By Ray King

A resolution to establish a task force to consider renaming the Merrill Community Center was approved without dissent by the Pine Bluff City Council Monday night.

The resolution was sponsored by Council Member Ivan Whitfield who explained his reasons for sponsoring it.

The resolution will establish a nine-member task force with each member of the council and Mayor Shirley Washington submitting a name by the next meeting of the council on Aug. 3.

Whitfield had initially proposed that the mayor and council members submit the names of their nominee by Wednesday, but other members of the council asked for more time to decide on who they would name.

The task force will meet and select a chairman, vice-chairman and secretary and will accept public comments before submitting three names as options to the Public Works Committee.

Also Monday, a resolution allowing the Mayor and Police Chief to complete paperwork to purchase nine new vehicles for the department was approved. The total price on the vehicles will be just over $280,000 with eight of the vehicles, Dodge Durango’s coming from Red River Dodge and the ninth vehicle, a Ford F-150 from a dealer in Morrilton. In both cases, the dealers are selling the vehicles at the state contract price.

Also approved Monday was a resolution appointing Benjamin R. Trevino to the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library Board of Trustees. He will replace Ann Talbot whose term has expired and will serve until 2023.

Prior to the beginning of the agenda, council members heard a presentation from attorney Maxie Kizer representing Receivables Management Corp., who currently has a contract with Jefferson County District Court to collect past due fines, fees and costs. Kizer asked the council to consider a contract with the company to collect fines, fees and costs for Pine Bluff District Court.

Whitfield said he had thought KIzer was going to make a presentation to the Public Safety Committee before doing one with the full council and said he had several questions that he wanted answers to and Washington said the presentation was for information only and no decision would be made tonight (Monday).

Council member Steven Mays opposed the idea of a collection agency saying collecting overdue fines and fees should be done “in-house” by the City Collector’s Office. He also said collecting the old fines would “put a hardship on citizens of Pine Bluff.”