November signals the start of the busy time of year for City Council members and during Monday night’s meeting council members got a glimpse of the work to come.
This month and next are when the budget process begins in earnest and one budget meeting is set for tonight at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
With so many new council members who haven’t gone through the budget process, these meetings which sometimes become interesting, may be especially so this year as an already vocal council can be expected to ask more questions than veterans who have been through the process.
The budget meetings are where a lot of issues are hammered out and the public seldom attends the meetings even though they are open meetings.
Lake Willastein supporter Terry Jones presented research her group recently conducted about the park. She shared the results and comments with the council noting that only 39 of 117 members of her group, Friends of Lake Willastein answered her survey.
Jones said those participating said Lake Willastein is a significant issue for the council by a wide margin, divided over the two Maumelle country clubs request to siphon water from the lake but firmly agreed both clubs should be forced to pay for any water the golf courses did get from the lake.
The group also reacted strongest to a research question suggesting the lake not be drawn down less than the current 18 inches limit. She also noted the city hadn’t had a formal agreement with either club since 1991 about the water.
The use of Lake Willastein water prompted Jones to say that the use of water by outside parties “needs to be monitored, not a free-for-all.”
Since the state changed the boundaries for planning outside the city limits, the council passed an ordinance drawing back the city’s extra territorial jurisdiction from five miles to one mile.
Watson said the state legislature made the change earlier this year. The ordinance passed without opposition.
Another ordinance passed waiving the competitive bidding procedures to purchase a weather warning siren for the Maumelle Fire Department to supplement what it already has installed. It makes sense to purchase the extra siren from the same supplier, Watson said.
An ordinance only on second reading which would change the city laws regulating golf cart usage generated most of the discussion. Golf carts may only now be used to travel to and from the country club golf courses but the new ordinance would expand it in several ways, allowing the carts to be on streets at night which is currently prohibited, allow family members over 16 to also operate the golf carts, require headlights and tail lights and increase the fines for violations from $50 to $200.
Watson said he wanted to get more input on this ordinance.
Maumelle police chief Sam Williams said certain aspects of the proposed ordinance cause his officers concern, mostly in the carts visibility and operation at night. There was also discussion about how many people a cart can legally carry.
New legislation introduced included a Maumelle Planning Commission suggested ordinance regarding inspections of storm drains and the issuance of Capital Improvement Bonds.
The council also approved the reallocation of $11,000 to purchase new fitness devices for the Senior Center and the purchase of bullet proof vests for new police officers with $7,800 in Department of Justice grants.
The city is proposing the issuance of $5.545 million in Capitol Improvement bonds as the third phase of the bonds approved by special election in October 2012.
Watson expressed disappointment the state volunteer office didn’t select Maumelle as a volunteer city of the year this year after nine selections in the last ten years. He said he knew volunteerism was up within the city and that more hours were turned in this year than last year. One council member suggested the state agency was just trying to spread the recognition around the state.
Hometown Thanksgiving is planned again this year with a slight increase in costs to $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and children. Once again the event is scheduled for Thanksgiving, Nov. 28 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Jess Odom Community Center.