By Ray King
Two members of the Pine Bluff City Council on Monday rejected attempts to add several resolutions to an agenda which before the meeting had only two budget adjustments and no ordinances or resolutions to consider.
In order to add items, a unanimous vote by all eight members of the council is necessary.
The first of those resolutions would have amended legislation currently on the books dealing with an incentive program for first responders which provides homebuyer assistance, using money from the 2017 (Go Forward) sales tax.
The ordinance which was first adopted in 2018 and amended in 2019 provides up to $10,000 for a zero interest/no payment loan which can be used any combination of down payment and or interest reduction required by the lender. For first responders who already own a home, up to $5,000 is available for home repairs.
The program was formerly administered by the City Economic and Community Development Department, which was paid for the work they performed. The amended ordinance calls for Go Forward Pine Bluff to serve as facilitators for the program at no cost to the city.
Council member Bruce Lockett cast the no vote that prevented the resolution from making it to the agenda. Both Lockett and Council Member Ivan Whitfield had previously complained that a private organization (Go Forward Pine Bluff) was attempting to take over what they said was city business.
A second and related resolution calling for the creation of a First Responder Internship Program to recruit new police officers or firefighters by setting up a summer intern program and offering two $3,000 stipends for each department.
Whitfield cast the no vote on this resolution, as he did on the final resolution that other members of the council wanted to add. That resolution dealt with an agreement with Pine Bluff Cable Television to relocate wires related to the Streetscape project.
He explained his no vote by saying he saw no hurry with the resolution.