The Salem City Council met on June 25 to discuss several items, including an update on FEMA funds received by the city. According to Mayor Gary Clayton, the city of Salem has received $32,000 to date from FEMA and is awaiting an additional $55,000 in funds. The mayor is hopeful that the remainder of the funds will be in the city's hands by the end of July.
Salem Police Chief Albert Roork told the council about the Drug Task Force seminar that had been given by Special Agent James Humphrey of the 16th Judicial District Court's Drug Task Force. He was pleased at the turnout and felt overall that it was a very informative lecture.
The activity report for the past month was a busy one for the Salem Police Department. In all, the department handled 67 complaints and took care of numerous arrests and tickets plus two attempted home invasions.
Heath Everett of the Fire Department reported on eight calls last month including six EMS calls and one grease fire. This month they've handled a cooking fire and a roll-over accident.
Bill Worsham of the Public Works department reported that the Town Creek clean up was nearly finished, and that the department had replaced approximately 3,700 feet of line within the city limits.
Chief Roork commented on a rising dog dumping issue within the city limits. In the harsh economy, people have started to drop off unwanted pets within the city limits, leading to potential problems with dog bites and the cost of carrying the abandoned pets to the shelter, which costs the city $40 per animal. The department will begin cracking down on suspected dumping cases and writing more tickets.
Sales tax figures for the city and the county are holding steady. "They are doing better than we had projected," said Clayton.
Worsham mentioned that in July a company contracted out of Alabama would be in the area to map out the city valves and, using Global Positioning Satellite coordinates, map them out on a computer system. He estimated that the city had about 60 to 70 valves to be mapped, with the cost being covered by the Arkansas Department of Health.
In other business, Mayor Clayton said that some of the stimulus money coming into the city would be used for renovations on the water and sewer lines. Chief Roork recommended looking into a generator to run the waste disposal systems and city water wells in the event of an emergency. "The folks at Rural Water said they have seen the need for rural communities like us to have a generator to run our waste systems and wells in event of an emergency," said Roork.
Chief Roork also updated the council on the fate of the donated nursing home. He said Fulton County Judge Charles Willett currently has approximately $50,000 to begin renovations on the building to turn it into an Emergency Operations Center.
Although Willett had thought the city had been denied a $250,000 grant for the renovation, Roork said that Marion Berry's office had been contacted and assured Willett that Salem was in fact still in the running for the grant.
Should the county receive the grant money, it would be more than enough to renovate the building for use as office space and a command center, but in Roork's opinion, not as a jail. "Taxpayers in the county need to be ready, because one way or another, they're fixing to build a new jail, because they are getting ready to shut that one down," said Roork.
Additional steel reinforcing would be needed, along with a redesign of the hallways to enable law enforcement officers to be able to see the prisoners effectively. The current building was not designed around being a proper jail. Roork feels that a new jail is an expense the city and the county will soon need to take under advisement, as the current jail is out of date and not up to modern standards.
According to Roork, the building would house the Sheriff's office, the 9-1-1 coordinator, 9-1-1 dispatch, the Emergency Management Coordinator, an office for the State Police and the Drug Task Force, an office for the Chief of Police and the District Court offices.
The council agreed to move the date of the next meeting to July 16 to accommodate a schedule change.