Police facilities back on council agenda


Renewed discussions regarding police department facilities may occur at a Tuesday night Pine Bluff City Council meeting.

Senior Alderman Bill Brumett is sponsoring a resolution authorizing Mayor Debe Hollingsworth to proceed with “rehabilitation and renovation” of the Joe Thomas Public Safety Building at the civic center and a former Army National Guard armory at 1000 North Myrtle Street “as sites for department agencies and personnel” and authorizing a relocation of the department’s patrol division to The Pines shopping mall off Harding Avenue and Interstate 530.

At the council’s Aug. 19 meeting, Alderwoman Thelma Walker — after helping to direct recent efforts to secure a police presence in the armory — changed direction and led a successful effort to block a proposed $30,000 budget adjustment needed to finance armory enhancements that would have contributed to placement of officers and offices at the facility, which was given to the city by the Army.

The funding proposal was rejected by a 5-3 vote, with Walker and Aldermen Charles Boyd, Glen Brown, Lloyd Holcomb Jr. and George Stepps in opposition. Brumett and Aldermen Wayne Easterly and Steven Mays favored the budget realignment.

Walker said she felt police department allocations toward the armory would be “illegal” in light of Hollingsworth’s June 18 veto of an ordinance calling for the department’s patrol division to be moved to the armory instead of The Pines, which has offered free rent for three years and up to $100,000 in renovations in exchange for the patrol division’s return to the mall. The council — with Holcomb absent — had approved the ordinance in a 5-2 split only a day before, with Brumett and Easterly casting the nays.

On July 1, a veto override fell short of a required six votes when Mays altered his course and joined Brumett and Easterly in opposing the effort.

The concept of moving the patrol division from its current location in a privately owned, warehouse-style building on Commerce Road was first mentioned in a Dec. 3, 2012, council session when Easterly suggested that the armory might aid the city in saving some money over a possible acquisition of a new downtown facility.

At the council’s Aug. 5 meeting, Walker pulled from the agenda her sponsored resolution proposing the mayor be directed to take appropriate steps in preparing only the Thomas Building and armory as primary police sites. Walker has said that although she’s against placing the patrol division at The Pines, she supports the idea of having a police substation “or some sort of police presence” there.

Brumett’s new resolution also calls for the recently revived bicycle patrol unit and “neighborhood offices” to be maintained “as priorities” of the police department.

Attached to the resolution in the council members’ and mayor’s agenda packets is a Brumett-authored three-page “plan for meeting the future workspace needs” of the department and its divisions.

In a related resolution, Brumett is seeking the council’s authorization of the mayor to contract with the local A.W. Nelson and Fred Reed architectural firms in jointly surveying the Thomas Building to determine its structural condition and develop multiple concept plans and projected costs of proposed improvements.

The council meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the civic center’s council chambers and will follow a 4 p.m. public safety committee session and 5 p.m. gatherings of the ways and means, and ordinances and resolutions committees.