There will be a little extra money in the next paycheck of employees who work for the City of Pine Bluff.  Some might want to thank Santa for the gift but it’s actually the Pine Bluff City Council that’s responsible.  On Monday, they approved four budget adjustments that will pay for Christmas bonuses.

Full-time employees will get $500 each, while regularly scheduled part-time workers will receive $250 each.

“This will be a great help to a lot of folks,” said Council member Bill Brumett, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. The committee introduced the budget adjustments, which were broken down depending on funding sources.

For example, $18,344 in the Street Department budget will pay for the bonuses for that department. Another $9,459 will cover employees of Pine Bluff Transit from their funds, and $5,733 from Community Development funds will take care of that department.

For employees of all the other departments — police, fire, administration, city clerk and the rest — a total of $201,881 from carryover money in the general fund will be used to pay the bonuses.

Also on Monday, a resolution creating the Pine Bluff Opportunity Zone Task Force was approved without dissent.

Council member Bruce Lockett, who sponsored this resolution,  said before the vote that he saw the task force as a “win-win” for the city.

He explained that there are three Opportunity Zones in the city:  The downtown area, the port and the area around the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Investing in those areas can result in tax savings for the investor over a number of years.

In the list of participants in the task force, Lockett said he included not only the university itself but also its alumni association and student government association.

“This gives the alumni and friends a great way to give back,” he said.

Among other things, the task force will create maps to include details on opportunity-zone-ready projects within the designated zones, as well as information on projects in the areas that are already underway.

He cited the new Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library that is being built on Main Street, the 601 Main project, which calls for a park across from the new library, investments that have been made and are being made to restore the Hotel Pines and to another building in the 300 block of West Barraque Street, as projects that other investors might look at.

He said they could also decide to invest in projects of their own in the downtown area.

“We’re facing a tsunami, and we don’t want all the water, we just want to get wet,” Lockett said.