The Pine Bluff City Council on Monday voted to waive competitive bidding and sign an agreement with a law firm to insure the proper payment of insurance claims from the March 10 hail storm.


The city had previously contracted with Harold Hall Roofing Co. to perform repairs to city buildings and to be paid from insurance claims filed by the city.


According to the resolution, “difficulties have arisen with respect to proper payment of the insurance claims by the insurer and it has become necessary for the city to obtain legal counsel (the firm of Gilbert, McWherter, Scott & Bobitt, PLC) to represent its interests with respect to the claims.”


Harold Hall Roofing has agreed to contribute to the city’s costs and expenses associated with retaining the law firm, the proposed ordinance said. It was adopted without dissent, as was an emergency clause meaning it will go into effect immediately.


Also Monday, a proposed ordinance that would have changed the license and occupation tax fee structure for apartment houses, business and commercial properties for rent or lease and residential housing repairs made by owners to properties they own, such as apartments, duplexes and triplexes, was pulled and will be sent to committee.


Alderman Bill Brumett, who had signed on as a sponsor, said more research and discussion about the new fee structure needs to take place.


With Alderwoman Thelma Walker voting no, a proposed resolution authorizing the mayor to contract with Birch Communications to provide analog telephone services was approved 6-1. Alderman Donald Hatchett, who has been ill, was absent Monday.


At a pre-meeting of the council, Mayor Shirley Washington said the new phone plan will result in “tremendous savings.”


Alderman Bruce Lockett, who, during a committee meeting earlier this year had voiced concern about switching phone companies, said the city went through the proper procedures when it asked for bids. Lockett seconded a motion by Alderman Win Trafford to recommend the resolution be approved by the full council.


Also approved was a resolution authorizing the mayor to contract with McClelland Engineers for professional engineering services on the West 13th Avenue reconstruction.


McClelland, who is currently under contract with the city for other services, will be paid $10,000 for their work in right-of-way and utility relocation service along the proposed route, which will be between Hickory and Hazel Streets.


A resolution appointing Janice Roberts to the board of directors of the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Board of Directors was also approved. Roberts will replace Diane Tatum, whose term expired and will serve until April 30, 2021.