City committee approves items for 2014 budget

The Pine Bluff City Council Development and Planning Committee approved a series of 2014 budget items in a meeting with Mayor Debe Hollingsworth and City Finance Director Steve Miller in the mayor’s conference room Tuesday afternoon.

Fourth Ward Alderman Steven Mays and Second Ward Alderman Charles Boyd, both committee members, were present. The third committee members, First Ward Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr., was absent.

Glenn Bell, executive director of the Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District, provided the committee with information on his organization’s recent activity in support of the group’s 2014 budget request of $5,225 which is to go toward securing grants for various projects in the city and county.

“We are working on a plan to renovate the county morgue,” Bell said. “It is in need of an upgrade to show respect to the families who come to identify the bodies. Right now it is functional but it does not accommodate the needs of family members. This renovation will remedy that.”

Bell said other funding priorities are the installation of new restrooms at Grider Field for the use of pilots and their passengers who land at the airport to refuel their planes. and the completion of the Brumps Bayou Fishing Pier at Lake Saracen.

The committee approved the amount, which Miller said is unchanged from the 2013 budget.

Joy Blankenship, executive director of Pine Bluff Downtown Development, spoke in support of her organization’s $51,000 budget request, which is unchanged from the 2013 budget.

“We want to thank the city for all that it has done to support our work,” Blankenship said. “We couldn’t exist without you. We are excited about the upcoming Streetscape project on Main Street and about doing everything we can to attract economic activity to our downtown area.”

The committee approved the $51,000 request for inclusion in the 2014 budget.

Larry Reynolds, director of the Southeast Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, spoke in favor of a pair of budget requests from his agency; $30,922 as annual dues for the City of Pine Bluff as a member government and $48,000 on a contract for city planning services.

“The dues amount is calculated by multiplying the population of the city times 63 cents,” Reynolds said. “City planning services include day-to-day assistance to the city zoning staff as well as the preparation and dissemination of the agenda for the monthly Pine Bluff Planning Commission meetings.”

The committee approved both commission requests for inclusion in the 2014 budget.

The committee also approved a budget line item of $83,503 for storm water expenses that Reynolds said is required by the federal government; and carried over $70,599 in state highway matching funds that Reynolds said is to be used as the city’s required 20 percent matching funds for bridge and roadway projects.

The committee approved the mayor’s budgeted amount for the Inspection Department of $259,000 in revenue and $850,687 in expenses for inclusion in the 2014 budget.