Turrell City Council passes 2009 fiscal budget, residents still sharing concern over sanitation

TURRELL, AR (KAIT) - Residents of Turrell said Monday the mayor and city council need to work together to prevent disaster. The city council approved a budget for the 2009 fiscal year on Friday, which allows some city employees to return to work. The mayor virtually shut down the city in February after problems with the budget and city council.

Turrell Mayor Frank Lockhart said residents could have their garbage picked up in the next few weeks. The city's only sanitation truck has a broken brake line and is out of service until the problem is fixed.

"My brake line on it went out on it and they can't drive that big truck without brakes," said Lockhart. "On the garbage pickup, we're hopeful that we can get everything straightened out. We're working on our garbage truck today to get it straightened out."

Lockhart told city employees in February to go home until the city council passed a budget. The city council has had problems with the mayor's alleged spending. Council members said the mayor had approved unauthorized purchases using city funds in 2008.

The mayor has not been accussed of any wrongdoing. Region 8 News was unable to contact any council members Monday, but sources suggest the council was concerned about unpaid debts, which have hurt the already financially strapped town.

"I'm hopeful that these citizens will realize this here, that I'm doing all I can do. My hands is full, my hands are tied when I don't have a budget. I got to have something on paper that I can send to Little Rock and show and justify what I'm doing," said Lockhart. "You can't please everybody. You just meet them half way. You do what you know is right."

Residents said they've had to pile their garbage in their front yards and purchase bottled water. Since the city has shut down, sanitation and sewage services have been put on hold.

"If we don't get something did here in Turrell, we're going to have health hazards, and it just ain't going to be, Turrell just ain't going to be nothing," said Nancy Davis.

Davis has been a resident of Turrell for 25 years. She said she's never heard of problems with the city government.

"I can't understand how one man can shut down the city because if one man can shut down the city, we don't need nobody else. We don't need city council. We don't need policeman. We don't need but that one man to run the city," said Davis. "I don't know who is supposed to be treating the water. I guess the water man is doing that but they is not doing that. I don't know what we going to do but we just need help here in Turrell because we is in a mess."

Davis said she worked for city hall for 2 years. She said the government never allowed the water tower to turn rusty.

"When I was working for the city, we didn't let that tank get like that. We didn't let this garbage get like this," said Davis. "It was nasty before he shut it down if you want the truth because the tanks don't be clean. That tank is rusty over there. That tank hasn't been cleaned in I don't know when."

"It's not just my house, I know everybody else around here. If it goes in my house, it goes to everybody else's house, so everybody needs to be concerned," said Marshall Bedford. "You get out the shower your going get itchy. You get out the shower and when you dry off, you go to itching all over your body so I figure it's got something to do with that rust."

Residents were given flyers, which told them to avoid drinking the water while the city was shut down. Residents have been purchasing bottled water to drink and bath.

Lockhart said he's willing to work with the city council, but recently the council has been against him.

"I think this problem is personal problems that the council needs to examine themselves and look and see, say am I doing what the citizens of this town want me to do," said Lockhart. "I'm not going to take the blame for everything. We've accomplished a whole lot under this administration, and we've got a whole lot more to do, and I'm willing to work with anybody that is willing to work with me."

Residents hope cooperation between city officials will create a cleaner place to live.

"It's really concerning to me because I'm concerned about the people in this city. I'm concerned for the older folks, the children, I'm just concerned that our city can be better than what it is," said Davis.

"I don't do things personal myself, business is business. If you got something against me, you ought to come to me and tell me, I got something against you," said Lockhart. "I love this city, if I didn't love this city, I wouldn't have ran for mayor and tried to make this city one of the best places that a person could come and live in it."

"My goal is to make this city a better place for everybody that is in the city," said Lockhart.

Lockhart said it'll be a few weeks before the city's water supply is fully clean and regular trash pickups would resume when the sanitation truck is fixed.