After a stormy weekend of too much water and wind, water was still the undercurrent of Monday night’s City Council meeting.
But it wasn’t flood waters that was the topic but rather the lingering issue of the city’s association with Maumelle Water Management that was the big issue for the evening.
The subject didn’t come up until near the end but it is clearly the dominant issue yet to be resolved.
Possible meetings between City Council members and the commissioners of the Maumelle Suburban Improvement District No. 500 were the last item on the agenda after a lengthy discussion on the topic at the previous meeting.
Mayor Mike Watson proposed a scheduled meeting on July 29 — the fifth Monday of the month.
Alderman Preston Lewis had proposed an ad hoc committee of just a few council members to attend the meeting but Watson said he respectfully disagreed and suggested all City Council members should attend.
Alderman Jan Hogue said the public should be allowed to attend but Alderman Burch Johnson said water commissioners were concerned it would become a free-for-all with open-ended public comments. He said commissioners told him they were tired of being yelled at and weren’t agreeable to an open meeting.
“We had some brutal deals with the public [at past public meetings]. [If the public are] there to fight — we’re in a mess.”
Alderman Steve Mosley said the bottom line was agreeing on a means of giving the public more say in the choosing of future water commissioners. He said if MWM was unwilling to even discuss more commissioners chosen by the public then there was no reason to even continue the meetings.
Mosley said he didn’t see the meeting getting into operations or personnel, just the commissioners election.
“If that’s [adding more publicly chosen commissioners] not an option, Why not? he asked. “Otherwise we need an explanation.”
Lewis said, “It’s painful to see this play out — between the City Council and MWM.”
MWM general manager Barry Heller said he’d like to “see a proposal of what you’d like to accomplish.”
His commissioners are interested in how aldermen think this might work, he said.
“They want to see concrete proposals — work on the legalities later,” he said.
Alderman Burch Johnson noted a letter addressing critical issues when he was mayor. He said the city is missing out on annexation areas because of the water and sewer issues.
Watson and Heller detailed how the new Kum and Go convenience store under construction just north of the city limits in the Morgan area will have MWM water and sewer.
When asked why it wasn’t located within the city. Watson told council members the property had to be contiguous to the city to be annexed and it currently isn’t.
In other business the council adopted a resolution amending the city’s budget to allow for construction of a pedestrian and bicycle pathway from the Holiday Inn. The resolution allowed transfer of $250,000 appropriated for the project last year but he said he expects to spend no more than $200,000.
Metroplan pays 80 percent of the construction cost but the city pays all of the engineering fees, he said.
One of the slowing points was new requirements to have a rail, to protect bicycle riders.
Last year there were only two bidders but seven this year, he said which probably resulted in the lower bid.
The resolution was approved without dissent.
A proposal to construct up to 44 new houses in a nine acre phase one of a subdivision called, Villages of New Bedford was also approved without opposition. Financed by National Bank of Arkansas all of the original plans for attached homes was changed to unattached structures and the city fire marshal asked and was granted changes in the one entrance into the subdivision. A guard shack and the entrance were changed to allow for easier access by emergency vehicles. No home will be built on the first lot to meet the stricter requirements than when the plans were first approved.
Mosely asked who would maintain a floodwater retention area, the city or the property owners association. Watson said the city would maintain the drainage structures and the POA the landscaping.
A neighbor from a subdivision across the street, Leonard Unruh, asked why the guard shack was being removed when his sub-development had to have one. And he asked the contractors to be aware of neighbors and not leave mud all over the street.
Watson explained most subdivisions have two entrances but this one only has one and that’s where the need to open up the front and only entrance came from.
He also said code enforcement would watch the development closely and get involved if mud or too early construction becomes an issue. The question of what’s reasonable is debatable, he said but construction should mostly be between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays he said.
“We’ve gotten calls about developers placing sod at midnight in an attempt to meet a closing date,” he said.
A proposed ordinance to create a no solicitation list was introduced and read the first time. It would function similar to the national Do Not Call list.
Alderman Caleb Norris, an attorney with the Arkansas Municipal League drafted the ordinance, the first of its kind anyone was aware of in the state.
Lewis complimented Norris on the draft noting it “looks good.”
Alderman Rick Anderson asked how police would know who’s on the list.
Watson said it would be a complaint driven system.
Lewis asked if 80 percent of residents buy into the system, can we just go ahead and outlaw solicitations?
Norris quietly smiled and reminded Lewis that it was a free speech or First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution issue.
Watson said he thought an outright ban was a bad idea.
Watson also said he expects to have a proposal on city wide recycling at the next council meeting.
He also thanked those who made the Memorial Day ceremony such a tribute to our service members lost in battle.
He especially thanked Robert Hopper, of Wynne, who brings down the Field of Flags Tribute to fallen Arkansans. Watson said he often walked through the field of flags at night with the light shining on the face of our fallen heroes, the flags blowing in the wind and it gives him a special connection to these brave Arkansans who gave their all.
He also noted Hopper funds the project primarily as a tribute to his own fallen hero a Marine Lance Corporal. Maumelle residents wishing to help sponsor this event can contact him for Hopper’s address, he said.