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New Council members asking questions

Because city offices were closed on Jan. 21 for Martin Luther King, Jr. observances, the City Council met on an unusual Tuesday night meeting and if its any indication of what’s to come, council meeting attendees may be in for an extended session.

The council met for almost two and one-half hours but the first hour was taken up by a presentation and discussion on the pending city decision to join or not join nearby communities in a proposed single-stream recycling program.

With four of the eight council members brand new, the new members generated more questions than normal, mostly procedural in nature and indicated they may want to tackle some issues the city has passed on in the past.

All four new members were more vocal than the four veterans asking questions and participating in the discussion.

Some veterans also apparently see the turnover as an opportunity to revisit issues that failed in the past.

For example, Alderman and former mayor Burch Johnson said he’d like for the council to consider establishing an Advertising and Promotion Commission once again.

He and Alderman Ken Saunders both stressed how they’d like to implement only half of the proposed taxes to support such a commission. Each said they’d like the tax, three cents on the dollar in most cities, to apply only to hotel and motel bills, but not restaurants.

Saunders said he wouldn’t support any effort to make Maumelle residents pay more through adding the tax to local restaurants, realizing, of course that they do pay the three percent tax on meals at restaurants along Maumelle Boulevard inside the North Little Rock city limits.

Johnson said the city should ask the Maumelle Chamber of Commerce who proposed a similar tax in year’s past to join with them in researching and considering the tax.

He also noted the so-called hamburger tax could be implemented by a simple vote of the council as well as by a referred proposal for residents to vote on.

Two ordinances to accept streets and drainage into the city were read once and will be considered after a third reading. One is in Osage Hills Terrace and the other in the Country Club of Arkansas.

Alderman Caleb Norris objected to waiving the requirements that all bills and proposed actions be read three times in its entirety,

“If it’s important enough to make a law — it should be read out loud,” Norris said.

In keeping with his thoughts, Norris was the only no vote to suspend the rules and read proposed ordinances by only their title.

Watson said the city public works employees are doing a great job with the December storm cleanup but they still have a long way to go. He said that so far they have cleaned up 5,464 cubic yards of debris at a cost of $70,000 in equipment and expense to the city. There is still a lot of work to be done, he said.

While Parks and Recreation employees have started cleaning up the walking paths around the city, he said much of the work will have to wait for drier weather to prevent making huge ruts bringing in heavy equipment to load some of the debris.

He said both departments are doing a great job in the cleanup.

Watson noted the trees along the Boulevard the city spent so much time and effort taking care of when it was first planted was hit hard by the December storm. He said they’d have to consider what if anything to replace them with. He said it was unsafe and too much work for the city to take on the task of nurturing newly planted trees without an irrigation system that worked.

The bladders which were necessary to prevent dying from a lack of water leaked and were difficult to keep filled. And he said with so much traffic on Maumelle Boulevard, it was unsafe for city workers to be stopped on the side of the road watering the trees.

No more Bradford Pear trees will be planted by the city in Maumelle, Watson said. He said they are attractive but are too easily damaged by ice, snow and wind.

Watson said several of the bond projects were sold on Jan. 3 and by February engineers should be selected to get started on some of the projects, most likely street additions and improvements.

Watson also noted a vacancy in the Planning Commission. He said chairman John Todd’s term is up but that Todd is seeking reappointment. The city is advertising the vacancy and interested residents are suggested to apply.

Norris asked why council meetings couldn’t be taped or recorded so that the recordings would be available to residents before minutes can be sent out.

Watson said the city had explored that option before but the room is not conducive to taping it and a new sound board would need to be purchased to replace the current one which can’t handle that. He said they’d research the options and report back to the council.

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