Council hears from Berry on employee handbook update

Thursday, August 13, 2020

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs City Council should be looking at an updated employee handbook by the end of the year, Mayor Butch Berry said on Monday night.

Berry told the council that the city is in the process of updating the handbook, saying the problem is finding time for staff to work on the project. Council member Susan Harman said she has a couple of things to address and asked when Berry thought the updates would be complete.

"Do you think it will be in December, October or September? What are you thinking?" Harman asked.

"To be honest with you, I'm hoping we'll get it done before the first of the year," Berry said.

Harman asked if she could send along a few items for the update and Berry said everyone on the council is welcome to do that.

"Please, any of the council members can send me any items they want that they think needs to be in the handbook," Berry said.

Council member Harry Meyer said he'd like to reinsert the nepotism clause form the old employee manual. Berry asked Meyer to send him an email expressing that idea and Meyer agreed to do so.

Also at the meeting, council member Bob Thomas withdrew an agenda item to consider permitting one council member to serve on the Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission. Thomas reminded the council that Berry received an opinion from the Arkansas Municipal League saying the council can't do that because of a conflict of interest.

"And also we have two applicants now, so hopefully they will both be approved in two weeks and there won't be any vacancies," Thomas said.

In other business, the council approved a proposed ordinance on a second reading by title only that would establish a fee on all Level III work that comes before the Historic District Commission.

During council comments, Thomas addressed the joint council and parks commission workshop that was held Aug. 3. Thomas said he believes parks director Justin Huss and parks commissioners are all trying to do their jobs and "a lot of them simply don't know really what their job is."

"I think that's frustrating for them," Thomas said. "I think they could use some help and I don't know really how to make that available to them."

Council member Melissa Greene agreed with Thomas, saying the commissioners on the parks commission are "really good people."

"I think they have a lot of merit. We really should look for something to help them, because I don't want to lose them," Greene said.

Council member Mickey Schneider said she's been a supporter of parks.

"I know we can't please everybody and we have problems and stuff, but it's a matter of working together and taking time to listen to each other and weigh pros and cons and discuss issues and work it all out," Schneider said. "Our parks system has done incredibly well. It's just a matter of working together and understanding everybody has to give a little and get a little."

Meyer said he was disappointed that the parks commission is relying on an outside firm for accounting services.

"If they don't provide it pretty soon, we're going to have to get somebody else because we do need a disinterested party to count the beans for them," Meyer said.

He's also disappointed in businesses that have posted signs saying you don't have to wear a mask to enter, Meyer said.

"Perhaps we can do a little better," Meyer said. "It's scaring a lot of residents."

Harman addressed a petition to remove the Historic District Commission, saying citizens can vote to keep or remove the commission in November. Harman encouraged voters to educate themselves on what the commission does for historic preservation.

"Not that I'm telling you you should vote one way or another, but there's a lot of good that all the commissions do and sometimes there are a few issues," Harman said. "At least learn a little bit more about the HDC before you actually go to the polls and vote."

During his comments, Berry asked everyone to complete the census for 2020.

"The last time I checked, Berryville and Green Forest had a higher percentage completing the census than we did," Berry said. "As a competitive city, I think that shouldn't be done. Please complete the online census if you haven't done it."

The council's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, at The Auditorium.

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