Council hunts for solution
EUREKA SPRINGS -- The proposed urban deer hunt commanded everyone's attention again at the August 18 city council meeting. During public comments, three speakers expressed their concern at the way hunt is shaping up.
"How did a one-time hunt become a five-day hunt?" Diane Stull asked, also wondering how hunters would know the property lines. She said she was concerned that Arkansas Game & Fish (AG&F) would not be here during the hunt.
Melissa Green was also concerned about proper oversight. She said she reluctantly voted for the hunt because she understood it was to have the oversight of AG&F.
"I respectfully ask council to go over this carefully," she said.
Jasmine Stanley called the deer hunt "a mishap," saying she cannot believe the city is taking care of the problem this way. Like the others, she said she had no idea the hunt would last five days. She cautioned council there is time to reconsider and she is totally opposed to the hunt.
Alderman Butch Berry passed around copies of the rules issued for the urban deer hunt in Heber Springs and suggested council use it as a model for drafting their own, reminding council they can set their own guidelines. Rules require each hunter to pass the International Bowhunters Education Course as well as a shooting proficiency test.
Experts Berry said he has spoken with say a one-day hunt won't do anything to alleviate the problem, and five days is just a start.
"We have too many deer because we stopped hunting deer," Berry said.
Alderman Ken Pownall said people feel the event has changed from the event they voted on. He also wants to ensure that neighbors near a prospective hunting property know the hunt will be happening near them, and wants the city to screen hunters.
Alderman Parker Raphael said he saw too many questions and suggested they postpone the whole thing.
Pownall began to make a motion about writing a resolution that included some of the language from the document Berry provided, but decided instead to recommend canceling the hunt and preparing for next year instead. He said he felt the rules are in order, but was concerned about the hunters.
Pownall eventually made a motion the city try to get someone from Arkansas Bowhunters Association to come to Eureka Springs and conduct hunter training. Council voted 3-0-1, alderman Lany Ballance abstaining, in favor of Pownall's motion.
Council considered the proposed ordinance on non-conforming multi-family dwellings in the R-1 zone. The ordinance lists properties with multi-family dwellings which might not conform to city zoning code but which existed before the code was adopted.
Pownall said he had some questions on the proposed ordinance, and wants a commissioner from Planning at the meeting to answer questions from council. Ballance also had some questions, saying, "I would be remiss if I always took what Planning gives us and say yes, yes, yes." She said it is her job to make sure and get answers, and was not ready to sign off on the ordinance.
Berry agreed it would help if someone from Planning were there, but said they read ordinances three times to give them time to get answers. He commented that these properties listed in the ordinance still must conform to the building code. It is the zoning code with which they do not conform because they were in existence before the code was established.
The ordinance was approved on its first reading 3-0-1, Ballance abstaining.
Ballance moved to extend the moratorium on electronic/digital signs. Pownall then told council that the moratorium had expired so they can't extend it. He instead offered a resolution for a moratorium on signs, and after much discussion his resolution was reworded to include sentiments of council and still impose a moratorium on digital/electronic signs until January 1, 2012. The resolution passed 4-0.
Yellow bags for all
Ballance reported the yellow bag research committee has noticed lots of commercial customers do not use the yellow bags, and she feels it is unfair that residents must comply with the rule while businesses do not. She said the rule should either be abolished or enforced.
Berry countered by reading from the ordinance which states commercial customers can use other bags. Ballance maintained that the situation is unfair. Berry recommended that the mayor, the city attorney and the solid waste folks should work it out. Mayor Morris Pate said he will contact Carroll County Solid Waste about the issue.
Pate reported he had not had any contact since the previous meeting with Walmart representatives regarding the possible construction of an express store in Eureka Springs, but he had received a letter from Mike Bishop, President of the Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce, writing to say the chamber likes the Walmart project because of the additional tax revenue, the new sewer line to be paid for by Walmart, and the fact that Walmart traditionally supports local projects.
Pownall said until the process has been followed, he feels uncomfortable even talking about Walmart, but he cautioned the public not to get the cart before the horse on Walmart, saying, "We'll go through the process." He asked that citizens hold council accountable.
Raphael moved to postpone indefinitely discussing an ordinance placing strict limitations on the activities of the Parks Commission, then agreed to change his motion to a two-meeting postponement. After much wrangling and procedural research, the group voted 3-1, Berry voting No, to postpone the discussion until the September 15 meeting.
Independent Forensic Audit
Ballance said she wanted to move forward on having an independent forensic audit of the city's finances. She wants to find out who can do it and how to pay for it.
Berry asked why she wanted this additional audit. The state, he said, would provide an audit if there were evidence that one were necessary.
Ballance replied, "We have issues," and said the year-end balances don't add up and people should welcome an audit if there is nothing to hide. As for the expense, she said it would be a small percentage of the city budget, and the city should pursue it. "Whichever way it fell, it would be an enlightening experience," she said.
Ballance said she will do some research on how much this would cost before the mid-year budget review, which was subsequently set for August 29 at 10 a.m.
Energy grant discussion
Nick Brown, President of the Climate Energy Environment Group, gave council a preview of the information he will share at a public hearing on Thursday, August 25, at 7 p.m. He provided data demonstrating that Eureka Springs is just below the national average on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
He said that Eureka Springs was the first city in Arkansas to complete a GHG inventory, and said having a baseline means that the city can now make decisions going forward about how to offset that number.
Parks Director Bruce Levine reported a recent grant will provide for the installation of 11 LED lights in parks and around town. The decorative lights will replace existing lights and provide great savings over the life of the bulbs.
He also said he was contacted by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism about a possible grant of up to $100,000 which could provide improvements at Lake Leatherwood such as repairing trails and creating new wildlife viewing stations.
Levine reported an architectural company from Tulsa rented out all the cabins at Lake Leatherwood for War Eagle weekend. He also presented the certified mid-year budget to the city clerk/treasurer.
Charles Ragsdell was approved for a CAPC seat 3-0-1, with Ballance abstaining, and Robert Walling was approved to sit on the Hospital Commission 3-0-1, Ballance again abstaining. Pate nominated Jan Grinnell for the Parks Commission.
Council set Monday, Sept. 12, at 11 a.m. for a workshop on goals for the council.
During a brief discussion of requirements for the finance director, Raphael asked if the city could hire an outside agency to perform the job. Pownall moved to postpone further discussion until the budget review.
Next meeting will be Thursday, Sept. 1, at 6 p.m.
Minutes to reflect all comments
During the discussion of approving the minutes of previous meetings, Mayor Morris Pate mentioned that comments made by alderman Lany Ballance were not reflected in the minutes. He pointed out that she had commented he had possibly committed grand theft or was guilty of malfeasance for donating a vehicle no longer used by the city to Carroll County airport. These comments were not in the minutes.
City Clerk/Treasurer Ann Armstrong, who takes the minutes, responded that she did not feel comfortable recording extremely rude comments in the minutes. Alderman Ken Pownall agreed that the primary intent of minutes is to record the business of the meeting, but Berry said it is important for the minutes to reflect the tenor of the discussions, so all comments should be recorded.
Pate also noted for the record that in another meeting Ballance had made comments to Mark Hayes, attorney from the Municipal League, which also were not reflected in the minutes. Ballance had said during a discussion of the cell tower negotiations, "I wish our attorneys would protect us, not infect us," and this comment was also not reflected in the minutes.
In the end, Armstrong said she would amend the minutes to reflect those comments, but was doing so under duress. Pate said he wished those kinds of comments would simply cease.