A planned Christmastime festival in downtown Pine Bluff is one step closer to reality after the Pine Bluff City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution to appropriate $65,000 from the Celebration Series of Events and Festivals line item in the 2018 city budget, with the funds coming from the five-eighths cent sales tax approved last year.
Mistletoe Magic, “Believe in Magic” is scheduled for Dec. 6 -9 at Saracen Landing.
In public comments before the council meeting Tuesday, Samuel Glover, who was recently hired as director of the Parks Department, asked members of the council to support the idea.
He said that while an ice skating rink in Pine Bluff doesn’t really fit into his plans, he decided it was “time to back up and get out of the way and give residents an opportunity for an experience they have never had before.”
At a previous meeting of the council, plans for the event were discussed, including the placement of an ice skating rink, a large Santa Claus display, along with other attractions, but the item was tabled after several aldermen expressed concern about spending the money when there were other needs, such as new radios for the police and fire departments.
“I didn’t support this last time because of my concerns about the radios,” Alderman Bruce Lockett said. “I’m rather conservative when it comes to spending city money, but I understand we’re working to solve our problems (with the radios) and get extra money for public safety.”
Alderman Steven Mays, who was another of those who questioned the appropriation, said he was “going to support this and see what all you’re going to do for the kids. I want to see the kids get excited. $65,000 should have some hype with it.”
Mayor Shirley Washington told Mays that the city would be “getting a lot for $65,000.”
Before the regular meeting, the council’s Ways and Means Committee rejected a proposal that would have given Glover a raise from the $53,042.89 that is currently budgeted for the position to $60,000. Assistant Director Trudy Redus, who had served as interim director from 2016 until Glover was hired, will be paid $52,532, while Maintenance Director Kevin Smith will be paid $52,022.82 — the same salary he is currently receiving.
The increase would have come from money that was not spent this year to pay an assistant director because the position was not filled. At a previous meeting, committee members questioned where the money for next year and subsequent years would come from.
Also on Tuesday, the council approved spending $11,291.97 that will come from the Economic and Community Development Department to pay Pine Bluff Cable Television to install cable and internet service lines to a section on the east side of University Drive between Reed and Fluker streets.
Larry Matthews, director of Economic and Community Development, said city and state officials were unaware of a cable blind spot when University Drive was widened.
“We pay them (cable TV) and they do the work,” Matthews said.
The addition of cable and internet service will currently affect less than a half-dozen businesses located on University Drive, but Mays said it will “spur business growth in the future.”