Camera proposal’s final reading slated at council meeting Monday

A controversial ordinance calling for a requirement that fast food restaurants, filling stations and convenience stores install and maintain surveillance cameras for the protection of customers and employees is scheduled for its third and final reading at Monday night’s 5:30 p.m. Pine Bluff City Council meeting.

The wording of the measure — sponsored by 4th Ward Alderman George Stepps — still calls for a daily fine of $300 to $1,000 for any person found to be in violation of the ordinance, which states “the owner, operator, manager of clerk on duty shall be responsible for ensuring”compliance. If adopted, the ordinance would make it a misdemeanor for establishments to be in operation while not in compliance.

The proposal has been referred to the council’s public safety and economic and community development committees for additional consideration and has twice been open to public input, most recently on Tuesday when the panels met jointly.

Assistant Chief of Police Ivan Whitfield repeated a plea for the measure’s approval, saying it would help police while serving business employees and customers. But Bill Ferren, a retired independent businessman, said the proposal is indicative of government’s on-going desire to meddle in private commerce.

Concerns have been expressed over the cost of cameras and their maintenance, but one loss-prevention official with a convenience store chain said his company sees surveillance cameras as a basic expense of “doing business.”

Stepps has said he’s worked with city inspection and zoning, police and fire department officials in determining procedures on checking to see if cameras are installed, maintenance inspections and enforcement.

Seven other ordinances and six resolutions are also on the agenda.

Others ordinances slated for third readings call for:

• Closing a portion of Clark Drive.

• Providing for the reimbursement of police officers and firefighters for the expense of repair or replacing uniforms and turn-outs damaged or destroyed in the line of duty.

Ordinances scheduled to receive second readings call for:

• Authorizing a short-term financing agreement with Pine Bluff National Bank to acquire four police vehicles and declaring an emergency.

• Amending the existing code of ordinances regarding provisions of the city’s retirement system.

• Amending the zoning code as it applies to temporary housing for emergency services.

• Amending an ordinance to close a portion of an alley in Block 18 of Eureka Heights, Addition No. 4.

Slated for a first reading is an ordinance calling for amending the existing privilege tax and transient merchants ordinances.

Resolutions to be considered call for:

• Declaring certain houses, buildings and/or structures as nuisances and ordering their abatement.

• Expressing the intent of the council to include $250,000 in the city’s 2013 annual budget for construction of a public swimming pool in Townsend Park.

• Directing the finance department to include $50,000 in the city’s 2013 annual budget for the parks and recreation department to replace the air conditioning systems at the Chester Hynes and Merrill community centers.

• Amending Resolution No. 3542 to correct an error.

• Renaming a portion of Catalpa Street as Saint Dewitt Hill Street.

• Amending the Jefferson County Community Development Corporation’s CHDO home funds for the years 2008, 2011 and 2012.

The ordinances and resolutions and ways and means committees will meet separately at 5 p.m.