Mark Lowery, the state representative from Maumelle, opened an office at City Hall last Thursday with a ribbon-cutting event.
Lowery will receive the office space, suite 570, for free from the city. Mayor Mike Watson compared the arrangement to the one the city has with the state revenue office that also has a no-rent agreement.
Watson said an arrangement is being worked out for Lowery to pay a share of utilities for the space.
“We are compiling the most recent year’s utility bills to determine the square foot cost of utilities for the City Hall Building,” Watson wrote in an e-mail. “[The Revenue office is] not currently paying any utilities or a pro-rata share of utilities based on a square foot costs.”
Lowery said in a lengthy phone interview Monday afternoon that he would be happy to pay his share of utilities and repeated that claim at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Lowery was quick to point out that as a state representative, he does not receive a stipend for office expenses and that any money received is a reimbursement for claimed expenses.
“That’s some that’s gotten out there and it just isn’t true,” Lowery said. “I didn’t want to be the person who said a spare bedroom was an office. If I claimed an office, I wanted it to be an office, not an extra room in the house.”
Lowery and Watson said the matter of space came up at a February meeting earlier this year but the idea came much earlier.
“I first started thinking about this in 1984 when I first ran for the state legislature,” he said.
Lowery was first elected last November. He added that he’s also reached out to other elected officials that represent the Maumelle people like state Sen. David Sanders and Congressman Tim Griffin.
Sanders said he had been contacted by Lowery and would consider using the space, if he was having a meeting.
“When I go to Maumelle, I’m either going to their house, or Starbucks,” Sanders said. “I don’t know how often I’d use it, but having it as an option is great.”
Lowery said his teaching schedule at the University of Central Arkansas would allow him to open the office Monday, Wednesday and Friday, generally from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., but some of that would depend on volunteers who would help staff it.
“There’s a possibility it could be staffed as much as five days a week,” Lowery said. “It depends on volunteers but those hours could change.”
Among the people who had contacted Lowery is Jodie Mahony IV, a student at Central Arkansas Christian and the grandson of the late Jodie Mahony, the long-time Democratic legislator from El Dorado.
Lowery said the need for the office was obvious when faced with the number of calls he gets weekly from constituents.
“When you’re in session there’s quite a few,” he said. “Out of session, not so much.”
Lowery estimated that during the session that wrapped up earlier this year, he was averaging between 30 and 40 contacts a week.
“Out of session, maybe 10 a week,” he said. “That all depends on what the hot issue that is going on the time.”