The Pine Bluff City Council on Monday approved two ordinances waiving competitive bidding on buying police cars and engineering work on extending sewer lines on University Drive.

With no dissent, the council invoked the emergency clause on both ordinances, which were scheduled for just a first reading. The emergency clause puts the legislation into immediate action.

Regarding the police cars, the ordinance said that the Police Department is in need of eight new vehicles, and Smart Dodge has agreed to match the state contract price of $23,161 for each car for a total of $185,288.

Council Member Bruce Lockett asked for an explanation and was told that none of the local car dealers have state contracts to supply vehicles to law enforcement agencies and the like but have indicated that they were willing to match the state price when local agencies are involved.

“We prefer to buy local when we can,” Council Member Glen Brown Jr. said.

Regarding the work on University Drive, Larry Matthews, who runs the city’s Economic and Community Development Department, said McClelland Consulting Engineers has previously done work with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff on the sewer system and was familiar with the project.

The company has agreed to do the work, which includes a topographic survey and design services, for $70,000, which both Matthews and the proposed ordinance described as “fair and reasonable.”

Currently, the city sewer line ends in the 1700 block of North University Drive, and the plans are to extend it to the city limits on North University Drive.

While the council was in agreement on waiving competitive bidding, one member of the audience was not and blasted the council during public comments before the meeting.

Sam Whitfield said the biggest problem with economic growth in Pine Bluff is that the mayor and City Council give big projects to white-owned organizations. Whitfield contended that not one project has been given to a black-owned company.

“It’s a shame that we have a black mayor and seven black council members and no blacks get professional contracts ever. The contacts go to white organizations. This is worse than the apartheid in South Africa.”

Read for a second time and placed on the calender for a final decision next month was a proposed ordinance to close railroad crossings at Alabama, State and Pine streets on 4th Avenue.

Former Pine Bluff Alderman and self-described community activist Jack Foster spoke against the closings during public comments. Foster said the announced reason for the closings was to create a “quiet zone” but said Union Pacific has not committed to doing that. He said their web site indicated they opposed quiet zones.

“Why close the streets until Union Pacific comes to the table?” Foster said.

In other business, the council approved a resolution allowing the Economic and Community Development Department to sell city-owned property at 13th Avenue and Alabama Street for a fair market value price. Matthews said a developer is interested in the property to build housing on it.

A resolution naming Fire Station Six in the Dollarway area for retired Fire Captain Norris Williams was pulled and sent to the Public Safety Committee, where it will be discussed Wednesday afternoon.

Also Monday the council voted to add a resolution commending Rev. Jesse Turner for receiving the Distinguished Service Award on behalf of 400 years of African American History Commission was approved.