By Ray King

By identical 5-3 votes Monday the Pine Bluff City Council adopted resolutions amending and implementing a first responder’s incentive proposal that will allow firefighters and police officers to obtain a no interest/no down payment loan of up to $10,000 to use for the purchase of a home in the Pine Bluff city limits.

For those who currently own a home, loans of up to $5,000 will be available and under the program, which is a part of the Go Forward Pine Bluff initiative, firefighters and police officers who agree to work for their respective departments for five years will have the loan forgiven.

Sponsored by Council member Win Trafford, the resolution provides that Go Forward will serve as the facilitators of the program at no cost to the city. Council member Bruce Lockett proposed replacing Go Forward with the City’s Economic and Community Development Department who would have to be paid for their services.

After the meeting, Trafford explained why the council approved the idea of Go Forward acting as facilitator for the program.

In addition to Lockett, Council members Ivan Whitfield and Steven Mays voted no on the proposals with Whitfield saying that just after he was hired by the police department, he would have not qualified for one of these loans because of bad credit.

The proposal also provides that assistance will be available for non-automatic qualifiers through secondary market lenders and credit repair assistance.

“We’re not trying to rule anybody out,” Mayor Shirley Washington said.

Whitfield also joined Mays and Lockett in complaining about outsourcing what they said was a city responsibility to a private group, Go Forward Pine Bluff, and after the meeting, Lockett contended that the legislation will not stand a legal challenge.

Changes that Lockett had proposed including designating the Community and Economic Development Department to administer the program were rejected by a similar 5-3 vote but this time it was Trafford and Council members Glen Brown Jr., Lloyd Holcomb Jr., Donald Hatchett voting no and only Locket, Whitfield and Mays casting a yes vote.

In other business, Mays cast the only no vote on an ordinance to create a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) district in Pine Bluff after failing in an attempt to have the ordinance read just once and placed on the calendar for a later meeting.

Brown Jr. who sponsored the resolution wanted it read three times and voted on and the other six members of the council agreed to suspend the rules to make that happen.

Mays said the legislation was “not community friendly” and later described it as “bad legislation. The citizens are not going to be happy.”