Despite the objection of two members of the Pine Bluff City Council Monday, a budget adjustment transferring $60,000 from the demolition expense budget of the Quality of Life Division to grass cutting was approved.
Third Ward Alderman Donald Hatchett was the first to voice opposition, saying he had received calls from constituents complaining about the number of burned out and abandoned structures in the city and had seen no progress in reducing that number.
He said “(the city) is doing a great job with the grass cutting but there is no progress in demolition.”
Evelyn Horton, who heads the Quality of Life Division told Hatchett that so far this year, about five houses that were on the condemned list have been abated or torn down. Horton explained that part of the problem has been that construction companies interested in doing the job did not have the training to meet the requirements of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ).
Another member of the council, Alderman Win Trafford said “a lot more money is coming for demolition.”
He was talking about funds from the Go Forward Pine Bluff sales tax initiative.
“Go Forward is addressing both residential and commercial lots,” Mayor Shirley Washington said. “It’s going to happen but grass is what needs to be addressed right now.
She said that several residents of Texas and some local residents had recently purchased properties on the condemned list and plan to renovate them, and the properties will remain on the list until they’re renovated.”
“You may not see all the progress this summer but next summer will be better than this summer,” Washington said.
Hatchett, who was attending only his second meeting of the council since missing several months with a severe illness, said his constituents wanted to “see progress and not just promises.”
He said those constituents were concerned that the value of their property was declining because of the inaction of the city to demolish the burned out structures.
Hatchett and Alderman Bruce Lockett voted no on the transfer of the money while Alderwomnan Thelma Walker and Alderman Bill Brumett, Steven Mays, Glen Browj Jr., and Trafford voted for the transfer.
The final member of the council, Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr. was absent Monday night. Washington said before the meeting that Holcomb had been taken to Jefferson Regional Medical Center Monday after complaining of chest pains and was being held overnight for observation.
In their only real item of business Monday, a proposed ordinance that authorizes Washington to sign a contract with a law firm to represent the city’s interest in a lawsuit against online travel companies who were are liable for gross sales taxes on rooms they book with Pine Bluff hotels and motels was read for the second time.
Two other proposed ordinances, both dealing with smoking in public places and setting out guidelines for cigar bars or smoking lounges to be included in the city’s code of ordinances were pulled before they could be read for the first time and sent back to committee. Hatchett, who is chairman of the Public Health and Welfare Committee, said that committee will meet June 26 at 2 p.m. in the City Council Chambers
A resolution dealing with structures to be abated was amended Monday to remove three properties on Main Street that are owned by Danny Bradshaw, also known as Mr. Brick. Bradshaw is the owner of 309, 311 and 313 S. Main St. and wants to tear them down to salvage the bricks. Brown Jr., moved to remove those three from the list while more research is done.