The Pine Bluff City Council on Monday pulled a resolution that would have increased funding for the Merrill Center by more than $22,600 for the summer because the resolution’s sponsor could not agree on its wording.
Alderwoman Thelma Walker had sponsored the resolution, with the funds to come from money the district court receives from delayed installment payments on fines and court costs. The resolution said that the money was needed “particularly during the summer months when school is out.”
During the initial discussion, Alderman Steven Mays said he had visited the center Monday and suggested painting the walls.
“We always want to start with the big stuff but we need to do the little things first,” Mays said.
Mayor Shirley Washington, who earlier this year said that a complete renovation of the center was planned after ground was broken for the aquatic center, told Mays that she had been looking at renovations, and “I don’t want to do anything to waste money.”
She said she believed the greatest immediate need was to present programs that will make an impact on the lives of the children who use the center.
Walker said she believed the money should be used “where the young people can see (what the money was spent for). They should have some input so we can get the best bang for the bucks.”
Specifically, Walker was unhappy with a part of the resolution that called for the funds to be appropriated “to the Merrill Center for its use in funding its operations.”
Assistant City Attorney Joe Childers, when questioned by Walker about how to change the resolution to fit what she wanted, suggested taking out the words “in funding its operations.”
When asked by Walker who would make the decisions on how the funds were spent, Childers said it would be the director of the center, who answers to the director of parks and recreation, who answers to the mayor.
Walker said she wanted something to “directly benefit the children.”
“What ever way we spend the money would benefit the children,” Washington said.
Also Monday, the council approved the appointment of Michael Allen Wilson, the owner of Harbor Oaks Golf Course and Restaurant, as the newest member of the Advertising and Promotion Commission, but not before Mays complained that Wilson’s application, which showed a 71602 ZIP code, did not show a street address.
Alderman Win Trafford pointed out that Wilson filled out the form correctly, based on the way it is prepared. The form calls for listing city, state and ZIP code but not street address. Wilson also checked yes to the box asking of he was a resident of the city.
Washington said she had talked to Wilson, who verified that he lived in the city, but said she did not go to his house to check.
“It’s a big deal,”Mays said, again referring to the ZIP code. For several years, Mays has contended, without proof, that the City of White Hall, which also has the 71602 ZIP code, is receiving tax revenue that should be going to Pine Bluff.
“You know better than anyone that there are people in Pine Bluff with the 71602 ZIP code,” Washington said.
“People in White Hall do too,” Mays said.
Washington also said that if city officials find out that Wilson does not live in the city, he would be removed from the commission.
The council also approved a resolution authorizing Washington to contract with Kraus Construction Company to perform work on the West Barraque Street sewer project.
Kraus Construction actually submitted the second lowest bid for the project but was moved to the top of the list when the lowest bidder RJ Parker Construction withdrew. Kraus Construction submitted a bid of $314,807, just over $9,000 less than the third place bidder.
Also Monday, the council welcomed back Alderman Donald Hatchett, who had been out for several months due to a serious illness.