Mayor Mike Watson cast the rare deciding vote Monday night during the City Council meeting on the hot topic of the night — should council meetings be televised.
A proposal to further study the issue by taking bids on it was deadlocked in a four to four vote with Alderman Caleb Norris, Rick Anderson, Marc Kelley and Steve Mosley voting for the proposal and Jan Hogue, Burch Johnson, Preston Lewis and Ken Saunders voting against it. Watson’s vote made sure the proposal passed 5 to 4.
The evening began with a key to the city being given to Maumelle High School’s first ever state champions. Coach Dan Viera said he was proud of the fact that 13 members of his team also won All-State honors and unlike the traditional sports where votes are traded for your vote for their top candidate, he said the honor came to the kids according to how they finished in the competition. All of the wrestlers are scheduled to be back next year since none are seniors, he said.
An ordinance to accept streets and drainage for Phase 4 of Osage Terrace was read for the second time but no action was taken.
Watson reported on a proposed Advertising & Promotion Commission, better known as a hamburger tax. He said a three percent tax, only on hotels would generate around $106,000 a year. For each restaurant tax percentage applied it would generate around $182,720, so a flat three percent on both industries would most likely raise around $500,000 a year. He also said 38 other cities in the state collect one tax or the other, or both. Ten of those cities only do the hotel tax, he said.
Having a hotel tax only as several alderman proposed wouldn’t generate enough money to be worth the trouble, he said.
Alderman Burch Johnson was the strongest advocate for a hotel tax because he said it would only impact transients and not locals.
Everyone seemed to agree if the proposal included the restaurant tax, then it should definitely be referred to the public for a vote.
Hogue said she favored a vote of the people on the hotel and restaurant tax.
She said Maumelle residents eat out in North Little Rock and Conway and don’t think a bit about the tax.
Mosley said he thought the residents of Maumelle have enough taxes already and he’d be opposed to an A & P tax.
Anderson said he supported the concept but wanted to give residents the decision to make. But the money should “definitely go toward promoting the city.”
He said if Maumelle wants to grow as it has said in the strategic study underway, “It takes money to grow.”
Johnson urged the council to be careful. He said if you keep referring everything to the public they’ll get tired of it and be against everything. He said the public deserves some consideration if the city chooses to add an A & P tax, perhaps by reducing or eliminating the community service fee.
Saunders said he couldn’t support an A & P tax passed by the council. If the public wants it, then we should hold a special election but those special elections cost money, he said.
Johnson moved the council delay consideration of an A & P tax until the second meeting in August. The motion unanimously passed.
Watson also reported on the recycling proposals. According to Public Works, 956 homes in Maumelle recycle on a weekly basis, while 6, 170 residents have solid waste containers so roughly 15 and one/half percent of residents are currently recycling.
Johnson urged the city to promote itself. He said more people would recycle if they were encouraged to do so. Even without weekly pickup of all recyclables, he said the transfer station is used frequently and a lot more Maumelle folks are recycling that suspected.
Watson said he hadn’t gotten all the information from Waste Management about their proposal to handle all sanitation pickups and then do the recycling for free.
He said he’d exchanged information with them. He also said he thought Maumelle’s recycling rate would go up.
Right now, Waste Management doesn’t do billing so that would continue to be a problem for the city, Watson said.
After much discussion over last year’s attempts to collect overdue fees, someone noted the many folks who owed more than a $1,000 bill that went back years for both sanitation fees and the community service fees.
Watson said the city had been successful in collecting some of the back fees but it still had more than a half million dollars yet to collect.
“Holly Mackerel. one-half million is a lot of money,” Johnson said.
City attorney JaNan Davis said she was working on 70 cases to prosecute for non-payment though.
Alderman Marc Kelley said he was opposed to just wring off what’s owed the city. He suggested putting another statement in the statement to explain the bill.
The audiovisual proposal came up last and probably generates the most discussion.
Johnson said the benefits to the city from an audio visual replay of the council meetings was very little.
“People coming in is what we need,” he said.
Watson said t he debris removal is going good except for some concerns he has. He said he’d seen a few residences where trees are down but no effort has been made to move them to the curbside.
The city will stop picking up tree limbs at around 90 days, he said.
Mosley reported on last month’s planning commission meeting and Hogue said she would be voting against approving a liquor store on Track D.
Watson said the main Track D wasn’t impacted but only an outlier parcel like Walgreens and Starbucks.
Davis reminded aldermen they couldn’t be “arbitrary and capricious” in denying planning approvals because it was illegal.
When asked Watson said the city’s meeting with FEMA officials went well and he believes once its approved the city will be reimbursed 75 percent of of expenses for purchase of equipment, expenses and overtime. The state should also kick in 12 1/2 percent of what the feds approve.