A proposed funding measure to help cover the costs of a downtown festival in December was pulled from the agenda of the Pine Bluff City Council on Monday when several aldermen objected to the idea.
Council members also passed an ordinance setting a 60-day time frame for the Pine Bluff Historic District Commission to answer requests from downtown property owners who wish to alter their structures.
Alderman Donald Hatchett was the first to oppose spending $65,000 for the Mistletoe Magic, Believe in Magic Holiday Celebration, which is set for Dec. 6-9 at Saracen Landing and would be conducted by the Parks and Recreation Department in cooperation with Go Forward Pine Bluff.
The funds would have come from the Delta Celebration Series of Events and Festivals in the 2018 city budget of proceeds received from the five-eighths cent sales tax approved by voters last year.
Lockett said public safety needs, particularly new radios for the police and fire departments, are more important than spending money for a festival. He was joined by Alderman Donald Hatchett, who said it was difficult for him to support another celebration, adding that he didn’t believe it was the intent of the voters to ignore public safety needs for festivals and the like.
Alderman Steven Mays, who was listed as the sponsor of the resolution, pulled it and said he had received several phone calls and wanted to see a complete breakdown of the spending. He said he would bring it back at the next council meeting after obtaining the information he wanted.
The no votes by Lockett and Hatchett were the second they cast Monday night. The pair also opposed a budget adjustment for phase two of a public plaza at 601 S. Main St. That $200,334 adjustment passed by a vote of 5-2 as Alderman Bill Brumett chaired the meeting in place of Mayor Shirley Washington. Brumett said Washington was in Washington. D.C., at a conference.
The funds to continue the work on the plaza will come from money set aside in the 2018 budget for the Urban Renewal Agency.
Another budget adjustment, this one for $150,000 from a grant the city received from the Delta Regional Authority, was approved without dissent. The money will be used for the Aquatic Center, which is currently under construction.
A budget adjustment to increase the salaries of the parks director and assistant director was tabled and sent back to committee for further review.
Without dissent, the council approved an ordinance setting a 60-day time limit for the Historic District Commission to make a decision on the requests of property owners in the downtown area to modify or tear down their buildings. That ordinance came after Danny Bradshaw, owner of Mr. Brick Antique Brick Buy and Sell, who has torn down several buildings on Main Street, could not get the commission to approve his request to tear down three buildings in the 300 block of Main Street that Bradshaw owns.
Also approved were ordinances closing a part of an alley in the 2800 block of Elm Street and the implementation of a new travel policy for city employees.
Another proposed ordinance, granting an exclusive ambulance franchise to Emergency Ambulance Service Inc. (EASI) for five years, was read twice and placed on the calendar for the third meeting in September.
Before the meeting, Jamie Pafford, whose company was one of two that submitted a bid to provide the ambulance service, said her family has a long history in Pine Bluff and sold the ambulance service here to Lusby’s (which later became EASI) 45 years ago. Pafford also operates the Air Ambulance Service based at the Pine Bluff Municipal Airport.
She said that she had had a long relationship with Lusby’s and then EASI and considered them friends, and that EASI has been in operation in Pine Bluff for 45 years providing continuous service. Pafford also had words about the requests for proposals that the city sent out, saying that some of the things that were asked for were not needed.
“There are issues in the service that can be fixed, and I feel like a committee can be put together to work out the issues,” Pafford said. “If they can’t work them out, then we will sit down and talk to you.”
The current city contract with EASI expires September 20.