Fouke, Arkansas.—At the end of the Fouke City Council meeting Thursday night, a couple of members of the audience asked if the streets near the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries were closed. A council member said it was “all rumors” and the streets are open.
“You are all here because of rumors,” Fouke Council Member Pam Attaway said a few minutes before the council adjourned. “The city took care of that a long time ago.”
She also said the guards hired by the ministry were there for the protection of schoolchildren who attend a private school on the Tony Alamo Ministries property.
Another of the nearly 80 people who attended the council session said the guards still intimidate people driving along the highway and check car tags.
The meeting was videotaped, photographed and voice recorded.
Councilman Roger Mixon asked the council to discuss the opening of Circle Drive to connect to Forrest Street and then open Forrest Street from Circle Drive to Williams Circle.
Circle Drive is located next to the property of the Tony Alamo Ministries.
“This would actually create public access again from Highway 71 to Burgess Road. With such action, there should never again be a question of whether there is a city street or a private drive again,” said Mixon, who is also the pastor of the United Pentecostal Church.
The council approved a survey of the property along those streets to determine the feasibility.
During the discussions, Attaway said the projects would be long-term and expensive.
Fouke City Attorney Rod LaGrone said property owners could donate the land to the city or the city would have to purchase the property at fair market value. He also said it would require environmental surveys.
Councilman James Sanders said the idea needs more study, but the council unanimously approved the survey.
The Texarkana Gazette was contacted about two weeks ago by frustrated and suspicious residents about the security company blocking access to the city street.
“We’ve got it settled and it’s not going to be closed off,” Fouke Mayor Cecil Smith said Monday afternoon about the security company blocking access to the street.
Tony Alamo, in a telephone interview, said a gunshot hit a window in the church about six months ago and R&G Security was hired to protect the entrances to the property. The security company is paid about $6,000 every two weeks to guard the entrance to South Circle Drive. The ministry has purchased the property on both sides of the street, which is about 500 feet in length.
Complaints about the street not being accessible were made to Alamo and the mayor.
Alamo said the mayor and some of the people who work in city hall have attended the church and understand the situation about security. Alamo said the security company has been ordered to stay at the end of the dead-end street and not to stop anyone.
“We’ve asked them to just write down their license plate number,” said Alamo, in the interview with the Gazette.
Fouke city officials said no formal request to abandon or vacate the street has been made by Alamo Ministries.
Smith received reports of someone making racial slurs at some of the residents on South Circle Drive.
“They’ve been threatened before and this is not their first rodeo. It’s no fabricated call. It was real,” said Smith.
Mixon said several citizens have come to him to complain about guards on the street and not being allowed to pass by them. They’re told it’s a private drive and is part of the Alamo Ministry, according to reports Mixon receives.
Alamo, who is the founder of the ministries, has been described in national news media accounts as a “charismatic evangelist” who was convicted and served a federal prison sentence for evading federal income taxes.