Posted on March 7, 2019
Residents want action on marijuana, roads
By Caitlan Butler
At a town hall meeting for residents of Ward 1 in El Dorado Tuesday night, over 50 residents gathered to express the opinions on issues facing their area.
Though Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer intended for the meeting to focus primarily on municipal procedures, most residents at the event were there to talk about the new medical marijuana dispensary set to open up shop in the ward at 2511 Calion Road.
“For the last several years we’ve had several groups of individuals that have tried to do things to improve the quality of life in El Dorado, make it more attractive to people looking at moving in here, and they’ve made a lot of progress, but I think we’re taking a step back if we don’t try to find some way to stop this medical marijuana facility coming into a residential neighborhood,” said one Ward 1 resident. “If that’s coming in … it needs to be in a commercial area or around medical facilities.”
Ward 1 council member Mike Rice told residents he agreed that the dispensary belonged in an area with other commercial businesses or medical facilities. He said he has reached out to City Attorney Henry
Kinslow about potential ways to block the dispensary from opening in the residential area.
“I’m upset about it. I don’t think it needs to be there,” Rice said. “There are some things we are looking at to try to help. Hopefully they will find a better location.”
Ward 1 council member Billy Blann said he would support a zoning ordinance that blocked the dispensary from using the Calion Road location.
Residents were encouraged to attend the next Planning and Zoning Committee meeting, which will be held Tuesday, to speak with committee members about municipal zoning ordinances which could be used to keep the dispensary out of residential areas.
“If zoning will help, I will support it. If there’s a way to zone it – within the confines of the law … if there’s a way [to zone the dispensary out of residential areas], I will support it,” Blann said.
Smith-Creer encouraged residents to contact Verano Holdings, the company that will own the dispensary, and express their concerns directly.
She gave the phone number of Mary Hostetter, who helped to organize the original meeting between the El Dorado City Council and Verano Holdings, which took place Feb. 20, telling residents she could help get them in touch with the company.
“Just as Mike [Rice] said, what we can do we will, but you all also understand that that’s not going to be totally up to us,” Smith-Creer said. “I will say this – maybe some of you want to make some phone calls to talk to the people who are doing this and express to them how you feel as residents. … You can take it up with them and let them know how you feel about them coming into your neighborhood.”
Other residents brought up several road concerns; most mentioned specific roads and potholes they’ve had issues with. Some of the areas specified by residents included East 13th Street, East Faulkner Street and Griffith Street, and between Dairy Queen and Hobby Lobby, where there is a large pothole that has damaged several people’s vehicles.
“I’ve been trying to get something done since 2012,” said one woman who lives on East 13th Street. “You can’t tell where the curbs are … My house is just eventually going to wash off because my yard is just like a river when it rains.”
Public Works Director Robert Edmonds said the recent frequent rain has slowed down road work for the past several weeks. He said the street department has a list of areas they plan to tackle when the rain lets up and the city has dried out.
“We’ve had an unusual amount of rain and this isn’t unique to El Dorado,” Edmonds said. “We’re working on putting together a pavement plan for 2019.”
Smith-Creer told residents to contact Edmonds or Code Enforcement Officer Kirby Craig when they see a road that needs fixing or a nuisance property. Edmonds can be reached at 870-863-4244.
Several other residents expressed concerns about litter around the city. One woman asked police Chief Kenny Hickman whether it would be helpful if she photographed litterers dumping trash from their vehicles to show the police.
“That would help,” he said. “But one thing is, before you take that picture, call us; you might get us in the frame going down there and catching them.”
Blann also encouraged residents to get involved in Keep El Dorado Beautiful’s community cleanup efforts. KEB organizes ward-wide cleanups in each of El Dorado’s four city wards each year; there is one cleanup per quarter. Ward 3 will hold their cleanup on March 30.
One man also asked Hickman whether the police force could have an officer monitor traffic off East Main during school opening and closing times, as traffic can often be dangerous for children headed home from Retta Brown.
“I live one block off of East Main Street, which would be approximately in front of East Main Baptist Church and there is a speed zone there during school hours … and I can’t believe these drivers are driving like this where kids are,” the man said. “These people on Main Street are totally ignoring the flashing lights. Totally.”
Hickman said the officers that monitor school traffic are rotated according to how many officers are available. He said they typically station officers at the busiest areas of town, but that he would do what he could to get an officer in that area more often.
Smith-Creer said she wanted to hold the meeting with the public to help inform them about municipal procedures. Along with her were Blann, Rice, Hickman, Edmonds and Fire Chief Chad Mosby, who each explained how they could help constituents.
Blann and Rice both shared their personal cellphone numbers and asked residents to contact them with any issues the City Council could address. Rice said he can be reached at 870-901-1570 or at his restaurant, Fayrays, at 870-863-4000. Blann can be reached at 870-866-5084.
Mosby explained that in addition to fire suppression, the El Dorado Fire Department is also responsible for rescue missions, ambulance services, fire code enforcement and plans review for new construction.
“If you have any questions, call us first, because we’d love to help you before you start spending money [on new construction],” Mosby said.
Hickman spoke about the many types of situations the police department responds to, such as violence and threats of violence, thefts, traffic violations and others. He said in February, the department responded to 1,167 calls.
“We’re the crazy guys that run toward [crime],” Hickman said. “When you have a need or a fear or a loss – anything that’s a police matter … that’s what we’re here for.”
Smith-Creer closed the meeting by reminding residents that their concerns can be addressed faster and more efficiently when they go through the proper channels. She shared her cellphone number, 870-315-0004, and told residents that if their city council members are not able to help them with an issue, to call her.
Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.