Committee approves increased funding for youth jobs program

The Pine Bluff City Council Public Health and Welfare Committee on Monday approved an additional $50,000 for the Summer Youth Program after First Ward Alderman Thelma Walker commended the program as good and much-needed.

City Finance Director Steve Miller said the summer employment initiative for high school and college students in Pine Bluff and Jefferson County is also supported with funding from county government and Waste Management, among others.

“The additional funding brings the total up to $200,000 from the previous level of $150,000,” Miller said.

Walker, a committee member, persuaded First Ward Alderman Lloyd Holcomb, the committee chairman, and Third Ward Alderman Glen Brown, also a committee member, to reinstate the 2.5 percent across-the-board departmental budget cut into the Jefferson County Health Department.

Miller said the move meant returning $1,382 to the Health Department’s budget, bringing the total back up to $55,290.

Miller said Mayor Debe Hollingsworth and Transit Department Director Charlie Lacey were in the process of negotiating with University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Chancellor Laurence Alexander over the future of payments to the city by the university.

“For the past four or five years UAPB has been providing payments of $143,000 per year in revenue to the city as part of a student-approved transit agreement,” Miller said. “This amounts to 10 percent of the transit department’s annual revenue. It is raised through the collection of a student fee that goes toward providing city transit bus service to the university campus. There has been some communication that they don’t want to continue that arrangement anymore. If it is discontinued, adjustments will have to be made including potential reduction in hours and service.”