Council rejects referendum on bar, nightclub hours

The Pine Bluff City Council rejected a measure Monday night that would have provided for a special election in May on the question of whether city code should be amended to force private clubs to stop selling alcohol earlier than current law allows.

The measure drew support only from its sponsor, Ward 2 Alderman Wayne Easterly, and Ward 3 Alderman Bill Brumett. The measure’s defeat means that supporters of a city vote on the issue will have to gather an undetermined number of signatures on a petition that if successful would see the measure placed on the November general election ballot.

“I plead with you, do not silence the voices of the people,” Rev. Jesse C. Turner said in support of the ballot initiative during the time set aside for public comment before the meeting. “Let them have a voice on this matter. A yes vote on this measure by you the council in the comfort of this City Council Chamber will give the public a voice.

“A no vote would throw people into the streets to gather signatures in the rain, the cold and the heat of the summer,” Turner said.

Because of the no vote Easterly withdrew from consideration a companion measure that would have authorized the special election.

City residency measure fails

A proposed ordinance co-sponsored by Ward 1 Alderwoman Thelma Walker, Ward 4 Alderman George Stepps and

Ward 3 Alderman Glen Brown that would have required people hired by the city government after the beginning of the year to move within the city limits of Pine Bluff within six months of their hiring also failed, only receiving support from its co-sponsors.

Ward 4 resident Mary Jo McCord spoke out against the measure during the public comment period for the second time in as many council meetings.

“I thought the residency situation was settled seven or eight months ago,” McCord said. “Pine Bluff has dropped in population and we need businesses and a revived economy, but this is America and not a Communist country. You can’t tell people where to live.”

Fencing measure falls

A proposed ordinance sponsored by Ward 4 Alderman Steven Mays that would have allowed city residents to install chain-link fencing in their front yards narrowly failed in a 4-4 split.

Supporting the measure were Mays, , Stepps, Brown and Walker. Voting against passage were Easterly, Brumett, Ward 2 Alderman Charles Boyd and Ward 1 Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr.

“Some of you vote against every proposal that I put forward in this council,” Mays said before the vote. “Some of you probably can’t wait to vote against this ordinance. Just remember, my vote has as much political power as any of yours. I am also often the swing vote on this council.”

Mays said he submitted the fencing ordinance after being contacted by a number of residents who informed him that the chain-link fencing was the only type that they could afford.

“I understand that a landlord association can tell people who live under its jurisdiction what they can and can’t have in their yards, but in this case it is simply citizens of Pine Bluff who want to protect their property and to keep their pets in their yards,” Mays said. “They should have the right to do so.”

Police vehicles

An ordinance sponsored by Easterly authorizing a short-term financing agreement with Simmons First National Bank to acquire three vehicles for the Pine Bluff Police Department passed unanimously.

Cooling system purchase approved

By a 6-2 vote, the council passed a resolution co-sponsored by Brumett and Stepps that authorized Mayor Debe Hollingsworth to contract with Powers Mechanical Service Company to acquire and install new cooling system equipment for City Hall and the Joe Thomas Public Safety Building.

The cost to the city is pegged at $482,900, which will be paid out of money generated from the sale of municipal bonds.

Walker and Brown voted against the measure, arguing that the use of a vendor from a pre-approved list authorized by the State Office of Procurement to streamline purchases by municipal governments was in violation of Pine Bluff city code.

“I’m just concerned that when we are talking about nearly $500,000 of taxpayer money that we follow the law as written,” Walker said.

Assistant City Attorney Joe Childers said the practice is routinely used by the City of Pine Bluff as well as municipalities throughout the state.

“The vendors who make the list have already been vetted by the state as low bidders,” Childers said.