New residency proposal awaits council

Residency requirements — the same notion that dominated Pine Bluff City Council meetings for much of the past year — are back on the agenda for the panel’s Tuesday night meeting.

In 2013, the issue for the most part focused solely on city department heads. The latest ordinance would cover all municipal employees hired on and after Jan. 1, 2014, and is co-sponsored by Aldermen Glen Brown and George Stepps and Alderwoman Thelma Walker.

The new measure, due for its initial reading at Tuesday’s meeting, calls for all new workers to be city residents within 30 days of their hiring and to maintain residency for the duration of their employment.

Walker believes the requirement, if approved, would generate several benefits.

“My sponsorship of the ordinance is based on the decline in the tax base and revenue here,” she said. “Our schools are suffering and some have had to close. Our city is shrinking. We have to look out for the economic and overall health of our city.”

Although he agrees in part with Walker, Alderman Wayne Easterly said he’s not certain such a requirement “can be made to work.”

“I see both sides of the issue,” Easterly said. “We do need to strengthen our tax base for the benefit of our schools and other interests, but I’m not sure how people might react to being told they have to live here to work here. Pine Bluff has people living here but working in Little Rock and elsewhere, and people working here but living in Little Rock and elsewhere. There’s a lot to be considered in a situation like this, but I can certainly understand the reasoning behind the ordinance.”

Walker sees the effort as an opportunity for the council to meet its obligation “to the city we live in and love.”

“It’s all about accountability,” she said. “It’s about our children and their future. I think the ordinance would be justifiable because it’s not retroactive. It would be a job requirement for new hires. We’ve got to build our tax base and maintain our population.”

Walker said the requirement would also engineer a boost to industries and their workers in Pine Bluff.

“We have to help our industries so they can continue to be here,” she said. “I believe this would also help in job development.

“We have to help our industries so they can continue to function here,” she said