Council revokes vote to move meetings to Norris Street

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Eureka Springs City Council

won’t be moving city meetings to 25

Norris St., at least not for now.

On Monday night, the council reconsidered

its Jan. 29 decision to relocate

all city meetings to 25 Norris St.

Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said

the city has received “unsolicited and

unconfirmed” offers from renters willing

to pay $2,000 to rent the building at

25 Norris St., saying this would bring

in more revenue for the city. Schneider

suggested renovating the fire station

downtown for meetings.

“We could actually spend the same

amount of money fixing that up, move

in and still take in $2,000 a month,”

Schneider said.

Alderwoman Kristi Kendrick asked

what the city spends to meet in The

Aud, and Mayor Butch Berry said those

costs include heating and cooling the

building. Alderman Terry McClung said

he doesn’t want to meet permanently in

The Aud.

“The move here was … it was a temporary

move. That’s originally the way

it was discussed,” McClung said.

It wouldn’t make sense to move to

the fire station, McClung said, because

of limited space. Alderman Bob Thomas

recalled voting against moving to Norris

Street and said he stands by that.

“We had just taken back a vote to

move to the community center for lack

of due diligence, and I thought the vote

to move to Norris Street was just as

hasty,” Thomas said.

Schneider reminded the council of the

community meeting room at the Eureka

Springs Community Center. Though

the council revoked its vote to move to

the community center earlier this year,

Schneider said, that room is available

and should be considered again. Alderman

David Mitchell said he wanted to

focus on Norris Street, saying the council

has done due diligence by touring the

building and considering what renovations

would look like there.

“Norris Street has office space. It has

a large, dedicated meeting area,” Mitchell

said.

Alderwoman Melissa Greene asked

what the parking situation is like there,

and Berry said everyone could park in

the hospital’s parking lot. The parking

lot is crowded during the day, Berry

said, but usually pretty empty at night.

Schneider moved to revoke the vote

to move to 25 Norris St. Greene, Schneider

and Thomas voted for the motion,

and Kendrick, Mitchell and McClung

voted against it. Berry voted in favor of

it, breaking the tie.

Thomas then moved to have a workshop

discussing the pros and cons of

the available meeting spaces. Thomas,

Schneider and McClung voted for it,

and Kendrick, Mitchell and Greene voted

against it. Berry voted for it to break

the tie.

Also at the meeting, the council heard

from parks and recreation commission

chairman Bill Featherstone about

a grant the commission received from

the Arkansas Highway and Transportation

Department. The grant was initially

meant to help build a trail from Clear

Spring School to Harmon Park, Featherstone

said, but the commission diverted

it to go toward a fitness trail at the

community center and sidewalks along

Highway 62. That’s because the trail

between Harmon Park and Clear Spring

School didn’t meet the requirements for

the grant, Featherstone said.

“It called for an eight-foot-wide

paved trail, which was just overkill,”

Featherstone said.

The trail will still be built, he said.

The commission plans to complete it

late spring or early summer this year,

Featherstone said, and it will feature

compacted limestone, two culverts and

possibly a bridge.

The fitness trail ended up costing

more than the commission expected,

Featherstone said, so he’s working with

everyone to re-think how that project

will work. He said the commission is

working with a consultant and an architect

to make this happen.

“We’re working with them to come

up with an alternative plan, something

a little different from what we’ve been

thinking up to this point,” Featherstone

said.

The commission will need city council

approval, Featherstone said, when it

comes to approving an easement for the

fitness trail. That’s because the trail is

located on property owned by the Eureka

Springs School Board. Kendrick said

she was shocked to learn about how the

commission handled the situation.

“All of a sudden, city council heard

that the grant had been diverted to another

purpose without city council approval,

without even its knowledge,”

Kendrick said. “I am rather surprised

that parks believes that it has the power

to divert grants that have been approved

by city council for particular purposesto another purpose.”

“I’m not aware of anything that says

parks couldn’t do what it did, and if

you’re aware of something, gosh, I’m

all ears,” Featherstone said.

Schneider said the council already

discussed this last year, suggesting the

council approve an ordinance saying all

grant changes must be approved by city

council. Mitchell said he could see Kendrick’s

point and asked for city attorney

Tim Weaver’s opinion. According to

Weaver, the parks commission didn’t do

anything improper.

“They’re exploring their options.

They’ve not spent any money at this

point,” Weaver said.

The council will have a chance to approve

the changes to the project, Weaver

said, when it comes to approving

an easement on the community center

property.

“You do still have some control over

it at this point,” Weaver said. “The

school itself could just simply give an

easement. It doesn’t mean the city has

to accept it.”

Kendrick moved for the city attorney

to write an ordinance saying the council

has final approval on all changes to

grant applications.

“It seems to me I am seeing more and

more often different commissions of the

city are acting independently. I do want

them to understand ultimately these decisions

are made by council,” Kendrick

said.

The council voted, unanimously approving

her motion. In other business,

the council deferred a vote on an ordinance

to add planning recommendations

to the code until the first meeting in

March and agreed to wait until its next

meeting to consider an ordinance for

paying down bond payments.

The council’s next regular meeting is

scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26,

at The Auditorium.

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