With approaching deadlines providing a push, Pine Bluff’s City Council will reconsider a resolution outlining the police department’s future facilities outlay.
The proposal — now co-sponsored by Aldermen Bill Brumett and Steven Mays — calls for directing the mayor to proceed with the rehabilitation and renovation of the Joe Thomas Public Safety Building at the civic center and a former Army National Guard armory at 1000 N. Myrtle Street as sites for department agencies and personnel. The measure is also aimed at authorizing the patrol division to be housed in The Pines shopping mall, and directing that the neighborhood police offices and the revived bicycle patrol be maintained as priorities.
Originally sponsored solely by Brumett, the senior alderman, the legislation was pulled from the panel’s Sept. 3 meeting agenda after bickering by council members, who also voted down a proposed amendment to the package.
The police facilities issues have been the fodder of ongoing debate for several months. Larry Matthews, head of the economic and community development department, informed the council at the Sept. 3 meeting that the city is “down to one year” on completing the police department building project as outlined in a bond agreement resulting from voters’ approval of a 2011 sales tax hike.
Matthews told the council and Mayor Debe Hollingsworth that “a bond extension” may not be possible, Warning that the process needs to be enacted this month or “it’ll go away,” Matthews said that if project work isn’t completed on schedule, the city may have to reimburse its bond loan.
Matthews said the city is “at a point where we need to get this done.” He cautioned: “This is probably the last alarm.”
The resolution is supported with a long-range facilities plan that had input from a number of officials, including Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks, Matthews, Brumett and Hollingsworth. After pulling the resolution, Brumett asked that his counterparts review the plan and make recommendations before the coming meeting.
Alderwoman Thelma Walker responded with a pledge that she will not support a patrol division move from its present Commerce Road warehouse location to the mall. She also insists that alterations to the armory are illegal because of Hollingsworth ‘s June veto of a split council decision to move the patrol segment there.