Council to consider spending $175,000 to bolster city’s image

The Pine Bluff City Council will vote on a resolution at its next regular meeting Monday night that would appropriate $175,000 from bond reserves generated by the sales tax approved by voters in February 2011 to fund a publicity campaign aimed at improving the city’s image.

The resolution, co-sponsored by Ward Four Aldermen George Stepps and Steven Mays; Ward Two Aldermen Wayne Easterly and Charles Boyd; Ward One Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr.; and Ward Three Alderman Bill Brumett, would authorize Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth to coordinate with the Pine Bluff Advertising and Promotion Commission as well as other entities to create a campaign that informs and educates the public about economic development opportunities in the city.

“It behooves city government to strive to dispel negative perceptions and publish the facts about the myriad of opportunities for personal and economic growth in Pine Bluff through a concerted program utilizing the various media and other means to educate and inform the public about the many positive things in the community,” the text of the resolution says in part.

In other business the council will vote on a proposed 2014 city budget.

The roughly $30 million budget made its way through the various council committees in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, during which time funds were added to and subtracted from city departments as Mayor Debe Hollingsworth and the council haggled over the bottom line.

Brumett submitted an ordinance calling for the budget’s approval and declaring an emergency. The emergency declaration is used so that the rules may be suspended and the ordinance can be put to a vote despite being up for the first reading.

The budget proposed in Brumett’s ordinance includes several differences from Hollingsworth’s original proposal. Among those differences are the elimination of a $15,000 expenditure intended as a raise for Hollingsworth assistant Evelyn Horton; the elimination of a $10,000 expenditure intended as a raise for the city’s director of information technology; the elimination of a $50,000 expenditure for the Summer Youth Program; and the elimination of a $50,000 expenditure for the Downtown Business Incubator.

Altogether the changes would produce more than $410,000 in savings from the original proposed budget.

In other business the council will honor the football seasons of the Pine Bluff High School Zebras, the Dollarway High School Cardinals and the Watson Chapel High School Wildcats in three resolutions sponsored by Mays that designate Jan. 10 as team day in Pine Bluff for each of the schools.

An ordinance submitted by Easterly would adopt the 2012 Arkansas Fire Prevention Code and asks that the ordinance be voted on immediately because of the importance of protecting public health and welfare.

An ordinance submitted by Mays up for the first reading would authorize Hollingsworth to acquire real property at 1400 W. Fourth Avenue and would appropriate funds for the purchase and for improvements.

“Mr Richard Ratliff of Ratliff Enterprises has offered to convey to the city the real property and improvements,” said the text of the proposed ordinance. “This property is the site of a warehouse which can be converted into a facility to promote tourism and commercial development.”