The mayor vetoed legislation Friday that was approved by the Pine Bluff City Council on Monday to accept a bid to re-do the gym flooring at the Chester Hynes Community Center.

The mayor vetoed legislation Friday that was approved by the Pine Bluff City Council on Monday to accept a bid to re-do the gym flooring at the Chester Hynes Community Center.

In a poll of the City Council members conducted by The Commercial Friday evening, the group had enough votes to override the mayor’s veto at the July 2 council meeting, although a couple of the aldermen said their vote could change if new information about the situation emerges.

Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. did not return a message Friday evening seeking comment as to why he chose to veto the legislation.

Typically, the mayor states his reasons in the veto document, which is then distributed the aldermen and the press. Contacted after business hours, City Clerk Loretta Whitfield said the veto was filed with her office shortly before 5 p.m. Friday after it was too late for her to have time to process the forms for distribution. Whitfield said she expected to distribute the paperwork Monday.

At the June 18 council meeting, Alderman Steven Mays accused Redus of delaying the gym floor bid out of anger with Parks and Recreation Department Director Angela Parker, who was involved in a disciplinary action in May against Redus’ wife, a parks department employee. Redus denied the charge and said he thought the council’s action to accept the original low bid of $41,520 from Sports Court of Arkansas would open up the city to potential lawsuits.

Redus had already re-bid the project and asked the aldermen for more time to do “due diligence” on the bids and the different types of flooring options, calling the decision to accept the original bid “premature.”

Parker and Alderman Wayne Easterly and Alderman Bill Brumett have made statements that they believe it is instead Redus’ actions that will open up the city to potential lawsuits because he put the original bidder in an unfair disadvantage by allowing other bidders to bid against them after their bid had been made public.

Parker said Friday that she was not surprised by Redus’ decision to file the veto.

“I knew he’d wind up doing it,” Parker said. “But hopefully, the council will override him at the next meeting. I still think that it’s the best choice for what we want to do. … I’m trying my best to do the right thing and get this done.”

Parker and her staff selected an interlocking type of plastic flooring that can be repaired easily. They went through a bid process and took the lowest bid, which was from Sports Court of Arkansas, to the Pine Bluff City Council Public Works Committee, which recommended the bid to the full council. Two committee members, Mays and Alderman Charles Boyd, signed on as co-sponsors.

The item did not appear on the next council agenda. Asked why by the aldermen, Redus started making a series of arguments against the bid that have continued in the weeks since. Parker and a former Parks and Recreation Department commissioner have disputed some of Redus’ statements as not factual and have stated differing opinions concerning his other reasons.

The item was removed from the June 4 agenda at Redus’ request. But Mays and Boyd brought the proposal back at the June 18 meeting and the bid was accepted 5-1 by the council despite repeated protests from Redus.

Parker said that she has since viewed the other types of flooring options from the bidders in the second round and still believes that the original bid for the interlocking flooring is the best one. She said she has found out that lower bids on different types of flooring from the second bidding cycle did not include certain installation costs, so the totals will be higher than they appeared on the bid comparison sheet. Furthermore, no other bidders submitted bids for the type of flooring that she and her staff have selected as the best product.

Polled by The Commercial on Friday, Alderman Irene Holcomb, Alderman Thelma Walker, Brumett and Mays said they would vote to override the mayor’s veto. Alderman George Stepps and Easterly said they would likely vote to override the veto unless further information emerged to change their positions. Boyd was surprised and said he would like to hear Redus’ reasons and the full council discussion before making a final decision. Brown — who was the sole vote against accepting the bid on June 18 — did not return a phone message asking for comment.

Six votes are required to override a mayoral veto.

“I look forward to overriding it, because it’s for the children,” Mays said, describing the gym floor — as Parker has also in the past — as “dangerous.”

“I think he needs to focus on helping the children and helping the community. I think he needs to leave the adult situations,” of political power play, Mays later explained, “alone and focus on helping the children.”

“The new floor would be a good investment of the citizen’s tax dollars. It’s a good investment for Chester Hynes, the children and the city of Pine Bluff,” Mays said.

Holcomb has been the most vocal proponent of improving the Chester Hynes and Merrill community centers. She started drawing attention to their conditions in 2011 by bringing it up at several council meetings, calling the conditions “dangerous, hazardous [and] unhealthy.”

The council approved in February $59,872 for work at Chester Hynes, knowing that the amount would not be enough to also cover the gym floor, as was stated repeatedly at the time. Funding came from the five-eighths-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in February 2011. During the campaign for that tax, city officials often mentioned a $400,000 annual operating cost for a multipurpose community center that has yet to be built. Parker has said she feels that operating cost money should be used in the meantime to improve conditions for children using the city’s community centers now.

Holcomb has not been at the council meetings where the funding for the gym floor has been discussed as she convalesced after a medical procedure. She said Friday she will be back at the July council meeting and take up the torch for the project again. Holcomb said she had expected the work to be done by now, given how long it has been since she drew attention to the problems.

“I want the project to proceed and go on the way that Rev. Boyd’s committee structured it,” Holcomb said. “I would personally like to see the Parks Department director and the other parks employees have the latitude to make some decisions about what goes on.

“I am deeply concerned about that place. Now it appears that they are doing things that retard the process. I will be back next month. I want the project to go forward. Personally, I don’t think there should have been so much hoopla about it,” Holcomb said.

Brumett said, “I just think it’s the right thing to do — is move on forward with the original proposal.”

Walker said, “Those children need to be playing on that floor, so I will be voting to override it (the veto).”