Council agrees to waive bidding for Ellis Grade project

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Eureka Springs City Council voted Monday night to waive bidding to repair Ellis Grade Wall, but the decision didn’t come without debate.

Mayor Butch Berry explained that he’s been working with the owner of the property to find a cost that will work for everyone, saying an old ordinance says the cost of repairs will be split between the property owner and the city.

“We need to get this done as soon as possible, and the owner has agreed,” Berry said. “He agreed last week with the cost … so this is the total project cost. It’s not our share. It’s the total cost.”

Berry said the total cost is $21,484.38. The council needed to approve an ordinance, Berry said, to waive bidding on the project. Alderman David Mitchell asked why the ordinance didn’t specify that the cost will be split.

“It looks the way the ordinance is written that we’re paying for it,” Mitchell said.

Berry said an existing ordinance legally requires the property owner to pay half of any repairs, and Mitchell asked if that could be included in the ordinance waiving bidding. City attorney Tim Weaver said that’s not necessary because of the other ordinance.

“We have a law. We will pay half, and the owner will pay half,” Weaver said. “Should the owner fail to pay for their half, we would rely on a lawsuit on that ordinance to bring them into compliance.”

“Did you write this ordinance?” Mitchell asked.

“No, sir, I did not,” Weaver said.

“That’s what I thought when you answered that question,” Mitchell said.

Alderwoman Kristi Kendrick asked why the council needed to approve the ordinance so quickly, and Berry said it’s because the wall is slowly coming down.

“If we don’t start work on it, the rest of the retaining wall could fall down,” Berry said. “I don’t know if you’ve been by Ellis Grade lately, but the stone has fallen.”

Kendrick said she has a problem with the city contracting to pay the full amount while only being responsible for half of it. Berry explained why the ordinance includes the full amount, saying the total cost of the repair is what matters most when it comes to waiving bidding. There’s another ordinance, Berry said, legally requiring the property owner to pay half of the repairs.

“If the owner doesn’t pay his half, we have to sue him,” Kendrick said. “Certainly, we could add more language to this ordinance which provides that the city only enter into contract for half the amount, and that would depend upon the owner entering into contract for half.”

If the council decided to wait to approve the ordinance, Weaver said, the wall might fall and that repair would cost much more than $21,484.38. Alderwoman Melissa Greene said she’s fine with approving the ordinance.

“I say let’s get it done. I believe this man is an honorable man,” Greene said. “I want to get it done so it doesn’t cost us any more money.”

Greene moved to approve the ordinance on a first reading, and the council agreed to do so. The council approved the ordinance on second and third readings by title only, along with the emergency clause.

Also at the meeting, Mitchell suggested moving the Lake Leatherwood City Park sales tax money into a fund monitored by finance director Lonnie Clark. Mitchell said the council controls that tax money but has kept it under the management of parks.

“Only the city council can control the funds by budgeting an appropriation,” Mitchell said. “Parks commission only controls the revenues derived from the parks.”

The tax would still be used for Lake Leatherwood City Park, Mitchell said, but it would be under the control of the city instead of the parks commission.

“It would allow parks to access that money based on the use at Lake Leatherwood,” Mitchell said. “It still wouldn’t cut off parks from accessing it. It would just be under the finance director.”

Kendrick said she agreed with Mitchell, and alderwoman Mickey Schneider said she was confused. Schneider moved to discuss the idea at the council’s next meeting with Clark and parks director Justin Huss present, and the council agreed to do so.

In other business, the council approved the 2017 budget clean-up resolution and an ordinance restricting parking on a part of Washington Street on a first reading. During council comments, Mitchell said he’s not planning to run for re-election in the fall.

“My position is definitely wide open. You don’t have to worry about me,” Mitchell said.

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

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