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City continues disagreement over plans, funding for new fire station

Updated: Mar. 5, 2021 at 8:58 PM CST
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OAK GROVE HEIGHTS, Ark. (KAIT) - The plans and funding for a new fire station continue to divide residents and leaders in Oak Grove Heights.

In February, Region 8 News told you about the disagreement between council members and Mayor Rudy Garner on the funding for a new fire station.

While everyone agrees on a new building, they have not been able to agree on where the money comes from and which plans to approve.

In December 2020, a motion was passed 5-1 to move 13% of the city’s sewer fund to the fire department to help pay the cost of a new building.

The motion would not add any extra tax to the residents of Oak Grove Heights, it would only move the 13% from one fund to another.

When the ordinance was voted on in January, it was defeated by a 3-3 tie with Mayor Rudy Garner abstaining from the vote.

Garner said the city needs all of the money available to work on future sewer projects and to help pay the city’s existing debt on the sewer systems.

“I feel like yes it needs some improvement, but I don’t feel like it’s going to take all that money that we need to support the fire department,” said resident and former council member Tammy Riggins.

Several residents have voiced their opinions on the disagreement.

“The money that the city would spend would be best spent to get rid of a debt instead of using that money to create more debt,” said resident Terry Lowry. “I’m thankful that we’ve got a volunteer fire department, but the keyword right there to me is a volunteer fire department.”

“It doesn’t matter if they’re just volunteers. They’re providing a service, a safety service, for our community that we so desperately need,” said resident Shayna Poindexter.

Residents are also at odds on which plans should be approved by the council.

“I don’t see how it will benefit the citizens of Oak Grove with all the extra amenities that they’re wanting to put in it,” said Lowry.

“I’m having a hard time understanding why the mayor feels it unnecessary to include offices and amenities the men obviously need,” said Harris.

Both sides of the argument agree they want to see progress at the next council meeting on March 15.

“[They need to] get their heads together and get on the same page,” said resident Bobby Clifft. “Figure out what they need to do and how they need to do it.”

“I think it’s very essential that they at least meet in the middle on this and do something for these guys,” said resident Branden Fender.

Right now, there are two plans for the new fire station, one proposed by council members that worked with Fire Chief Justin Moore, and one that has yet to be proposed to the council by Mayor Garner.

Plans proposed in December would include a training room, kitchen and offices.

According to Council Member Kim Bailey, the quote given in October 2020 would have been the cost of a finished building, including plumbing and electricity.

In the December 2020 council meeting minutes, council member Mike Robinson said “The numbers that we put together, or I gave you last month was roughly $247,000... Little things like the concrete out in front, I can also see adding a couple more doors in the building getting in and out, basic revisions, I am thinking you would look at something around $258,000. But what I put on that paper is set $300,000 as a limit, but I think that we can bring it in cheaper than that.”

Plans proposed in December 2020 by council members at Oak Grove Heights council meeting.
Plans proposed in December 2020 by council members at Oak Grove Heights council meeting.((Source: Oak Grove Heights))

Mayor Garner is also working on plans that have not yet been proposed to the council.

Quote for Oak Grove Height fire station from Mayor Rudy Garner.
Quote for Oak Grove Height fire station from Mayor Rudy Garner.((Source: Oak Grove Heights))

Garner said the quote given to him in December 2020 would have cost $250,000 or less for a complete building.

The plans for this station would only include necessities like bathrooms and a single office.

Mayor Garner told Region 8 News in February the funds for his building would not come from the sewer fund and instead would come from state funding from the Act 833 program, as well as moving a $500 monthly payment from a cell tower.

John Selig is a member of Civil Engineering Associates and has been working with Oak Grove Heights to fix the city’s sewer issues.

“The original sewer system was put in somewhere in the early 90s. We just finished a project this past year where we redid the wastewater treatment facility and we rehabilitated one of the wastewater lift stations here in town.,” said Selig.

Oak Grove Heights has 11 lift stations throughout the city, three of which need serious repairs, according to ADEQ.

“To do all three of them if we did it all at the same time under one contract it’s going to run somewhere between $150-200,000,” said Selig.

As of January 2021, the city had around $119,000 in the wastewater account.

The city passed a one-cent sales tax recently that goes into the sewer fund, with 25% going to the fire department.

In February, Mayor Garner told Region 8 News he had plans to propose work on the lift stations soon.

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