VILONIA, Ark. (KTHV) - Ever since deadly tornadoes hit Vilonia in 2014, the support and effort into cleaning up after the storm has been overwhelming, but even three years later, visible reminders remain of a clean-up that's still not complete.
City inspectors have identified 42 concrete slabs left behind after the storms blew homes away, and the city council has passed an ordinance requiring those slabs be removed.
In the Parkwood Meadows subdivision, evidence lingers right alongside the spot where President Barack Obama stopped to survey the damage from the EF-4 tornado.
Signs of the constant clean-up efforts are everywhere, but so are several slabs, littered with debris and signs of the homes that once stood there. The city feels these last remaining lots need to be cleaned up so that they can finally turn the page.
“It's just a constant reminder of the storm and I think most people around here want to get that off their minds now,” said Keith Hillman, the Director of Emergency Management. Hillman is the man in charge of code enforcement for Vilonia.
The city council unanimously passed the ordinance in June. Hillman sent out 31 notice letters to the owners of the 42 slabs. Those property owners have 90 days to clear their lots. If they don’t the city could do the work themselves and place a lien on the property or issue a ticket with a potential fine of $200 a day until it’s gone.
Hillman said most property owners he has spoken with have been understanding, though there is some resistance.
“There's only a few people that have really complained,” he said. “Most have been agreeable once we explained the situation.”
Council member Skip Cates is leading the effort to rescind the ordinance. He said, unlike Hillman, property owners he’s heard from are not happy about the costs the city is forcing them to pay. Hillman estimates removal will be about $4,000.
“It sounded like a good idea when we first heard it,” said city council member Kathy French. “I want to rethink through it and talk it out. I still think there’s no controversy right now and room to compromise.”
Counselor Clay Heslop accuses his colleagues of buckling after complaints from just one property owner.
“For too long there have been some powerful land owners who are standing in the way of this city reaching its full potential,” Helsop said.
The council will meet August 5. Hillman thinks pressure from home owners who have rebuilt near the vacant slabs could play a role. He said many of them are trying now to sell their newly built homes and cleaning them up would help.
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