VILONIA — The Vilonia City Council is comfortable with the city’s status as a city of the second-class status, and on Tuesday night, the council made the decision to stay put.

As discussed at both the September and October meetings, the city’s population of 3,815 makes it eligible for the first-class ranking based on the new census. The council had delayed a decision regarding the status change giving council members time for research. Council members voiced, in their opinions, matters are going well for the city and as they see it, there are few advantages for changing the status.

“I personally don’t see a reason to do it,” alderman Skip Cates said.  

Backing his recommendation, alderman Jim King said, “I’m very comfortable where we are right now.”

A resolution must be passed regarding either status, according to Mayor James Firestone, by the end of the year. The council directed Firestone to have a resolution prepared for the December meeting with the city maintaining at the current status as a city of the Second Class.

In another matter, Firestone said, residents may expect to see street repairs for 2012 to the tune of $186,400. Because of the tornado few street repairs were made during 2011. Because of that carryover, Firestone said, there will be aggressive street repairs for 2012. Projects listed included:

• North Church Street — replace bridge with a box culvert and improve street from Highway 64 across from the new bridge. ($65,400)

• Whispering Wind — install drainage improvements, repair and overlay street around South Loop. ($18,000)

• North Street — replace wood bridge with box culvert and improve street from Highway 64 across new bridge. ($18,000)

• South Church — rebuild from Bernard Lane to Highway 64 bypass, including ditch improvements, culvert replacements, new gravel base and chip and seal. This is to be a joint project with the county, Firestone said. ($60,000)

• Weaver Circle — replace twin corrugated metal culverts with box culvert. ($25,000)
In other business, the council:

• Approved a one-time wage adjustment for city employees. Full-time employees will receive $350 and part time employees will receive $175 to be paid as soon as possible.

• Approved contracting with Morrilton Fencing and spending $3,123 per field, up to three fields, to build 4 feet tall, 20 feet long fencing panels that may be put up and taken down allowing play on smaller or full size fields.

• There was discussion regarding the Christmas parade planned in the city for 5 p.m., Dec. 3.
“Everyone I’ve talked to is enthused about the parade but there are some safety concerns about the time,” Cates said. “It’s going to be totally dark.”

Cates suggested it may be better to begin the parade at least 30 minutes earlier. The majority of the council seemed to be in favor of the current plan to encourage lighting up the floats. Chief Brad McNew of the police department and Chief Keith Hillman of the fire department, also spoke in favor of the time remaining at 5 p.m. As well, alderman Jim King voiced, “It will defeat the purpose if it is not at night.”

• Approved spending up to $500 on the Christmas parade. The best overall float will receive a cash prize of $100. There will be plaques presented in other categories such as best church float, best business float, best non-profit float and best antique category.

• Passed a resolution giving Firestone the authority to apply for a general improvement grant on behalf of the Vilonia community to the Central Arkansas Planning and Development Commission to be used at the city park and ball field to repair and replace equipment destroyed as a result of the tornado.

• Approved paying Arkansas Municipal League dues in the amount of $13,659.55.

Committee reports

Fire department — Hillman said an ISO inspection should be wrapped up by the end of the week and the results of the inspection should be forthcoming shortly afterward.  

“We will get a better ISO rating,” Hillman said, confidently.

He anticipates the rating will go from the current six to a three or four rating. A lower rating could result in lower insurance rates for residents.

Planning commission — City engineer/building inspector Fred Fowlkes said the site plan for a new Dollar General was approved in October. No meeting, he said, is planned for November.

Police department — Applications are being taken, McNew said, for hiring a patrolman to replace one that went to work for the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Dept. McNew anticipates making a recommendation at the Dec. council meeting.  

Parks and Recreation — Greg Lewis, parks and recreation manager, said the Vilonia Sports Association is gearing up for the spring season with registration beginning Jan. 2 until Feb. 19. The council granted his request to paint the concession stand and to replace old ceiling tiles at no cost to the city. He also reported that soccer is going to “branch out” from the VSA.

“It’s a win-win situation for both groups,” he said.

The current soccer coach, Michael Johnson, will serve over the soccer league. There will be cooperation, Lewis said, between both groups without conflicts.

The council also discussed a proposed 2012 contract with the VSA. A motion was made and seconded to accept it. However, the motion died for a lack of a quorum.  Cates said he had been presented the proposed contract 15 minutes prior to the meeting and needed time for reviewing. Firestone said the only change from the 2011 was an accounting change.

“Under the proposed 2012 contract, the council would receive general ledger financial statements allowing them to “see how everything is spent,” Firestone added.

It was also said there is no urgency on dealing with a new contract since the 2011 contract is good through December. Cates said he would also “like to know more about the soccer split up” before rubber stamping the contract.

Vilonia Area Chamber of Commerce — Debbie Townsend, president, said 60 girls participated in the Winter Royalty Pageant held Saturday with about $1,600 going to scholarships and $100 going to the sign account.

Also, she said, the chamber is coordinating applications for the Christmas parade. The chamber’s annual banquet, Townsend said, has been set for Feb. 25. They are currently entertaining a speaker.   

Annual chamber renewals, she said, are going out in December. Also, the chamber is working on a new business directory. You must be a member, she said, to have an ad inside.

In conclusion, she also presented a $450 check for repairs at the ballpark.

Code enforcement — Fowlkes said there were 10 residential permits in October. Currently, he said, 20 homes are under construction in the city.

“Things are getting back to normal,” he added.