Council to vote on permanent meeting space in October

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

When it comes to finding a permanent space for all city meetings, the Eureka Springs City Council has a few options.

Mayor Butch Berry brought these options to the council table on Monday night, saying the council visited two proposed sites for meetings. Those two locations, Berry said, were a physician’s office on Norris Street and the fire station downtown. The physician’s office would require significant demolition to become a suitable space for city meetings, Berry said, but there’s quite a bit of space in that building.

“It could work very easily for our facility. There were a couple of other offices still up there we could utilize, plus the basement for storage,” Berry said.

The fire station downtown, he said, needs many renovations before it could be used as a community space. The city would have to clean out and whitewash the interior walls, replace the ceiling, upgrade the electrical system, install air conditioning and run a cable to broadcast meetings live. It would cost less to move the cable to the fire station than the physician’s office, Berry said, but the cost is almost the same to renovate both buildings.

“They’re pretty much within $1,000 of each other. When you’re comparing apples to apples, both facilities are owned by the city,” Berry said. “There still might be one other option on the table. I’m not sure if we’re getting anywhere on that. It’s possible.”

If the council chooses the fire station, Berry added, the physician’s office could be rented out. That would bring revenue in for the city, he said.

Alderman David Mitchell said he enjoyed looking at both facilities, saying he’d like to narrow the options down to one facility. If Berry brings the third option to the table later on, Mitchell said, the council could still see if that would work. There are many good reasons to move to the physician’s office, Mitchell said.

“It has a long-term ability to provide the city of Eureka Springs with a nice meeting space. It’s a very nice environment,” Mitchell said. “It has some office space, and the surprise is when you walk down the stairs and find that massive area that could possibly be used for storage.”

He continued, “The opportunities for the facility at Norris Street to make a very nice meeting facility and office space and storage space for the city certainly outweighs just renting the building for the small amount it would bring in as income.”

Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said the fire station looks “horrendous” but would look good after renovations.

“The fire station is right here. It’s downtown. It has all the parking directly across the street from the courthouse,” Schneider said.

Alderwoman Peg Adamson said she could get behind both spaces.

“The drawings for the front of the firehouse … it’s just gorgeous, and the inside would be nice and historically remodeled,” Adamson said.

It would be good, Berry said, to eliminate one of the options. He said that would give the city more of an idea how to move forward.

“We’re going to apply for a grant. This one, the downtown fire station, probably weighs better in getting the grant, because it’s a combination of a fire station and community meeting room,” Berry said. “On Norris Street, it would be strictly meeting rooms. They’re both eligible, but the grant we’re going after … they like to give money to fire stations.”

Alderman Terry McClung said there’s more potential for the physician’s office than the fire station.

“There’s additional office space up there. There’s a lot more potential there than just the meeting room,” McClung said. “The fire station … the location is better. I can’t deny that. However, it’s a fire station. It’s going to continue to be used as a fire station.”

McClung said he wanted to pick a date to make a decision and moved for the council to decide at its first meeting in October. The council voted, with McClung, Schneider and Kristi Kendrick voting in favor of it and Bob Thomas, Adamson and Mitchell voting against it. Berry voted in favor of the motion to break the tie.

Also at the meeting, transit director Ken “Smitty” Smith presented a mid-year report on the transit department. Smith said the year started off slowly but has gotten better and better over the past few months.

“Mid-June, things started picking up. July was probably the best July we’ve had in 10 years,” Smith said. “August was really good if you count the years Labor Day wasn’t in August, and September is booming.”

The department has brought in some smaller trolleys to complement the larger ones, Smith said, and those have definitely come in handy.

“We love the small trolleys. They fit our town nicely,” Smith said.

He won’t be asking the city for more vehicles any time soon, Smith said, but he will be asking for funds to install an automated bus stop announcement system. Smith said the system was recommended by the state to fulfill an ADA requirement.

“With that, we can also sell advertising. As they approach a stop at a restaurant or hotel, they can buy advertising at one of the stops,” Smith said. “We’re looking forward to that as another revenue stream for us.”

Everyone who works for the transit department will soon be tested for opioids, Smith added.

“The federal government is trying to address this opioid epidemic in this country,” Smith said. “If a driver tests positive for an opioid, he’d have to show a valid prescription for it or I can’t use him. A lot of [opioids] are impairing drugs. They put you to sleep and make you drowsy.”

In other business, the council approved the annual ordinance for real and personal property taxes. Christian Super was approved to be on the parks and recreation commission, and Jim Jordan was approved to be on the cemetery commission.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25, at The Auditorium lobby.

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