Mayor’s tie-breaking vote increases size of parks commission

Mayor Debe Hollingsworth got her wish to increase the troubled parks and recreation commission’s membership when she cast a tie-breaking vote on the matter during Monday night’s Pine Bluff City Council meeting.

Hollingsworth, who at one time suggested that the five-member commission be dissolved and the parks and recreation department to become accountable only to the mayor and council, had been forced by council resistance to abandon that plan. She then pushed for the number of commissioners to increase to 11, but the council’s administration committee nixed that proposal with a suggestion of adding just two members.

The council was divided Monday night at 4-4 on a proposed amendment to expand the panel to nine members. Hollingsworth ensured the number with a tie-breaking job. The same outcome prevailed in a subsequent vote on adopting the legislation co-sponsored by Aldermen Bill Brumett and Steven Mays.

In both incidents, Brumett and Mays were joined by Aldermen Wayne Easterly and Lloyd Holcomb in casting yeas while Aldermen Charles Boyd, Glen Brown, George Stepps and Thelma Walker were in opposition.

Hollingsworth had promoted a larger membership because she believed five-member commission was no long able to adequately oversee the department, which counts 19 parks and will soon add another. The mayor said she attended a recent commission meeting that had to be dismissed because of a lack of a quorum.

Stepps had consistently resisted the hike. A former commissioner himself, he said the panel had had only five chairs since its 1970 inception and he hadn’t seen any evidence that that same-size group was no longer capable of management. Stepps hinted that problems within the department are more likely the fault of insufficient department administration than a small commission.

Hollingsworth said additional commission oversight became necessary when a 2012 summer youth program within the department experienced a shortfall of over $100,000. The agency also suffered a financial lost in 2011.

Brown noted that the council had recently approved a resolution calling for the commission to maintain its current membership. However, resolutions are non-binding while an ordinance is considered law.