Updated 

Walker bristles at 'bully' label


First Ward Alderman Thelma Walker took issue with comments made by a constituent Monday night at the regular meeting of the Pine Bluff City Council.

Pine Bluff resident John Tate took advantage of the period set aside for public comment at the end of the meeting to commend First Ward Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr. for his Oct. 21 vote against reinstating Albert Ridgell as city collector, and to chastise the council as a body for what he called bullying aimed at Mayor Debe Hollingsworth.

“I understand that there was a protest outside of Alderman Holcomb’s church yesterday morning,” Tate said in reference to a protest led by Barbara Blunt Muhammad against Holcomb’s vote. “That church has no part in what is going on down here at City Hall. So that protest should have been here and not at the church.

“This council has had problems lately,” Tate said. “It seems to be trying to place blame. Who is being hurt is not Mayor Hollingsworth. Who is being hurt are the people of Pine Bluff. We are tired of bickering. We need positive energy on this council. I’m assuming that most of this happened in response to a public vote by the city council. As I remember it the city council gave the last mayor the power to hire and fire department heads and the chief of police and the fire chief. That power transfers from one mayor to the next, so why are we still fighting over this?”

Despite the expiration of Tate’s allotted three minutes of speaking time he continued.

“I want to thank you, Alderman Holcomb, for having the fortitude to do what is right,” Tate said as Third Ward Alderman Glen Brown reminded him that his time had expired.

Walker addressed Tate’s comments after the public comment period had expired.

“Mr. Tate, we are not here to do anything to the mayor,” Walker said. “We are here to do what we were elected to do. Bullying is a very strong word to use.”

“That’s what I see,” Tate responded.

“I thought your vision was better than that,” Walker said.

Upon the earlier recommendation of the public safety committee, the council unanimously approved an ordinance that updates city code in reference to purchases made by the city and the competitive bidding process.

Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell addressed the council after Brown requested clarification of the measure’s intent.

“The intent of this ordinance is to bring the city code in line with current price levels,” Howell said. “As items have become more expensive we have run into instances where routine maintenance on our fire trucks has reached a price level that requires competitive bidding under the present city code. This adds unnecessary delays to our department maintenance schedule.”

Howell emphasized that the bidding structure still has all of the safeguards required by law.

“All this is doing is allowing us to make routine purchases in a timely manner,” Howell said. “Some of the tires for our engines cost as much as $300 apiece and each truck requires six to eight tires. So you see that expenditures add up fast.”

The ordinance kicks up the price point at which city expenditures require competitive bids advertised in the newspaper from $10,000 to $20,000.

“We ran into several delays during the construction of the new fire station on 32nd Street because of this situation,” Howell said.

The council also declared that an emergency existed regarding the immediate need for the legislation in order to allow aldermen to consider the ordinance even though it was only up for its second reading.

The council approved legislation on third and final reading to add the definition of the term “replacement cost” to city code pertaining to zoning; and legislation to accept a donation of a segment of Auto Park Drive to the city.

The Council approved a trio of resolutions including a resolution that requires property owners to reimburse the city for correcting what were deemed nuisances on the properties after the owners failed to comply with city requests to remedy the problems.

The council also approved a resolution that authorizes Hollingsworth to contract with Larry Diggs Construction Co. of Hot Springs to perform work related to the Brumps Bayou Fishing Pier project as the identified lowest, most responsible bidder.

Finally the council approved a resolution to adopt the Department of Economic and Community Development 2014 Consolidated Plan Annual Update as required by federal regulations.