Weiner: Pines’ offer on police space stands

Andy Weiner, owner of The Pines shopping mall here, said Friday that his offer of providing three years of free rent to the Pine Bluff Police Department in exchange for relocating its patrol division there still stands.

Weiner pledged the free rent on a renovated 5,800-square-foot space for the unit last month.

At the July 1 city council meeting, an override effort failed against Mayor Debe Hollingsworth’s June 18 veto of an ordinance dictating the division’s move to the former Army Reserve/National Guard armory at 1000 North Myrtle Street near Townsend Park and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Hollingsworth favored relocation to the mall. The division is currently headquartered in an industrial zone warehouse on Commerce Road.

After the override effort, a proposed resolution to authorize the mayor to negotiate a lease agreement with The Pines was pulled from the agenda. Senior Alderman Bill Brumett said the legislation was pulled so it could be “re-evaluated.”

Brumett said Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks is looking at possibly placing the patrol division within the downtown civic center and may have “new proposals” for police presence at both the mall and armory. But an announcement that the former federal facility contains cancer-causing asbestos could cast a negative there.

Brumett estimated that the lease resolution or a new measure will be on the council’s July 15 agenda.

Discussions on the matter led to some initial agreements among council members on having officers at each of the locations.

“I’m hoping that a compromise can be reached,” Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr. said Friday. “I want to see police presence at both facilities, and I think that’s a real possibility.

“We need to do what we can to help the mall, and police presence would also help the north side,” he continued. “It would benefit both. I understand the importance of the mall, but I want us to also think about the importance of the college area and the major growth there.”

Alderwoman Thelma Walker she believes the primary focus should be on the armory, although she supports some sort of police operation at The Pines.

“I think people are under a misconception on the idea of having the patrol division at the mall,” she said. “Those officers won’t be at the mall. They’re going to be out on patrol elsewhere. I’m not against some officers being at the mall, but I think putting the whole patrol division there would be wrong.”

Alderman Steven Mays said a police presence at The Pines could help in bringing in new stores and new jobs.

“We can all get together on this and figure out what’s best for helping our city to move forward,” he said. “I think we can make a decision that will be good for everyone.”