The Pine Bluff City Council meeting was called to order on Monday, March 16 at 5:30 p.m. to an empty filled room. The meeting was closed to the general public as a precautionary due to the coronavirus in the area.

The Pine Bluff City Council meeting was called to order on Monday, March 16 at 5:30 p.m. to an empty filled room. The meeting was closed to the general public as a precautionary due to the coronavirus in the area.
During the committee reports the Ways and Means Committee had three budget adjustments. The first one was a budget re-hire for Joseph Warren at $39,318.
The second budget adjustment was a 50% payment to HaroldHall Roofing for Transit Center, Hangar T, Flight Schedule Office, Maintenance Building, Wash Rack Building, Firing Range and Firing Range Storage. It was approved in the amount of $241,850.45.
The last budget adjustment was for the salary of the code enforcement director to be brought in at $50,000.
“We were looking for an experienced code enforcement director to move our code enforcement in the direction that we needed it to go,” said Mayor Shirley Washington. “And so to find somebody with that level of background and experience we had to offer them more than the 45 that we offered.”
Washington states the person hired for the position comes with six years of experience, leadership skills and a success record in the area of code enforcement.
During the Economic and Community Development Committee report a request was made to delay the reading of the ordinance providing for the rezoning of certain territory in the city if Pine Bluff on 3108 Oakwood Road.
City Council member Bruce Lockett asked the reason for the delayed reading.
According the ordinance, the City of Pine Bluff Planning Commission held a public hearing on February 25, 2020. The purpose of which was to hear any and all persons interested in amending the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Pine Bluff.
“We talked about it in the Development and Planning but I don’t think there is anything that is going to come up new on this particular piece of property,” said Lockett.
Council member Glen Brown Jr. responded saying they talked about the meeting but were on the fence about it. “I think it will give the public a chance to respond to it once,” said Brown. “Of course we don’t have any public here tonight.”
Council member Win Trafford said he felt good about the rezoning but because the public could not be in attendance, he agreed with Brown.
Lockett disagreed stating a public meeting had already been held as well as letters that were mailed by the Planning Commission. “This guy has the only piece of property that can be developed in that area because the rest of it is in a flood plain,” said Lockett.
The property is located in Ward 3, an area that council member Donald Hatchett says needs improving. “This is an opportunity for the City of Pine Bluff to put a property on the tax row and seek an improvement in an area that is very much needed as it is the number one dump spot in the 3rd Ward,” said Hatchett.
Brown responded saying his recommendation to read it at the next meeting didn’t mean the ordinance wound not pass. “I’m not saying it’s not going pass,” said Brown. “I’m just saying to give people an opportunity to respond to it.”
According to Hatchett the public had time to comment.
The ordinance was read twice during the proposed ordinances segment of the meeting. The motion failed 5 to 3 for a third reading and was placed on the calendar.
During the Public Health and Welfare reports, council member Ivan Whitfield said a public health safety issue was brought to his attention dealing with masks for the fire department. According to Whitfield he received a letter stating the first responders did not have enough masks to respond to a call to service.
Trafford, the Public Safety chair, responded saying there was a shortage across the country. He went on to say the fire department had masks but they were not putting them on for every call and all calls were being screened.
According to Trafford, a protocol and precautions have been put in place, which includes screening calls for travel and symptoms.
“The fire department will not even go inside a residence or anything if there is suspicion of the virus,” said Trafford.
Locket suggested all medical calls be suspended until the abundance supply of masks needed was available.
“The Chief and I discussed this last night and we talked about the possibility of suspending certain types of medical calls,” said Washington. “That final decision has not been made yet but it will be made very soon.”
N95 masks are a one-time use respirator masks crucial for coronavirus protection. There has been a global shortage due to civilians buying up much-needed medical supplies according to health officials.
According to the Pine Bluff Fire Chief, the masks are on back order.
“Those are the ones that are short supplied throughout the country,” said Shauwn Howell, Pine Bluff Fire Chief. “We have to be resourceful in using them when we use them.”
Howell explained the first line of defense is to put the basic mask on the patient so the patient does not contaminate the environment. According to Howell, they have an adequate supply of the basic masks.
Howell said he has spoken with the state department and OEM letting them know that masks are needed in the community.
Lockett said he received a phone call from a firefighter who was “terribly upset” by the possibility of responding to a medical call without a mask. Lockett’s concern was due to the shortage the fire fighters would be put in harms way.
“It’s not fair that he puts a mask on a patient and not have a mask for himself, “said Lockett. “You can’t have a firefighter with an anxiety of doing their job.”
Council member Joni Alexander disagreed and reminded the council when becoming a first responder there is a greater responsibility. “You put your life on the line to protect your city and to keep order going,” said Alexander.
Alexander requested before making a decision, the council seek a professional opinion.
“This is a major, major concern,” said Washington who said she has spoken to the Arkansas Department of Health about the masks. “One of the ways that they explained it is if the infected patient has the regular mask it will prevent any droplets from going into the air. This is not an airborne virus; it is transferred through the droplets.”
Washington stated if there are responders in an environment where there are a lot of people and they don’t know who has it then they will need the N95 mask. She went on to explain because the first responders are working with one patient at a time, as long as the patient is covered, the first responder should be safe.
An ordinance to accept portions of U.S. Highway 63, Section 13B into the street system for the city of Pine Bluff, Jefferson County from the Arkansas Department of transportation was motioned to be sent to the Traffic and Aviation Committee.
A resolution to appoint Sederick Charles Rice to the Pine Bluff Utility Commission, Carl Edward Davis to the Code Enforcement Board of Adjustments and Appeals and Dennis Bradley to the Code Enforcement Board of Adjustments and Appeals
was approved by the city council with comments from the council that all appointees were good choices.
The resolution declaring certain houses, buildings and structures as nuisances and ordering their abatement was also approved to conclude the city council meeting.