Kicking Tires and Talking Big

August 24, 2012

Here’s our response to Mayor Himes announcement:

THE PUBLIC IS INVITED TO ATTEND:
The West Fork Website Committee will have a meeting Saturday morning at 9:30 in the City Administration Bldg’s Council room. The Agenda will include the search for web designers followed by interviews.
All questions should be directed to Frances Hime, Mayor
Phone 225-1611”

With due respect, mayor, the big question here is “Where’s the money?”   Are you’re asking professional web designers to spend Saturday morning being publicly interviewed for a job that has no funding?  Are you saying “We’re just looking; we don’t have the money to buy?”  Kicking tires.

Before too much energy is expended on discussing background themes, color schemes and fancy fonts, perhaps the committee should figure out how to pry $1000 loose from the city council.

We suggest meeting time would be better spent discussing how to send a strong message to the aldermen who voted against funding the website (Drymon, Rossetti, Lowry, Stout, Caudle, and Shafer).

Imagine West Fork linked to the world.

Then, if Wright and Foster would move and second another funding request at the September meeting, another vote can be taken. If two of the six can come to their senses and vote for the website the outcome would be 4 yes, 4 no, the mayor can break the tie.

Overwhelming numbers of West Fork citizens favor having a city website; this is not controversial. The only ones we’ve ever heard make an argument against it are on the city council.

Three years is a long time to talk about a city website without producing one.

The aldermen work for the voters and the election is in 95 days.

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Council Meeting Recap

August 22, 2012

[Warning: Gonzo Journalism. This article is biased, cynical, and sarcastic. If you want to know what really happened you’ll need to spend 25¢ on a audio disk available during business hours at City Hall]

The West Fork City Council works for free.  If it were a pay job, one would think they’re working on an hourly rate because they can take two and half hours to do an hour’s worth of work.

The Animal Control Ordinance didn’t get approved; it was misplaced again. The representative from Windstream was a no-show so the time was spent with comments by audience members trying to convince the six holdouts on the council that we are, in fact, living in the twenty first century. One audience member suggested that if they didn’t get with it soon, they might miss the whole internet thing.

Alderman Joan Wright presented a handout of what a web site could look like. There were no comments from the members. Alderman Julie Shafer wanted to know how she could find out when the website committee meets (they’ve been meeting for six months).  No one said the obvious – if we had a website, the time and place of all meetings would be posted there.

They did agree that one master list of people and organizations that should and/or must be informed of meetings to satisfy Freedom of Information requirements was a good idea.  However, consensus began to erode over the question of how to make that list available to the public.  Nothing is ever easy with this group.  It’s as though Open Government is an elusive concept to several (maybe most) of the council members.

They still couldn’t pin down a date for West Fest. There might be a committee for this; they seemed pretty sure about that.   Local businessman Joe Wingate explained to the council that food venders come to the festival in order to make money. More venders allowed means less money for each vendor.  No comment from council.

Harps. The Agenda noted “Application for Sales of Alcohol.”  West Fork Township is dry;  ain’t gonna happen.  Besides that, rumor has it that the Baptists bought up all the liquor store permits years ago. The Observer fact checked that a few years ago.

[THE FACTS: Washington County is a wet county but there are exceptions. The DRY TOWNSHIPS  are Cane Hill, Crawford, Greenland, Price, Starr Hill, Valley, West Fork White River, Winslow and Vinyard and the City of Prairie Grove and City of Farmington.  It’s been that way since 1945. If a township wants to put the issue to be wet on the ballot then 38% of registered voters  will need to sign a ballot initiative. If you want to know more about WEST FORK TOWNSHIP  click here.]

The Harps representative was at the meeting to try to get something settled with their request for a sign ordinance variance. He was at the Planning Commission meeting last week and told to take his request to the council. The council couldn’t figure it out. The Harps Representative, after two visits to West Fork still doesn’t have a decision on the sign. How do you spell dysfunctional?

No budget talk. No treasurer’s  report.  The mayor gave a garden market report.

There were many more people in the audience than usual; some were candidates for office. A video camera was set up in the room.  The Observer/Zephyr didn’t ask who they were – it wasn’t us but we were glad to see that happen.


Ballot Initiatives Begin

August 16, 2012

 A group of West Fork citizens, frustrated by what they see as the lack of accountability in the West Fork Water and Wastewater Commission, are circulating a petition to have an initiative placed on the November ballot.

If approved by the voters, the initiative would dissolve the current unelected, autonomous, Water Commission and establish a City Water Department under control of the elected Mayor and Council.

A second petition they are circulating, would instruct to City Council to have the city’s financial records audited and brought up to date using the free services of the Arkansas Legislative Audit Committee.  The city currently contracts with a private accounting firm. The city is five years behind on audits. Last year the entire city council, mayor and city attorney travelled to Little Rock to be reprimanded by the Legislative Audit Committee for failing to keep up to date on the audits.

The group, calling themselves “Citizens for Accountability” began collecting signatures Monday and a spokesman for the group says they have about half the needed 110 signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot.

If you want more information about the group you can call them at 966-5828, e-mail them at OurCityOurMOney@gmail.com or visit their website, www.CitizensForAccountability.wordpress.com.


What’s the Big Deal?

August 7, 2012

A photo posted on facebook of a refrigerated truck plugged into a city meter at the street department shops on Campbell Street drew over thirty comments. Along with the humor, sarcasm and other irreverent jabber that provide entertainment to any social media topic, some comments expressed concern that the city was giving away electricity.

Newcomers to West Fork politics can be forgiven for voicing their naive outrage that Butch Bartholomew would let this happen. But for long time residents who pay attention, this is just the latest and a comparatively small example of the waste and fiscal irresponsibility to come from Mr. Bartholomew.

There was the fourteen thousand dollars the city paid to remove the condemned house because the building inspector, Bartholomew, errored. The lack of a policy for sewage backing up into someone’s home cost twenty thousand. Don’t forget the quarter million dollars that evaporated from the Water Department from 2006-2009. Tens of thousands of dollars lost in leaky water pipes. Thousands spent for roof repairs to city hall caused by lack of regular maintenance. Most recent is the fifty thousand dollars in franchise fees Bartholomew neglected to collect from the town’s solid waste hauler.

Add that to the hundred thousand dollar plus compensation package Bartholomew gets from the city and it makes a few kilowatts of electricity squandered in a “gentleman’s agreement” hardly seem worth bothering about.


Remove the Sludge

August 2, 2012

REPORT: Water Commission Meeting August 1, 2012

The West Fork Water and Wastewater Commission held their regular monthly meeting at noon yesterday in city hall. The ADEQ has required that the commission state when the wastewater will be flowing to Fayetteville for treatment. The Commission decided to take the full time allowed; three years, hoping the project will be completed by June 2015. There was no discussion of how they plan to accomplish that.

Environmental agencies are insisting the city remove the 41 year accumulation of sewage treatment plant sludge from the two ponds (lagoons) built in 1970. The sludge has never been removed.

Robert White of McClelland Engineers, the commission’s engineer of record, estimates the removal could cost $45,000 or more. The commission will seek a properly certified company to do the job.

“There’s no budget set aside for this project,” said Utility Superintendent, Michael “Butch“ Bartholomew who has been responsible for maintenance of the wastewater treatment plant since it was built.