Mayor opposes police move to armory

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said Friday that she opposes the moving of the police department’s patrol division to the former Army Reserve/National Guard armory at 1000 North Myrtle St., near Townsend Park. The former armory was given to the city by the Army.

An ordinance proposing the shift is due for a second reading at Monday night’s city council meeting. The measure is being co-sponsored by Aldermen Glen Brown, Steven Mays and George Stepps and Alderwoman Thelma Walker. A poll of council members Tuesday indicated that at least five were ready to provide a required majority for adoption.

The patrol division is currently housed in a privately owned, warehouse-style building on Commerce Road near The Pines shopping mall. Mays said the division’s present location costs the city about $20,000 a year in rent, plus utilities, and moving it to the former armory would save the city “about $35,000 a year.”

The city has roughly $1.5 million in bond issue money earmarked for enhanced and new police facilities, with the revenue being generated from a 2011 voter-approved five-eighths cent sales tax hike for capital improvement. Stepps is suggesting that “$400,000 or $500,000” be used to renovate the old armory while the remainder of the funds be devoted to updating the civic center’s Joe Thomas Building, which serves as the police department’s administrative headquarters.

“I think our money might be invested more wisely,” Hollingsworth said. “I do believe that the armory building has a lot of potential uses, perhaps as a parks and recreation facility or for storage. But I’m afraid that getting the building up to the needed standards for a police division there could be expensive.”

Speaking in her office, the mayor said she did not wish to “go into details” on what she termed “other options at other locations” for a possible division move.

“I’ll be prepared to expand on my thoughts and discuss them at least in part during the council’s public safety committee meeting Monday,” she said.

The committee session, to be held in the civic center’s council chambers, will begin at 4 p.m. The council meeting will begin at 5.