Council agrees to waive bidding for shuttle purchases
By Samantha Jones
The Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission is getting ready to purchase two shuttle buses for the downhill trails at Lake Leatherwood City Park.
On Monday night, the Eureka Springs City Council heard from parks director Justin Huss about the commission's need for the shuttles. Huss said the commission has already agreed to purchase Shuttlebug from local residents Jim Nelson and Jamie Brandt, along with an ADA-accessible shuttle bus.
Huss said Shuttlebug will be the primary shuttle bus at the trails and the ADA-accessible shuttle bus will come into play when Shuttlebug is overloaded. Additionally, Huss said, the ADA-accessible shuttle bus will be available for other parks programing including trips to other cities in Northwest Arkansas.
"We can use that for programming and tours," Huss said. "There are other uses as well. That's why we went for an ADA shuttle with a wheelchair lift, which was complicated to find."
Huss said the commission agreed to spend $28,958 on Shuttlebug and $35,000 on the ADA-accessible shuttle bus. He asked the council to waive bidding for these purchases so the commission can take possession of the buses without waiting 30 days for bids. Alderwoman Susan Harman said she wasn't sure if the council should be waiving bidding.
"It seems like we waive biding a lot," Harman said. "My question is if you have one person bid or three people bid … why are we waiving, because isn't that one bid sufficient?"
Huss said the commission is looking for specific vehicles, saying the ADA-accessible shuttle bus was especially difficult to track down. If the commission waits for bids, Huss said, that shuttle bus could sell to someone else. Mayor Butch Berry said it's normal for the council to waive bids on purchases like this.
"This is not uncommon in city governments," Berry said. "When you're itemizing a specific item, you waive bids. It's common in other city governments. It's not just us."
Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said she's fine with waiving bidding.
"Basically what this comes down to is a time constraint," Schneider said. "We can get this vehicle at a nice price now or we can wait 30 days and blow it."
The council unanimously voted to approve two ordinances waiving bidding for each purchase on first, second and third readings. Alderman Terry McClung then moved to invoke the emergency clause and the commission voted unanimously to do so.
In other business, the council approved an ordinance establishing the standards for an entertainment district on a third and final reading. It's especially important to approve the ordinance, alderman Bob Thomas said, so Oktoberfest can be legal this year. Thomas said he spoke with police chief Brian Young and learned Oktoberfest has been skirting around city code for years. According to city code, Thomas said, drinking on the street is illegal.
"That's why if we do the emergency clause, the people who run Oktoberfest can come in and get a temporary permit and it can proceed completely legal," Thomas said.
Alderman Harry Meyer expressed concern about changes in the ordinance, saying he didn't recall voting on those changes. Thomas, who is a member of the Entertainment District Committee, said that's because the council hadn't seen the changes yet.
"All the gray shadow items are amendments the committee is going to suggest tonight," Thomas said.
The changes include adding "city-approved" to numerous sections of the ordinance in reference to open alcoholic beverage containers. The council voted to approve the changes. McClung moved to approve the ordinance on a third and final reading and the motion passed 4-2, with Schneider and Meyer voting no. The council then voted to invoke the emergency clause; once again, everyone voted for the emergency clause except Schneider and Meyer.
Thomas said the ordinance doesn't create an entertainment district, saying it just sets up the standards to do so.
"The mayor gets the application for a temporary permit, but he cannot approve it until it's been approved by the public works department," Thomas said.
Alderwoman Melissa Greene agreed and said the council will need to approve another ordinance before a permanent entertainment district can be established.
"The next ordinance will be a thoughtful, long process before we make any decisions," Greene said. "This is just one that enables us to have a district. We don't have to have it, but it enables us to."
The council then heard from Eureka Springs Hospital Commission chairman John House, who said the commission has been having trouble with Allegiance Health Management, the company that runs the hospital. House said the commission's legal counsel has been communicating with Allegiance's legal counsel.
"We've heard back from them at this point," House said. "It's just a matter of working out the details."
The commission's lease agreement with Allegiance ends in 2022, House said.
"Any change that might occur either has to fall within the confines of the lease," House said, "or both parties have to agree to that change. I can't give you an idea of how long that will take."
Also at the meeting, the council approved an ordinance allowing food trucks at special events on all readings.
The council's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, at The Auditorium.