By Ray King

The Pine Bluff City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance which will allow members of the council or municipal employees to receive money from a Federal Fund administered by the state if they are landlords of rental property.

Larry Matthews, director of the Economic and Community Development Department said the city has received money from the Arkansas Department of Human Services to provide homeless prevention and housing assistance to eligible individuals and families. While the program regulations do not prohibit lease agreements between the city and elected officials, Arkansas law prohibits them unless the city enacts an ordinance specifically permitting them.

Matthews said his department just found out that it has clients who are about to be evicted and they could help them if the clients rented from anyone other than an elected official.

After the meeting, Council member Ivan Whitfield, who is also the owner of rental property was asked about the ordinance.

The council was given the proposed ordinance just before the meeting started and voted to suspend the rules and read it a second and then a third time before voting 6-2 to approve it. Council Members Steven Mays and Bruce Lockett voted no while Whitfield and Council Members Glen Brown Jr., Glen Brown Sr., Lloyd Holcomb, Joni Alexander and Steven Shaner voted yes.

An ordinance that was on the agenda for a third reading that amended the city Code of Ordinances relating to public nuisances and particularly burned out structures was pulled by its sponsor, Glen Brown Jr., who explained why.

Changes to the ordinance including setting a time limit for property owners to raze and remove the structure and the length of time Code Enforcement has to inspect the structure to see if it qualifies as being burned out.