The Pine Bluff City Council approved a resolution Monday directing the mayor to solicit proposals from companies to conduct a survey of the city’s boundary lines.
Sponsored by Ward 4 Alderman Steven Mays, the measure requires Mayor Debe Hollingsworth to take out newspaper advertisements and to solicit proposals on the city website and cable television channel.
The resolution said that the most qualified proposal would be submitted to the city council for approval and the selected company must complete the survey within 60 days of contract signing.
Ward 3 Alderman Bill Brumett said that such a move is unnecessary.
“I have talked to Larry Reynolds at the planning office and he told me that his office has done its due diligence on this,” Brumett said. “The last boundary update was done in 2008 and Larry said that he is in the process of going over the records to make sure that everything is in order.”
Mays was not persuaded.
“I believe that we need a third party to do a study of our boundaries to make sure that they are up-to-date,” Mays said. “The Arkansas Geographic Information Office released a report that says in the approach to the 2020 Census a number of cities will annex areas in order to increase their population beginning in 2016 and lasting through 2018.”
Mays repeated his concern that White Hall will try to annex parts of Pine Bluff adjacent to its existing boundaries.
“I don’t have anything against White Hall but I love Pine Bluff,” Mays said. “I believe that they will try to annex part of Pine Bluff to beef up their population numbers prior to the next Census.”
Arkansas Code § 14-40-303 provides that an annexation cannot occur without a special election for the residents of both the territory to be annexed and the annexing territory.
Since the shared ZIP code between Pine Bluff and White Hall became a topic of conversation, a Census Bureau official has told Mays and other members of the council that ZIP codes do not affect population counts. County tax officials have said that ZIP codes do not affect tax collections. And Pine Bluff and White Hall already share crime statistics, which are reported to the FBI jointly as the Pine Bluff Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes the entirety of Jefferson, Cleveland and Lincoln counties.
“I know there can’t be an annexation without a vote but I do think we need to get our boundaries clarified,” said Ward 3 Alderman Glen Brown.
The vote breakdown was six in favor and two against, with Mays, Brown, Ward 1 Aldermen Lloyd Holcomb Jr. and Thelma Walker, Ward 2 Alderman Charles Boyd, and Ward 4 Alderman George Stepps voting yes and Ward 2 Alderman Wayne Easterly and Brumett voting no.
In other business, the council unanimously approved a resolution that secures the transfer of the permanent art collection of the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas to the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas Endowment Fund Inc.
Arts and Science Center Executive Director Lenore Shoults spoke in support of the measure during the meeting’s public comment period.
“Fewer than 1,000 museums out of 20,000 are accredited and our museum is one of them,” Shoults said. “In order to maintain that accreditation, we have to show that we can care for our art collection.”
The measure provides that the 1,360 item collection valued at $314,827 be transferred and sold to the Endowment to protect it from any future action to sell all or a portion of the collection to satisfy any potential municipal debts.
“We saw what happened in Detroit,” Shoults said. “They never thought they would go bankrupt but they did. Some of their art museum’s pieces were sold off to satisfy debts and this is a scenario we don’t want to ever have happen here.”
Shoults said that the formal sale of the collection to the Arts and Science Center Endowment will keep it safe from potential creditors and allow it to remain available to patrons.
The council approved a resolution sponsored by Brown and Mays seeking grant assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration for the rehabilitation of the concrete portion of the apron of the Grider Field-Pine Bluff Municipal Airport.
Airport manager Doug Hale said that the cost of the project is estimated to be $290,258 and that it will be 90 percent federally- funded and 10 percent city-funded.
“Once the project is complete we will apply for a grant from the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics to reimburse the city for its share of the project,” Hale said.
The council approved a resolution establishing an internship program in city government for University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff students.
Sponsored by Walker, the measure calls for a budget of $30,000 and implementation of the program during the 2014 calendar year.
“We don’t have those funds appropriated for this year,” Brumett said.
Walker said that she would work with Department of Finance Director Steve Miller to determine what can be budgeted for 2014.
“We just need to figure out what can be done this year,” Walker said. “Then the program can be fully funded for 2015.”
The council approved a resolution authorizing the Department of Finance and the City Collector’s Office to destroy accounting records which have passed the statutory maintenance period.
The council approved a resolution authorizing the conveyance of real property to Highland Missionary Baptist Church for $300.
The council heard an ordinance up for the first reading sponsored by Stepps that would require all city contracts to contain a provision requiring the contractor to make a good faith effort to hire local firms to help perform contract work.
The council heard an ordinance up for the first reading sponsored by Holcomb that would amend the code of ordinances of the city to provide for new and additional tools to remediate public nuisances and hazardous structures.