Council eases requirements for do-it-yourself homeowners

Homeowners in Pine Bluff will no longer need to become a licensed residential contractor to perform work on their own residence thanks to the passage Monday evening of an ordinance sponsored by Ward 1 Alderwoman Thelma Walker that eliminates that requirement.

“This is what people have been asking for,” Walker said immediately before the vote. “This will help the city to deal with many of the rundown houses in town by making it easier for people to make improvements to the homes that they own.”

Ward 3 Alderman Glen Brown added words of support for the ordinance.

“I am amenable to letting people do their own work,” Brown said.

The new ordinance does have some caveats, including the need for a homeowner to have a licensed contractor perform electrical and plumbing work on a residence, and an acknowledgement that a contractor will be needed for any work that Arkansas law deems must be performed by one.

“A person who acts as a residential building contractor in the construction of his or her own residence is not required to be licensed as a residential building contractor unless the person builds more than one residence per year,” the text of the ordinance reads in part, highlighting another restriction placed on those doing work on a residence without a contractor’s license.

Successful bond refinancing

Jack Truemper, senior vice president with Stephens Public Finance, briefed the c0uncil on his company’s efforts to reissue a set of 2009 bonds in order to gain a more favorable interest rate.

“We had a very successful bond sale today,” Truemper said. “We were able to bring the interest rate down from 4.12 percent to 3.49 percent, which gives the city a savings of $283,740. We originally were hoping for a savings of $180,000 so this was a great result for the city.”

Truemper said the reissue is part of the city’s efforts to raise money needed for improvements to the Joe Thomas Public Safety Building and the City Hall Building.

The council then approved the issuance and sale of capital improvement refunding and improvement revenue bonds that will provide for the payment of principal of and interest on the bonds for funding of the building improvements.

Land for homes

The council approved a resolution authorizing Mayor Debe Hollingsworth to convey a block of city property at Ninth Avenue and Gum Street to Jefferson County Habitat for Humanity so that two homes can be built on the land.

“We already have eight occupied Habitat homes in the area and another one under construction,” Habitat President Barbara Akins said. “This land will allow us to build two more Habitat homes in an area we have come to call the Habitat Village.”

Ward 4 Alderman Steven Mays sponsored the resolution and urged its passage before the vote.

The parcel is administered by the Parks and Recreation Commission according to the text of the resolution, but has not been developed.

Twenty feet for progress

The council approved an ordinance to close and abandon the north 20 feet of West 10th Avenue between Blake Street and Bay Street for the purpose of furthering the construction of a new business in the area.

“I am a Realtor representing Dollar General in this matter,” said Pamela Smith. “This closure will allow the building to fit onto the land it is being built on.”

Mays spoke in favor of passage.

“This is to further development in the area,” Mays said.