The Pine Bluff City Council on Monday evening approved the budget for the new Townsend Park baseball field complex along with a budget adjustment of $915,925 to complete the project.
Several council members had concerns about the cost of the project, with the council voting in May 2013 to appropriate $450,000 from funds generated by the five-eighths-cent sales tax for baseball field construction work at Townsend Park.
Larry Matthews, director of the city’s Economic and Community Development Department, said that after the 2013 council vote the project was delayed until early 2014.
“We accepted the low bids for the project in April of this year,” Matthews said. “We could reissue bids but we could well end up with an even higher low bid than we do now and we would have to accept it.”
During discussion of the measure Finance Director Steve Miller said that the $915,925 would come out of the $1.6 million reserve fund made up of money collected from the five-eighths-cent sales tax.
“Every little town in Arkansas pretty much has a municipal baseball field and we do not,” Matthews said. “I am a supporter of this park because it is needed.”
Gerald E. Prince Construction Company of Little Rock submitted the low bid of $698,000 for construction of the ball field; with Pilgreen Electrical Service Inc. of Gurdon bidding $58,900 to install the park lighting system sold by Musco Lighting with a low bid of $137,188.
Total project cost was presented as $1.07 million with $143,195 already spent on the project.
“They need to begin work by July 1 to give the grass time to grow,” Matthews said. “It won’t be ready to play on until next year to give the grass time to set out roots.”
The project will also include a concession stand.
Anti-sagging measure fails
In other business, the council rejected an ordinance sponsored by Ward 4 Alderman Steven Mays up for its third and final reading that would have criminalized the wearing of pants that sag so low as to show more than three inches of a person’s underwear.
Mays made a motion to approve the ordinance but the motion failed for lack of a second.
UAPB Incubator funding
The council approved a resolution appropriating $30,000 in funds for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Economic Research and Development Center and Business Support Incubator to support the development of small business in Pine Bluff.
“Mr. Henry Golatt of the Business Incubator has told us that they need city financial assistance in order to make it through the year and since they are here to help the city I believe that we need to provide them with this funding,” said Ward 2 Alderman Charles Boyd.
The funds are being appropriated from the five-eighths-cent sales tax reserve fund, which Miller confirmed is an approved use of the money.
“These funds can be used for any valid municipal project,” Miller said.
The council approved a resolution requesting that city officials maintain records related to the possible negative effects to Pine Bluff from the 71602 zip code, amended by sponsor Ward 4 Alderman Steven Mays to eliminate a section stating that there is evidence of these effects.
“This resolution is important to bolster the work of the special committee charged with looking into the effects of the 71602 zip code on Pine Bluff,” Mays said.
Ward 4 Alderman George Stepps said that while he supported such an investigation he was not comfortable asserting that the council already had evidence in its possession that would back up council member concerns related to the 71602 zip code.
Mays said he had such evidence and was ready to share it with the council.
“Allow us to look at this evidence together before we vote on this,” Stepps said.
Ward 3 Alderman Glen Brown made the suggestion of removing the section of the resolution pertaining to evidence so that it could be voted on in amended form immediately.
The council approved a resolution adopting the downtown Pine Bluff streetscape plan as an official policy document for the city.
Because Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth is out of town, Ward 3 Alderman Bill Brumett presided over Monday’s council meeting.
Assistant City Attorney Joe Childers said that when a mayor is absent it is normal practice for the senior alderman to chair council meetings.
“City business pretty much runs on autopilot when the mayor is out of town,” Childers said. “That’s how we’ve always done it.”