By LINDA HICKS
LOG CABIN CORRESPONDENT
AVILONIA -- The Vilonia Volunteer Fire Department may soon grow by two stations, a fire truck, additional equipment and manpower.
Fire Chief Keith Hillman asked the Vilonia City Council on Tuesday night to approve the merger of the Vilonia department with the East Cypress Volunteer Fire Department described as being located on Fire House Road 319.
"We would like to combine and make one big fire department," Hillman said. "They are short-handed on manpower."
While no action was taken, Mayor James Firestone recommended an ordinance be drafted and considered at the July meeting allowing the merger. Council members appeared to be favorable.
Running down the assets of the East Cypress fire department, Hillman said they have two stations, a nearly new fire truck, tankers, radios as well as other equipment and seven or eight firefighters.
The merger, he said, will help out both communities. While he does not anticipate the merger helping with the Vilonia ISO rating, Hillman said, it should help the residents in the East Cypress area. Members of the department, Hillman said, are already attending the Vilonia meetings. The possibility of a merger, he said, has been researched and the results are favorable.
"There wouldn't be any other expenses except for upkeep," Hillman told the council.
Representatives from the East Cypress Department sat in the audience. One spoke out saying the department is solvent with about $11,000 in an account. Also, it was said that department has a fairly new truck with little owed on it.
IN OTHER ACTION
* The council approved the hiring of William Peoples at $10 per hour to fill a temporary street position. Prior to an executive session, alderman Barry Eason recused from voting saying, "I've got a family member who applied." Afterward, it was said his family member was not hired.
* Approved a request from officials at Beryl Baptist Church allowing them to shoot fireworks in the parking lot on June 28 in conjunction with a Fourth of July activity.
* Approved a resolution establishing rates of pay for voluntary firefighters including $3 for runs and $5 for meetings and training.
* Approved removing inventory, with values less than $2,500, from the city's fixed asset list. It was said the items will remain on an inventory list.
* Fire Deptartment -- Hillman reported on Friday's storm damage and clean up efforts. He estimated the damage from the storm last week at about $100,000
"There were eight structures damaged," he said. "Most were outside the city limit."
* Police -- Chief Brad McNew reported on police activities within the school district.
"There's more that goes on up there than some people think," McNew said. Some people, he said, have remarked about seeing police cruisers at the school on several occasions. McNew's report reflected about 100 incidents.
"With about 2,500 kids in the school, and they only did about 100 things this year. It's not as bad as it looks," McNew voiced. The number of offenses, he said, has dropped some over last year.
School incidents involving the department, he said, include terrorist threatening, 2; criminal mischief, 2; carrying a weapon, 1; theft of property, 4; minor in possession of alcohol, 2; battery third degree, 2; possession of instrument of crime, 4; public intoxication, 5; disorderly conduct, 36; curfew violation, 1; possession of controlled substance (felony), 2; possession of controlled substance (misdemeanor) 11; possession of controlled substance with intent to deliver, 2; delivery of controlled substance, 5; possession of drug paraphernalia, 1; harassment 1; riot, 2; criminal trespass, 2; possession of a taser gun (stun gun), 2. Total arrests for 2008-09 as of June 1, 87, McNew reported.
* Parks and Recreation -- Marcy McCroskey of the Vilonia Sports Association reported that league play is finished. She also said VSA teams are in the process of completing district softball and all-star tournament play. Softball hosted VSA District Warm Up softball tournaments May 29-31.
"We had 27 teams, and it was a great success," McCroskey said. USSSA will be hosting the third leg of the Triple Diamond Softball tournament June 19-21 at the city park, McCroskey added, pending enough teams sign up. Also, the VSA eight and under softball team "Hot Shots" coached by Donnie Harlan, she said, won the District 10 softball tournament June 5-7. They are now set to go to state competition, she added.
VSA soccer hosted the Arkansas Soccer Association during Vilonia Fest, she said.
"We have begun early sign-ups for fall sports," she continued. "Soccer and flag football will run full league play. Softball and baseball are asking for feedback from parents to determine, what if any, fall league is wanted."
She told the council she will be submitting the VSA expense reports next month, the end of their fiscal year, "for field maintenance" in order to be reimbursed by the city.
Paid by the VSA Shane Davis, she said, plans to continue working as field manager for the summer. Pending funding, she added, VSA may hire two additional part time workers to help with summer needs. She listed immediate needs of the park including soccer fields need dirt/sand to fix drainage issues. At the softball fields, she said, a fence needs moved on Field 4. Parking and electrical improvements are needed as well as permanent fencing needs to be placed, she concluded.
* Chamber of Commerce -- Laura McNeel, executive director, reported on the organizations activities during June including the Royalty Pageant, Vilonia Fest and Eagle Idol. The chamber, she said, sold 27 booths at Vilonia Fest. The next activity, she said, will be Bargains Galore on 64 to be held Aug. 13-15.
* Senior Citizens Center -- Art Pischke, a volunteer at the center, reported the center made $812 as a result of the May 30 breakfast and $450 as a result of a donations toward a quilt.
* Sewer department -- Council member Joe Maxwell said this month's meeting has been postponed until June 25.
* Firestone said the city began collecting the half-cent sales tax in April, that goes to the parks and streets departments. However, he said, the city hasn't received it as of yet.
* Auditors, Firestone said, have been reviewing the city's books for nearly two weeks.
" It was a good audit," he said. He asked the council members to review the audit findings with any discussion or questions to take place at the July meeting.
* Also, Firestone said the "Safe Routes to School" project, which would allow a sidewalk to be placed from downtown Vilonia to the school campus, is ready to get underway. In 2007, Vilonia public schools were awarded a $188,000 Safe Routes to School (SRTS) grant through the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD) for the project. Firestone said $33,000 of that has been spent on engineering services, leaving $155,000 for the project.
"Hopefully, it will get done soon," he said. "We could go out to bid in as early as four to six weeks."
The initial project, Firestone said, has now been estimated to costs about $255,000. Engineers, he explained, have been making changes including cutting the span of a bridge to decrease costs.
"It's been a long time coming," he remarked. "But, we seriously need it and it will be good."