning within the city limits without a valid permit to be issued and the fire marshal or chief to be notified every day of burning. The burning of unprocessed wood will be permitted with the burn permit. Items on the list as being unlawful to burn includes paper, cardboard, paint cans, petroleum based products, shingles, plastics or any other combustible material. Another aspect, all fires must be between sunrise and sunset and be extinguished on or before sunset. A garden hose must be connected to a water supply or heavy equipment must be used as fire control. The burn site must be attended at all times and the burning will not be permitted on windy days with speeds of 10 miles per hour or more. The burn site cannot be placed any closer than 50 feet to any property line or structure. The burn permit must also be at the burn site at all times.

The wording in the proposed ordinance also makes references to a burn container made of non-combustible materials such as cinder blocks, brick or a metal barrel with enclosures on the ground at least 18 inches high. A section addressing warming fire permits says that such fires are for "warming people who are working on-site and is valid only Oct. 1 through April 1 when temperatures are below 45 degrees."

Violators, under the current wording, are subject to being charged with a misdemeanor and fined not less than $75 or more than $250 plus court costs. In addition, fire department officials may refuse to reissue a permit "in favor of the violator," for a period of up to 90 days.

Other business:

• The council approved an additional sewer hookup for Charles Burgess. Although it is policy to not let those living outside the city limits to hook onto the sewer system, Firestone said, Burgess was granted the request, prior to the policy being in place and in exchange for granting the city right of way on his property. The second hookup being requested, Firestone said, is a "hardship deal" in regard to Burgess’ brother who lives in a mobile home on the same property.

• Approved an extension of a contract with the Vilonia Area Chamber of Contract for economic develop for $250 a quarter.

• Approved paying up to $4,000 for installing two concrete slabs at the ball park. The Vilonia Sports Association plans to build batting cages on them.

• Approved renewing a contract with Qual-Choice as the provider of health insurance benefits for the city employees. Firestone said the premiums have increased 22.5 percent over last year. However, he said, going with a new provider could result in a higher increase. "We are a group, but we are a small group," he added.

• Approved the city making application for a grant through the Arkansas Safe Routes to School Program. City employees plan to ask for a grant allowing sidewalks to be constructed on Highway 64 up Naylor Road to Parkwood Meadows Subdivision. Also, east on Highway 64 to Vilsonia Valley is also a part of the proposal. It was said that students walk to and from school using the routes as well as the cross country team uses it for practice runs.

• A new year, Firestone made his official appointments. Brad McNew was appointed as police chief; Keith Hillman as fire chief; Marcus Vaden as prosecuting attorney and Danny Rasmussen as city attorney.

Reports:

• Police Dept. McNew said work continues on the training facility. Inclement weather, he said, has slowed down some of the progress.

• Code enforcement. Fred Fowlkes, city engineer/code enforcement, said 57 permits were issued in 2012. Of which, 39 were for single family residence; five residential additions; one duplex; seven storage buildings or garages and five commercial permits. The permits were for the high school tornado shelter, Vilonia Therapy Services, Big Red/McDonalds, the Vilonia Water Department maintenance facility and the New Life Pentecostal Church, he said.

"Things are slow now due to the weather," he said. "There’s only been one issued for a storage building this month."

Minutes prior to city council, County Judge Preston Scroggin swore in four council members Kathy French, Jim King, Joe Maxwell and Art Pischke into office for their new terms. Sherry Clements and Skip Cates, also council members, said they had already taken the oath of the office prior to the meeting.