Commissions spar on animals, infrastructure and personnel

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Eureka springs -- During the April 7 City Council meeting, commissions reported on issues under their consideration, although few were settled.

Crying fowl

Brad Banaszek, Chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, presented results of 18 months of work on a domestic fowl ordinance which stipulates a citizen might be able to have up to 10 chickens or 20 pigeons or quail, but not more than a total of 25 birds, all of which must be contained in appropriate enclosures at all times.

City Attorney Tim Weaver said the ordinance was intended to supplement City Ordinance 6.08, but Alderman Ken Pownall said that the way the new ordinance reads, it is not clear that it does not eliminate parts of the existing ordinance, 6.08, including the ban on feeding deer, or language regarding horses, mules, rabbits and other animals.

Alderman Butch Berry also wanted the police department to review the document to see if it was enforceable. Council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance on first reading with the condition that the police review it and that Planning clear up issues regarding other animals.

Mayor Morris Pate brought information from Dick Baxter, Assistant Deer Program Coordinator of Arkansas Game & Fish, about the proposed deer hunt to relieve problems caused by too many deer. Baxter asserted that if citizens feel there are too many deer, then there probably are too many deer.

AG&F agents could conduct a count, he said, but a count might be inaccurate or misleading, and even with a reliable count the issue still would be where to conduct the hunt. Pownall said that if the city can't get private property owners to participate, the hunt won't be successful.

Berry said he counted 18 deer in his yard last week. His dog was becoming a nuisance to neighbors because it was barking at all the deer. The ban on feeding deer has not worked because the deer instead eat his hostas.

Council eventually passed a motion by DeVito to post a notice in the Carroll County News asking for private property owners to come forward and announce their willingness for a hunt to occur on their property. There will also be a notice posted on the city website.

Planning still short

Alderman Dean Kirkpatrick said Mickey Schneider's nomination to serve on the Planning Commission had already been rejected, and Alderman Lany Ballance moved to table this item indefinitely.

Berry replied that he is against tabling the vote because the commission needs two people. Alderman James DeVito pointed out that Schneider is qualified, experienced and ready to serve.

Alderman Janet Alexander said since the commission had two vacancies, she would prefer to wait and approve two at the same time to fill both vacancies. DeVito said he wanted to move ahead with what is at hand now rather than wait for another candidate to be nominated. When the vote was called, DeVito and Berry voted for Schneider's nomination and Kirkpatrick, Pownall, Alexander and Ballance voted against it, so Schneider's nomination was tabled indefinitely.

HDC Nomination fails

In another discussion of filling a vacancy, Richard Grinnell had been nominated to serve on the Historic District Commission. Ballance said she received calls of concern about Grinnell from citizens, and Berry spoke up to announce that he could refute what Ballance had been told.

When the vote came, Berry and DeVito voted for approval, Kirkpatrick abstained, and Ballance, Pownall and Alexander voted against, so the motion to approve Grinnell's nomination failed.

Fort to chair

Pam Crockett of the Hospital Commission said she will remain on the commission but that Bill Fort will become Chair.

Dam deterioration

The mayor asked Dee Purkeypile, a dam expert, to report on the condition of the dam at Black Bass Lake. Purkeypile said the dam is deteriorating quickly. There has been progressive sagging over time. "We can't let this languish any longer," he said, because a failure of the dam would jeopardize a pump station downstream from the lake.

The lake is valued as a recreational outlet and historical structure, dating back to the 1880s. Its primary value, though, is its contribution to the capacity of Eureka Springs to fight fires. Purkeypile said the dam might be in jeopardy if a severe weather event occurred. He said, "There were two significant weather events in 2008, so we know that they will happen."

As for what to do next, council asked Purkeypile to prepare a list of options, and he warned that there will be considerable expense for any of the options. He expects that "available money will drive the solution." He will report back.

CAPC firings

Joanne Graupner, interim director of the City Advertising and Promotion Commission, announced that it had been a tough day at their office because two employees, Eric Young and Sheila Hulsey, were relieved of their duties. Graupner said the move was not because of job performance, but was part of a strategy for "extending the budget."

Graupner said she had rearranged job duties in the office among the remaining staff to cover all the CAPC responsibilities.

No basin park video

Bill Featherstone and Bruce Levine of Parks and Recreation were setting up the video of their proposed Basin Park project as their report. Pownall, however, objected to its being shown because the public had not been properly informed of the showing in advance and would have no chance to make public comment.

Pownall asked if they had made presentation to the Historical District Commission or the Planning Commission already, and Featherstone said they had. He added that they were not asking for anything, only showing a virtual tour of their project. Pownall insisted that it should be on the council's agenda before it is shown.

DeVito responded that the video was for information purposes only and he was appalled that any alderman would not want to be informed, yet council voted not to see the presentation at that time.

Parks requested $5,000, saying they wanted to spend $3,000 for surveillance cameras and $2,000 for resurfacing playgrounds. This was considerably less than previous requests, but Kirkpatrick asked, "What's next? What else are you going to ask for? Why don't you guys stay within your budget?"

Ballance looked to Pate and said, "You keep telling us we don't have any money."

City Finance Director Yvonne Kline briefly discussed the items in the capital budget and pointed out that there is money available. Council voted unanimously to approve the request.

Immediately after the vote, however, Ballance asked for a clarification of what they had just approved. She moved they reconsider the motion because she had not been clear on what they were voting on. Kirkpatrick seconded her motion, but the motion was not reconsidered.

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