A resolution calling on the city to acquire two properties on East Harding Avenue that were the sites of motels was defeated Monday night during a meeting of the Pine Bluff City Council. With Alderman Donald Hatchett absent because of illness, the council voted 5-2 to reject the resolution, which was sponsored by Alderwoman Thelma Walker.
According to the resolution, the two properties, one at 2100 E. Harding Ave., the site of the former Executive Inn, and 2700 E. Harding Ave., the site of the former America's Best Inn, would be acquired via purchase, contribution or eminent domain, including acquisition during a public auction by the State Land Commissioner, which is scheduled for May 30.
In defending the proposal, Walker said the properties would “be an asset to the city” and could be used to create an amusement park for children.
Alderman Win Trafford spoke against the proposal, saying, “We need to slow down. The city has a lot of property in town that needs to be taken care of.”
Trafford suggested seeing if a private investor would be interested in acquiring the property for an amusement park.
“I disagree,” Walker said. “We have to look out for our children.”
Alderman Bruce Lockett said the decision on whether to acquire the property should be left to the mayor and city attorney.
“We're not in the business of property management,” Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington said.
Alderman Steven Mays said he supported the proposed resolution to acquire the properties to have a “vision for the future.”
Only Walker and Mays voted for the resolution, while Aldermen Bill Brumett, Lloyd Holcomb Jr., Glen Brown Jr., Trafford and Lockett voted no.
Also Monday, the council voted to reappoint Edward Fontenette, LaNelle Roberts and Alisa Smith to the Board of Trustees of the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library System, and to appoint Dr. Loretta Kaye Crippen to the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas Board of Trustees.
In other business, a proposed ordinance that would increase the uniform clothing allowance for members of the police and fire and emergency services departments from $600 to $800 annually was read for the first time. During the final meeting in January, a similar ordinance was read but it applied only to the Police Department.
An ordinance to increase the number of maximum vacation days for members of the Police Department with more than 20 years of service from 20 days to 24 days was read for a second time. That proposed ordinance does not include members of the Fire Department, whose work schedule is different. Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell said the city attorney's office is currently working on an ordinance that would offer the same benefit to veteran firefighters.