Council to take up several topics left unaddressed in Dec. 2 meeting

The Pine Bluff City Council will give it another go Monday when it convenes for the first time since its Dec. 2 meeting was abruptly adjourned by Mayor Debe Hollingsworth after she judged the situation in the Council Chamber to be getting out of hand.

The topic that caused the excitement is at the top of Monday’s agenda, with an ordinance proposed by Ward Four Alderman Steven Mays concerning illegal dumping in the city and the use of video surveillance to help identify and stop the perpetrators, again up for a vote on its third and final reading.

At the Dec. 2 meeting, members of the Westside Loop Neighborhood Watch Association told the council they had photographed people dumping illegally and taken down license plate information that was then turned over to the Pine Bluff Police Department.

Several aldermen wanted to determine if existing laws concerning illegal dumping were being enforced before voting on the Mays legislation, but Hollingsworth insisted on a vote on the measure before further discussion took place.

“The discussion was going on and then I ended the discussion because we were getting into procedural matters that had nothing to do with the ordinance being considered,” Hollingsworth said in a telephone conversation after the Dec. 2 meeting. “Alderman [Glen] Brown was wanting to clarify the procedure but that is something that can be discussed after the ordinance is passed.”

Also up for a third and final reading is an ordinance submitted by Ward Four Alderman George Stepps that would amend Ordinance No. 6463, passed Oct. 7, 2013, to state that there will be no cost of living increase in benefits paid by the local firefighters’ pension fund unless the City Council authorizes such an increase.

A resolution submitted by Mays would repeal Resolution No. 3664, passed Dec. 3, 2012, which provided for municipal elections to become partisan, and so would return municipal elections to a nonpartisan format.

An ordinance submitted by Mays that would adopt a community forestry plan for Pine Bluff is up for its first reading Monday, but the topic was discussed Dec. 2.

Chris Stuhlinger, a System Forest Manager with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, spoke in support of the ordinance at the beginning of the Dec. 2 meeting.

“This ordinance calls for the creation of a tree board,” Stuhlinger said. “A tree board was actually already formed and has been meeting regularly since mid-summer. The goal is to have Pine Bluff classified as a Tree City U.S.A. There are already 43 Arkansas communities that have been designated this way.”

Stuhlinger said the requirements for Tree City U.S.A. status include having an Arbor Day ceremony and official proclamation every year, a tree board, a tree care ordinance and the spending of at least $2 per city resident on tree-related work including leaf removal and tree pruning.

The council will meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday at council chambers at the civic center.