Council taps Roberts for empty seat

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Eureka Springs City Council has a new member.

On Monday night, the council voted to appoint Nicholas Roberts to Ward 1, Position 2 — the seat left vacant after Laura Jo Smile resigned in October. Roberts and David Avanzino applied for the position, and both spoke to the council before the vote. Roberts said he’s been in Eureka Springs for almost 10 years and has “a lot of ideas” to help the town.

“I’ve … heard firsthand from a lot of tourists and locals on what some of our problems are and things that we could resolve, and I would love the honor to be considered for this,” Roberts said.

Nicholas Roberts

Avanzino said he sees change coming into Eureka Springs.

“I personally feel with changes comes progress,” Avanzino said. “Our tourists and locals especially need to be listened to … and I think you guys have done a really good job of doing that. I’d like to keep up the motion that’s going.”

Mayor Butch Berry then suggested discussing the nominations and council member Harry Meyer asked if the body should go into executive session to do so. City clerk Ann Armstrong said no, because the applicants are not employees.

“Voting would be in public. That’s the ballots you have in front of you,” Berry said. “You do need to sign your ballot.”

The council then voted 4-1 to appoint Roberts to the position, and council member Melissa Greene moved to hold a five-minute recess to swear Roberts in. The council did so, and Roberts took his seat the table.

Council member Terry McClung then moved to read a proposed ordinance amending Title 7 of the municipal code regarding sound generation in commercial zones.

The proposed ordinance states that amplified sound during an officially approved music festival cannot exceed 85 decibels.

Armstrong said she made some amendments to the proposed ordinance to correct a numerical error and clarify the difference between commercial and residential zones and Meyer moved to approve the amendments. Council member Autumn Slane asked how long music can play at 85 decibels during a music festival and Armstrong said it’s required to end by midnight.

The council unanimously approved the amendments and the proposed ordinance on a second reading by title only.

The council then received an update on the Basin Park bandshell from parks director Scott Miskiel, who said the entire park needs serious work. Miskiel said the bandshell has several problems, with the columns slipping off their pedestals and water pouring through gaps in the structure to create rot. Miskiel said he’s put out a request for proposals to an architectural and engineering firm to assess the damage, but he has a feeling what needs to be done.

“Unfortunately, there’s no way to repair this property without very likely tearing down the entire bandshell and rebuilding it,” Miskiel said. “Over the last year, both the commission and I have realized we’e been putting a lot of Band-Aids on things over the years, fixing things that are not a complete fix and that causes us to maybe get a little bit of a cosmetic improvement for a little while, but if we don’t repair the underlying causes, we’re really not doing anything but deferring things.”

McClung said Basin Park is the focal point of downtown Eureka Springs. If the bandshell must be rebuilt, McClung said, the existing design should be replicated. Miskiel agreed.

“It’s not the responsibility of parks. It’s been going on too long for too many administrations. It’s just been ignored,” McClung said. “I think the city itself has to have strong involvement in this … because it’s not going to be inexpensive and I don’t expect parks to bear the burden.”

Miskiel said he plans to have public workshops to address the issue in the future.

In other business, the council approved a resolution establishing free two-hour parking in December at meters on Spring and Main streets.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22, at the Auditorium.

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