While the Administration Committee of the Pine Bluff City Council was expected to discuss resolutions involving the Urban Renewal Agency when they met Monday, that didn’t happen.
At a previous meeting of the committee, Council member Lloyd Holcomb Jr. said that despite a resolution to transfer two people who currently work for the Urban Renewal Agency to the city’s Code Enforcement Department failing to get a do-pass recommendation, he planned to have the full council discuss the issue at a future meeting.
The resolution was a companion to one that the Development and Planning Committee had recommended be approved. It would have transferred equipment used to raze condemned structures that belongs to Urban Renewal to Code Enforcement. The Development and Planning Committee had, however, tacked on a requirement that both resolutions get do-pass recommendations, not just the one that came out of their committee.
What was discussed before the regular meeting of the council was Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant’s need for new police cars and how he could pay for them.
Sergeant said the department is in dire need of new cars. They also need to fill a position in the Records Division that he had given up a year ago, using the funds there for radios.
He proposed leaving six patrol officer positions, which are among the 11 positions currently vacant, unfilled for the final five months of the year in order to purchase the vehicles and pay the salary and benefits for the clerk position.
Earlier this year, the council approved the use of $50,000 in unspent salaries for vehicles, and by adding the additional $210,000 in salaries that will not be spent, Sergeant said he would be able to acquire seven cars -- six for the Patrol Division and one for the Detective Division.
Asked if not filling those positions would hurt the department’s efforts to reduce crime, Sergeant said he would still be able to fill five positions. And since the hiring process takes several months, he said he would probably not be able to fill all the vacant positions anyway.
Regarding the records clerk, Sergeant said that in 2018, he had to give up a position for the clerk, who was taking care of the TRU (Telephone Reporting Unit). His thoughts at that time were to use officers placed on light duty because of injuries or illness to fill the position. He said that idea didn’t work because fewer officers were being placed on light duty now.
“I have a problem creating a position in the middle of the year,” Council member Bruce Lockett said. “If it’s approved, it wouldn’t be fair to the other departments.”
Retired Police Chief Ivan Whitfield, who was elected to the council last year and took office Jan. 1, said Sergeant gave up the position to get radios, which were needed at the time, and he was “put into a position that he should never have been put in.”
Earlier in the discussion, Lockett said that if Sergeant was willing to give up six positions for the remainder of the year, he (Lockett) questioned the need for filling the positions at all and felt that should be discussed.
“When we see crime go down will be the time to have that discussion,” Sergeant said.
During the meeting, the council voted 8-0 for a budget adjustment that will allow Sergeant to get the new cars and add a records clerk through the end of the year.
Also Monday, an ordinance creating the Delta Rhythm and Bayous Cultural and Entertainment District, which, among other things, set standards for open possession of alcoholic beverages, was pulled at the request of all three sponsors and will go back to the Development and Planning Committee when they meet Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. in council chambers.
An ordinance rezoning a section of property on the southeast corner of U.S. Highways 65B (Martha Mitchell Expressway) and U.S. 63 to B-3 Highway Commercial and A-2 Agriculture - Residential was approved 7-0, with Council member Win Trafford abstaining. The property is part of the land where the Saracen Casino and Resort is being constructed.