By a 6-1 vote, the Pine Bluff City Council approved an ordinance to annex land expected to be the site of the Saracen Resort and Casino into the city limits.
The ordinance was up for only a first reading, but the council voted to suspend the rules and read it three times, then also attach an emergency clause so the ordinance would go into effect immediately.
Council member Bruce Lockett cast the only no vote after trying unsuccessfully to find out who owned the property, which is located at the corner of the Martha Mitchell Expressway and U.S. 63. Property records show that the land is partially owned by the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County. The rest is privately owned.
Lou Ann Nesbitt, president and CEO of the Alliance, said the Alliance had been buying land in that area for a possible distribution center before the casino issue was passed by voters last year.
Council member Win Trafford, who is a realtor in Pine Bluff, abstained from the vote at Monday's council meeting.
Earlier this month, the Quapaw Indian Nation formally filed an application with the Arkansas Racing Commission to operate the casino. Applications will be accepted through the end of the month, but the Pine Bluff mayor and Jefferson County judge have both given their approval to the Quapaw Nation’s bid.
Also Monday, a proposed ordinance that will remove a box in employment applications asking if the person applying for a city position has been convicted of a felony was adopted 8-0. Sponsored by Mayor Shirley Washington and Council member Lloyd Holcomb Jr., the ordinance says the city views the box “as an obstacle to people who are attempting to re-enter the workforce, in that it arbitrarily excludes convicted felons, without considering other factors that may offset his/her previous offenses.”
Read for a second time was a proposed ordinance dealing with the storage, recycling and disposal of used tires, which, among other things, would require tire dealers and those who deal in tires to maintain an approved container for the storage of discarded, waste or used tires, and marking placed on each tire to designate where it came from. During the pre-council meeting, Washington questioned the tire marking requirement, and the matter will be discussed in more detail at a committee meeting later this month.
Also read for the first time was a proposed ordinance to modify the city’s existing code of ordinances dealing with licensing and fees for apartments, business and commercial properties and residential housing repair. Among other things, the proposed ordinance eliminates exemptions for three or fewer units.
In other action Monday, the council approved a resolution to close portions of West 4th Avenue (1600 - 1800 block); the 300 block of Maple Street, 300 block of Hickory Street, the 2000 block of West 7th Avenue, the 600 block of Maple Street and the east-west alley located west of Cypress Street in the 1800 block. The closure was requested by Union Pacific Railroad which is planning track work in the areas.
The council also approved the following resolutions:
• A resolution adopting the Pine Bluff Transit Title VI program.
• A resolution supporting the Pine Bluff National Ten Point Pen or Pencil Expansion Hub.
• A resolution authorizing the mayor to contract with McClelland Consulting Engineers for engineering design relating to the West 28th Avenue bridge rehabilitation project.
• A resolution appointing Carolyn Jackson to the Pine Bluff Planning Commission.
• A resolution appointing former Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth to the Civic Auditorium Complex Commission.
• A resolution allowing the Pine Bluff Youth Council to present a report of their activities immediately following the presentation of council committee reports but before the council considers ordinances and resolutions.
• A resolution authorizing a contract with Colorado Time Systems for a time system for the Aquatic Center.