Although a resolution to allow transferring workers from the Urban Renewal Agency to Code Enforcement failed to win the approval of a Pine Bluff City Council committee Wednesday, the chairman of that committee plans to have it discussed by the full council when they meet Monday.
“We’re going to have to come together for the betterment of the city, even though it was a ‘do not pass’ in this Administration Committee meeting on this morning,” First Ward Council member Lloyd Holcomb Jr. said. “There’s still some discussion about if Urban Renewal can work with Code Enforcement on this endeavor.
On July 3, the Development and Planning Committee recommended that a resolution transferring equipment from Urban Renewal to Code Enforcement be approved if this companion resolution regarding the transfer of workers also passed.
Maurice Taggart, director of Urban Renewal, said at a previous meeting that “there is a question about Urban Renewal’s power and the (resolutions) will solve that.”
He said that while Urban Renewal is permitted to work in only three designated areas in the city to eliminate blight, Code Enforcement can work in the entire city, and the transfer of equipment and manpower would save the city money.
Taggart said that if the agency is no longer charged with tearing down old structures, it will likely shift its focus to other areas in the designated Urban Renewal Zone to help with revitalization.
Questions arose at Wednesday’s meeting about the legality of the transfer of equipment, employees and monies from the Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency to the City of Pine Bluff Department of Code Enforcement.
Both Ward 4 council members Steven Mays and Bruce Lockett vehemently opposed the resolution.
“It’s going to be fights every day about who’s in control over there,” Mays insisted.
Holcomb called a special meeting of the Administration Committee for 4:15 p.m. to precede the regular council meeting at 5:30 p.m.
Also Wednesday, committee members went back and forth about salary discrepancies across departments before the standing-room-only crowd.
Mayor Shirley Washington came before the committee requesting a budget adjustment for the position of administrative assistant 3. Washington said that a current part-time worker has exceeded the level of experience for the base salary of about $25,000, adding that even the midpoint salary of $32,000 still wasn’t “enough” for the woman expected to fill the role.
“… I feel like it’s time to bring her on full-time,” Washington said. “She’s proven herself to be the one to measure up to the level of work that we do in our office.”
Washington’s request was met with resistance, as City Clerk Loretta Whitfield insisted that her administrative assistant 3 wasn’t getting paid midpoint salary despite her experience in the field and the demanding needs in her office.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” said Whitfield, adding that the request to get a higher salary for her assistant was denied.
Before the committee approved the $32,000 budget adjustment, Lockett also chimed in to offer his opinion on the matter.
“What I have a problem with is when you hire a person permanently and they have a full-time position with a title on it, and if we increase that, that’s a promotion and that’s got to be seen across city-wide,” Lockett said.
“Whatever distinction that we did to get that person to another level, the other people in the department would have to have such. If a department head petitions this committee to say they want to bring in a person above entry level, I think that it’s dependent upon them having the funds in their office to do such and being able to convince the committee that (their) qualifications are above entry level.”
Holcomb said that committee members would work with the Human Resources department to solve any additional inconsistencies involving pay among city employees.
“We want to provide a good working environment and good living wage,” Holcomb said. “We value all of our employees at the city.”
Washington’s request for the budget adjustment which would bring the salary plus benefits is one of a number of budget adjustments the council will consider during the meeting.
Other items on the agenda including a proposed ordinance rezoning the southeast corner of Highway 65B and Highway 63 to B-3, Highway Commercial. The property is part of the acreage where the Saracen Casino and Resort will be located.
Staff Writer Shakari Briggs contributed to this report