Mayor-drafted proposal calls for earlier closing at local clubs

Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks says the later alcoholic beverage-serving night clubs stay open in Pine Bluff, the more his officers have to respond to troublesome situations at or related to the establishments, and Mayor Debe Hollingsworth believes she may have a solution to the problem.

Hollingsworth said at Monday night’s monthly town hall meeting that she has drafted an ordinance proposing that all clubs close by 1 a.m. Some establishments are currently open until 5 a.m. and their parking lots may not immediately empty.

Hubanks said that police calls from the clubs double between 2 and 4 a.m. He maintains that “pushing back” closing time will result in fewer disturbance reports and traffic concerns, allowing officers to better focus on neighborhood patrols.

The mayor said she wants Pine Bluff to be “in line with the majority of larger cities” in the state with earlier closings. Hubanks said crime here is showing a steady decline, but the drop could be made stronger with less worries from “the bars.”

“I heard endlessly during my campaign that this needs to be done,” said Hollingsworth, “and there’s no better time to do it than the present.”

Hollingsworth invited council members to “sponsor or co-sponsor” the legislation. As of Tuesday afternoon, Aldermen Bill Brumett and Wayne Easterly had signed on as co-sponsors. Alderman Charles Boyd told Evelyn Horton, Hollingsworth’s administrative assistant, that he supports the idea, but would prefer that the ordinance dictate a 2 a.m. shutdown.

Hollingsworth also asked that constituents call their council representatives and “tell them how you feel.”

Hubanks joined Hollingsworth in disclosing the next targeted area for a SAFE Team focus — West 17th to 28th Avenues from Linden to Olive Streets.

Hubanks also introduced Lt. Michael Jenkins as director of the police department’s new animal control division. Animal control was previously an independent operation.

Lt. Kelvin Hadley announced that police substations will be operating at 1302 Washington St. and 5519 W. 13th Ave. and that a bike patrol would be re-initiated by early August.

Special Projects Coordinator Lanette Frazier noted that the city will be conducting a gun buy-back on Aug. 3.

Hollingsworth commented briefly on the recent U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s audit of the city’s economic and community development department. The probe resulted in roughly $200,000 in HUD money being marked for reimbursement by the city, and possibly an additional $279,000 if requested documentation isn’t produced.

The mayor said she was planning to meet with HUD officials by Wednesday to determine if an extension could be given on a time allowance of 30 days to provide the documentation.

Hollingsworth also introduced Charlina “Charlie” Lacy as the city’s new transit director. Lacy had been with the police department.