The Jan. 28 Eureka Springs City Council meeting was mostly about getting its ducks in a row.
Minus Alderman James DeVito, the council went into its second meeting of the year at full speed and went through a healthy agenda in exactly one hour and 27 minutes, mostly likely a record of some sort.
Four new commissioners were approved right off the bat: Dr. Jack Pritchard for position 5 of the Hospital Commission, and M.J. Sell for Position 6; Robert Schmidt for CAPC; and Ferguson Stewart for Parks & Rec.
Council also dove into several ordinances that had been on its agenda for awhile. One was Ordinance 2172, requested by Planning, which deals with city code as it pertains to allowing vendors to sell merchandise at events such as the Eurekan or the blues festival. The ordinance changes the wording in city code from "city sponsored" events to "city approved" or "city permitted" events. This change came about because the city has in recent years veered away from sponsoring so many events, and the wording as it was did not allow vendors from privately organized events to sell accompanying memorabilia. Now they can.
Ordinance 2173, also passed Monday night, adjusts the costs of several parking violation fines and sets a three-hour time limit on handicapped parking. The violation fee for an expired parking meter or the failure to pay any pay parking metering device as approved and used by the city is now $10 for each ticketed offense. The cost for exceeding the three-hour limit on handicapped parking is $20 per offense. Other parking violation fees are now set as follows:
* Careless Parking: $20
* No parking zone: $20
* Loading zone violation: $20
* Post Office (excess of 10 minutes): $20
* Blocking driveway: $25
* Blocking traffic lane: $25
* Parking within 15 ft. of a fire hydrant: $50
* Blocking a fire station: $100
* Parking in a reserved space: $20
* Any other specified violation not covered: $20
Budget resolution just fine
Another issue left over from last council was whether to approve the city's budget by ordinance or resolution. Resolutions are more flexible than ordinances and easier to pass; however, controversy arose with the last council because a former aldermen interpreted state code incorrectly, City Attorney Tim Weaver said, when she alleged that the city must set the number of police officers (and other personnel) by ordinance. Weaver said this is not the case.
Yet some on the previous council felt this meant council should pass an ordinance specifically limiting the number of police officers the city has on its force.
Others argued that since the number of officers was set by the budget, passing the budget by ordinance would accomplish both goals.
City Attorney Tim Weaver agreed. "Many other cities do budgets by resolution and police the same way," Weaver said. "Most larger cities use resolutions because they want to flexibility to change it at a rapid pace.
Alderman Mickey Schneider disagreed. "This is Eureka Springs," she said. "Would it not behoove us to do it by ordinance anyway, just to be safe?"
Weaver pointed out that the idea cities should approve their budgets by ordinance is an Attorney General opinion, not a law. "And if you read it closely," he adds, "it suggests you are fine passing it as a resolution."
Weaver added council was within its right to go the ordinance route, as this would "defeat certain people who are inclined to argue at every opportunity," but he added that all the aldermen had on their desks a copy of the AG's opinion that the city is covered as it now stands. "Anyone can refer to that at any time," he said.
Adlerman David Mitchell put the issue to a vote, making a motion to approve the city budget by resolution.
"We shouldn't live under fear," as Alderman Dee Purkeypile put it. "We are here to do the city's business, and we should not be fearful of something that may or may not happen."
The others agreed, and the budget was passed unanimously by resolution.
Council also voted unanimously not to pursue a solid waste advisory committee, a group suggested last year based on one former alderman's interpretation of state code.
"As I commented last time, I don't believe we need one," Weaver said. "I've reviewed the history of the issue. We haven't had one in some time, and I do not feel it is required. The purpose of that panel would be to handle complaints and direct them to council as they pertain to solid waste management, but anyone with an issue can go directly to the city if they want to. But if you want one, you can legally have one."
Council decided unanimously to drop the issue.
Council discussed what it's priorities should be for the next year or two, with Purkeypile suggesting sewage be one issue and Black Bass Dam be another.
"Black Bass Dam is crumbling as we sit here," said Purkeypile, a civil engineer with 30 years' experience in geotechnical issues. "It is a very slow failure, but we need to figure out what we want to do with that. If it fails we don't know what would happen, but if it knocked out that lift station, we'd lose 60 percent of our water supply and fire protection."
Rather than hash out a priority list at that meeting, aldermen decided to ask all department heads and commission chairpersons to come up with a list of their own priorities by the second meeting in February, and council will work up its on list then.
Finally, and as a follow-up to the priorities project, council decided to hold a town meeting at some point shortly thereafter to meet with the public and hopefully find out any further priority items for the list.
The next meeting will be on Feb. 4.