The Pine Bluff City Council on Tuesday will consider legislation ranging from blocking off a street plagued by illegal dumping, renaming a stretch of U.S. Highway 65, renewing the city’s cable television franchise agreement and raising fees for police and fire reports.
The council meets at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers at Pine Bluff City Hall.
It will also hear a first reading of ordinances that would repeal the council’s Dec. 19 votes to detach the Animal Control and Quality of Life divisions from the Pine Bluff Police Department. The ordinances are sponsored by Alderman Bill Brumett and newly-elected Alderman Win Trafford.
The council will consider a resolution to temporarily block Lee Street from West Short Third Street to West Fifth Avenue. The narrow through road is often littered with garbage, and under the resolution the two-block stretch would be closed until a solution could be found to the dumping problem. The resolution is sponsored by Alderman Steven Mays.
The council will also consider a resolution to bring up several points of contention in negotiations with Pine Bluff Cable Television and its parent company, Wehco Video, to renew the city’s cable television franchise agreement. Several members of the council and mayor have received “numerous complaints” about the services provided by the cable company, as well as the lack of high-definition offerings, according the resolution.
The resolution declares that the following issues be addressed “to the satisfaction of the city” during negotiations: the quality of the company’s “services and offerings”; that the company provide the option of high-definition television and internet to all customers; that it provide a “definition of gross revenues”; and that it provide a public access channel.
Additionally, the council will consider a measure supporting a bill that would designate U.S. 65 between Pine Bluff and the Louisiana border as the “Delta Rhythm ‘N’ Bayous Highway.” A copy of the bill attached to the proposed ordinance indicates it is scheduled to be introduced at in the 2017 Arkansas State legislative session by representatives Vivian Flowers, Kenneth Ferguson, Mark McElroy and Chris Richey. The “Rhythm” part of the name proposed for that stretch of highway derives from the many influential musicians who grew up or spent time in the Arkansas Delta, including Johnny Cash, Sam Cook, Miles Davis and Bobby Rush. “Bayous” honors Bayou Bartholomew, the world’s longest bayou and second-most diverse stream, which runs parallel to the highway from Pine Bluff to Louisiana. The bill is intended to promote the area as a tourism destination for music and wildlife enthusiasts.
The ordinance to be considered by the council would commit the city to install and maintain appropriate signs advertising that theme along the prominent stretches of the highway within Pine Bluff’s city limits. If the bill passes, either the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department or the county road department would erect one sign along the highway in the following cities: Dermott, Dumas, Gould, Lake Village and Pine Bluff.
The council will also consider an ordinance requested by the police department that raises the amount police can charge for police reports and fingerprint requests. The ordinance would also raise the amount the fire department can charge for fire reports and incident requests. The changes are necessary to “bring [the fees] into parity with the fees charged by police departments in similarly sized cities in the state,” according to the ordinance.
The police department currently charges a fee of $8 for a copy of a police report and $5 for requests by a person to be fingerprinted. The ordinance would authorize the police to charge $10 for a police or accident report and $10 to a person requesting to be fingerprinted. Stating that “the fire department should charge a comparable fee,” the ordinance authorizes the fire department to charge $10 for a copy of a fire or incident report. Notice of the fees would be “conspicuously posted” in the police and fire departments, to notify requesters of the cost.
Another resolution under consideration would direct the mayor to appoint one or more members of the City Council to develop a system of keeping track of pending legislation in Little Rock and Washington, D.C., that could affect Pine Bluff. The designated staff member(s) would keep track of developments, regularly inform the council and the mayor, and arrange for annual meetings with Pine Bluff’s state legislative delegation, the U.S. representative for the Fourth District and Arkansas’ two U.S. senators.
The council will consider an ordinance updating the substance abuse policy for Pine Bluff Transit, as mandated by the Federal Transit Administration, as a condition of federal funding. Bus drivers and other transit workers whose jobs affect the safety of themselves and others are known as “safety-sensitive” employees.
Additionally, the council will consider four budget adjustments to pay for extra salary or benefits. They include a $5,000 increase in salary for a juvenile city attorney position; $28,276 in salary for two positions in the mayor’s office: assistant to the mayor, and administrative assistant/secretary.
The positions will be funded by leaving two positions, purchasing agent and grant writer, unfilled. The retirement of a street department employee with 19.5 days of accumulated sick leave and 31 days of accumulated vacation requires an extra $6,503.13 to be transferred from 2016 carryover funds to the street department’s budget, according to the budget adjustment request.