A six-week Pine Bluff School District summer youth enrichment program received a major boost Monday night when aldermen unanimously endorsed the city’s collaboration in the effort.
The city council enthusiastically approved the agreement, which was presented as a resolution by Mayor Debe Hollingsworth during a regular council meeting. Hollingsworth said the program would be a “good opportunity for our children” and help in lifting the city as well.
PBSD Superintendent Linda Watson said the summer offering would be free to the district’s elementary students and also to their Dollarway and Watson Chapel district counterparts participating in a Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation Department youth program at the Chester Hynes Community Center. Some secondary students might have to pay, said Watson, who added that PBSD would provide bus transportation and two hot meals a day for students. Some University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff students are to be employed in the program, which is slated to run from 7:30 a.m. to about 4 p.m. weekdays. More details can be obtained by contacting PBSD’s administrative office.
Hollingsworth said the city is providing $30,200, all of which is being derived from private donations. As of Monday night, about half of that amount had been collected and the remainder is expected to be received today, with the funds being administered by the city’s finance department.
In other business, the council rejected one ordinance, unanimously approved three others and adopted a resolution.
Council members rejected an ordinance sponsored by Alderman Steven Mays that called for providing for an offense of unlawful dumping, increasing monitoring of illegal dumping sites and creating a city account for purchase of video equipment. Mays and Alderman Wayne Easterly favored the measure while aldermen Charles Boyd, Glen Brown, Bill Brumett, Lloyd Holcomb Jr. George Stepps and Thelma Walker cast nays.
However, Mays agreed to have the proposal returned to the council’s public health and welfare committee a second time for further review. The panel had previously stated its opposition based on what it deemed a lack of clarity within the legislation’s scope.
The three adopted ordinances amended provisions of the non-uniform employees handbook. The approved resolution, which included an amendment, declared certain houses, buildings and/or structures as nuisances and ordered their abatement.
Ordinances receiving second readings called for:
• Specifying that an occupant load notice be posted in a room or space used for an assembly and prescribing the requirements for the notice; and
• Adopting a continuity of operations plan for city government in the event of a disaster.
Ordinances receiving initial readings called for:
• Amending current guidance regarding the meetings, officers and length of terms of the Pine Bluff Commission on Children and Youth; and
• Amending current guidance to provide a penalty for failure to abate a public nuisance.
The latter sparked some criticism from the audience, especially toward Stepps, who was erroneously listed as the measure’s sponsor in an agenda packet received by The Commercial last week. Boyd is the actual sponsor, and said he made the proposal based upon the request of Robert Tucker, chief of the inspection and zoning department.
Tucker told the council that he felt such legislation is needed because current guidance doesn’t give the city any real authority in citing property owners who fail to abate nuisances as declared by council action. Responding to a question from Brown, Tucker said the average cost of demolishing a house here is around $3,000, which the city too often has to absorb when owners of declared nuisances fail to act over time.
Brown said residents of “old Pine Bluff” can’t afford such an expense themselves.
Stepps asked that the nuisance abatement topic be introduced for discussion at the May town hall meeting. Mays requested the same be done with illegal dumping. Hollingsworth said she had no objection.
Several audience members complimented the mayor and aldermen for the positive and cooperative spirit of Monday’s session, and on two occasions the audience applauded the city officials.