By Cynthia Shroyer
Pine Bluffs Post staff 

New ministry takes up residence at Burns-Plex


Cynthia Shroyer

A new ministry will open its doors at the Burns-Plex after Burns Town Council approved the donation of space to the effort. A request was made for the space during the Monday, March 11 meeting of council.

Sophia Arehart, accompanied by a handful of supporters, explained to council the ministry would be one of community service of donated clothing and non-perishable food items to go to the residents of Burns and the surrounding area.

“Churches and pastors are enthused about it,” Arehart said.

She told council she already has some donations at her home and Golden Prairie Baptist is a part of the ministry and is collecting items as is the Burns Presbyterian Church. Pastor Nathaniel Ensley of Burns’ new Blessed Hope Baptist Church indicated his congregation would lend a hand as well. Arehart is hopeful Bountiful Baskets would also be part of the effort.

“There is a definite need for food, for guidance, spiritual guidance, and clothing,” Arehart said. “I have been at children’s programs and seen tattered clothing when teachers say to wear their best.”

The effort will be multi-denominational and pastors cards, posters from churches, information for people thirsty for the Word of God will be available. There will be no criteria for use. Donations will go out on a needs basis and people can come from anywhere.

“We would like to be open weekly for people to come in and go through donations and another day or two to be prepared for when open. If there’s a line then you got to two days a week that its open,” Arehart said.

She also said there is room at her home for overflow of donations. She has contacted the schools and found lost and found items not claimed will be donated.

Council approved the free use of a room in the south building of the Burns-Plex for a period of one year, after which there will be a re-evaluation of the needs and use by the ministry.

During public comment Sabrina Mathews brought a concern about tenants unlocking doors for building use, maintenance issues and safety. She suggested the town hire a building manager to oversee these issues. Mathews brought up a safety issue with a landing on outside stairs at the former town hall as an example. Later in the meeting Councilman Harvey Humphrey told fellow council members he did not like the idea of tenants using entrances that are not safe. He suggested the council add the job responsibility of safety officer to that of the fire marshal.

“I don’t like idea of a tenant allowing use of a porch or door where she knows someone can get hurt. We need a safety officer to look at these issues and if he sees something dangerous red tag it. We have to know before it becomes a liability,” Humphrey said. “We need to put enough teeth in it that if extensive or hazardous he can red tag the whole building. We will have to get rules established.”

Council agreed and mayor Judy Johnstone said she will amend the appropriate ordinance to change the name of the position to Fire and Life Safety Officer and to include a job description.

Fire marshal Charlie Vosler indicated he will be willing to step right in. Councilman Phil Oakes said as a non-deputized officer Vosler can issue citations.

In council reports, councilwoman Jan Gray said the community needs to start to look for a new youth director as the current director will be moving away for three years.

“Unless someone is willing to step up to the plate there will be no youth sports in Burns,” Gray said. “It’s a tough job, so if we can encourage a person to do each sport that would be good. There were nine teams for youth basketball but very few volunteers.”

Oakes used his time to issue a reminder that “my yard is not a super highway, lawns are someone’s property and if you are on it you are breaking the law.” He had had three people drive through his yard , two almost hitting his house.

“The vacant lots are not places to drive,” he stressed.

In new business, Johnstone opened two bids for refinishing the gym floors. The first was for $7,548 for striping and sealing gym floors, the other was to buff and seal at a cost of $2,785. Clerk Toni McNamar said she has recreation grant ready to request funds for this project.

Johnstone said a big issue is people using the gym with dirty shoes and gravel in them coming in off the street. The floors have not been done since 2010. Johnstone added the school is not taking proper care during their lease period.

Oakes moved to have the floors refinished after Burns Day and for McNamar to apply for the grant. The motion carried. Gray said it needs to be brought up with the school district that they need to take care of of the floors.

With that issue on the table, councilman Ralph Bartels said the council needs to “raise the rent to cover the cost of upkeep or not rent it to them.”

The motion carried to do the floors and submit the grant application.

McNamar said nominations for mayor and open council seats will be taken from March 18 through April 23. There are two four year council seats and a two-year seat open. The election is set to take place May 14 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The next Burns Town Council meeting will take place April 8 at 7 p.m. at the Burns-Plex.


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