Council revisits city employee residence status, club closing times

The Pine Bluff City Council took up two new items of business at its Tuesday night meeting that have their origins in previous council action.

Ward 1 Alderwoman Thelma Walker was joined by Ward 3 Alderman Glen Brown and Ward 4 Alderman George Stepps in drafting an ordinance that would require all people hired by the city of Pine Bluff after Dec. 31, 2013, to live in Pine Bluff at the time of their hiring or within 30 days of their employment.

Walker, Brown and Stepps opposed the appointment of Jeff Hubanks as interim chief of the Pine Bluff Police Department by Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth one year ago because he lived outside of the Pine Bluff city limits.

“Persons employed by the city are paid in significant part by taxes generated by economic activity within the city and should do their part in increasing such activity by residing within the corporate limits of the city,” the proposed ordinance reads in part. “The city is experiencing an eroding tax base which affects the ability of city government to offer needed services.”

The ordinance does make allowances for those already working for the city prior to the end of 2013.

“The council recognizes that persons now working for the city were hired under conditions which did not require residency within the city and should not now be required to do so,” the resolution said in part.

Jefferson County resident Mary Jo McCord spoke out against the resolution during the time set aside for public comments.

“This resolution will be detrimental to the city and will move things backward,” McCord said. “The idea that you have to live here to work here is not going to work. I am currently a resident of the Fourth Ward, but for many years I didn’t live in Pine Bluff but did all of my shopping and banking here. We should focus on the fact that we are all residents of Jefferson County.”

Club closings revisited

Ward 2 Alderman Wayne Easterly introduced an ordinance for the first reading that would authorize a special election for the purpose of determining when private clubs in the city can sell alcoholic beverages.

The city council voted down a similar proposed ordinance in August 2013 that was co-sponsored by Easterly and Ward 3 Alderman Bill Brumett. That measure, which had the backing of Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth, would have required bars and private clubs to close at 1 a.m.

The new ordinance, if passed by the council and approved by voters, would prohibit private clubs operating under a Class B license from serving or allowing the consumption of alcoholic beverages between 3 a.m. and 10 a.m. on any day and require them to close between 3:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Private clubs operating with a license other than a Class B license would be prohibited from serving or allowing the consumption of alcoholic beverages between the hours of 2:01 a.m. and 10:01 a.m. and would have to be closed between 2:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.

“The voters have told us that they want to have the opportunity to vote on this issue,” Easterly said. “If this ordinance is approved by the council, then we plan to call a special election that will coincide with the primaries in May. This way, we will be able to avoid the added cost that is normally associated with a special election.”

There was some discussion as to what would happen if the ordinance fails to pass in the city council, and the general consensus was that residents would have to gather a specific number of signatures of eligible voters to get the measure on the ballot in the November 2014 general election.