Council rejects Mays’ community outreach ordinance

A resolution calling for the encouragement of “city department heads and key employees to participate in and engage with community outreach and neighborhood watch groups” was rejected Monday night by the Pine Bluff City Council.

Supporting the measure — promoted in part by Mayor Debe Hollingsworth — were Aldermen Bill Brumett, Wayne Easterly and Steven Mays, its sponsor. In the same meeting, Mays was also sponsoring a residency requirement ordinance that called for allowing municipal department heads to live within 12 miles of the city instead of within it.

Alderman Charles Boyd indicated he was confused by Mays’ resolution in light of the ordinance, which had moments earlier received its first reading before being referred to the council’s administration committee for discussion.

Boyd said he couldn’t be certain of Mays’ intentions, since Mays was supporting repealing current guidance requiring department administrators to be city residents while seeking their involvement in neighborhood crime watch groups with his resolution.

Alderman George Stepps questioned the constitutionality of the resolution, saying the council doesn’t possess “this type of jurisdiction over people.” Easterly discounted that notion, saying the measure’s stated purpose was to “encourage,” and resolutions are nonbinding directives.

Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr. agreed with Stepps.

Mays defended the legislation.

“I did this,” said Mays. “I think it’s community friendly.”

Boyd, Holcomb and Stepps were joined by Alderwoman Thelma Walker and Alderman Glen Brown in opposing the resolution.

In other business, the council unanimously passed two ordinances and a resolution.

The ordinances:

• Specify that an occupant load notice be posted in a room or space used for an assembly; and

• Put in place a continuity of operations plan for city government in the event of a disaster.

The resolution authorized the mayor to execute an amendment to an agreement with McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc. of Little Rock on the Dew Drop drain reconstruction.

A proposed resolution calling for authorizing the mayor to contract with Reed Architectural Firm of Pine Bluff for professional services regarding the remodeling of and addition to the Pine Bluff Animal Shelter was pulled but will be presented again with alterations on a financial amount.

The resolution generated a prolonged discussion in which Hollingsworth, city Finance Director Steve Miller, Public Works Coordinator Larry Matthews and Project Engineer Mizan Rahman were questioned — primarily by Brown, Stepps and Walker — on the history and other particulars of the project, which is among the mandated improvements attached to the five-eighths cent sales tax approved by voters in 2011.

The exchange apparently stretched Brumett’s patience, prompting the senior alderman to intervene.

“With all due respect to everyone,” Brumett said, “this has been going on for over a year. It started in the previous (mayor Carl A. Redus’) administration.”

Brumett said that the process on the current matter was “no different than what we’ve done on other projects.”

Mays, who sponsored the resolution, wound up retracting his second to Brumett’s motion for its adoption.

Ordinances receiving second readings called for:

• Amending current guidance to provide a penalty for failure to abate a public nuisance; and

• Amending current guidance regarding the meetings, officers and lengths of terms of the Pine Bluff Commission on Children and Youth.

Ordinances receiving first readings called for:

• Defining “fixed assets” of the municipality and directing that all city agencies and departments create and maintain a list of such;

• Closing a portion of an alley north of West Fourth Avenue between Larch and Juniper streets;

• Providing for the rezoning of 2.5 acres on Texas Street; and

• Closing West 15th Avenue between Taft and Rosebud streets.

The latter three ordinances were referred to the council’s development and planning committee, which will meet at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, in the council chambers conference room.

City Clerk Loretta Whitfield and her staff — Carolyn Cherry and Rosemary Darrough — were recognized during Monday’s meeting as Stepps read a proclamation in recognition of the May 5-11 national Municipal Clerks Week observance.