CITY OF TEXARKANA, AR

REQUEST FOR BOARD ACTION

 

AGENDA TITLE:  Approval of Minutes of the regular meeting March 21, 2016.

AGENDA DATE: April 4, 2016

ITEM#: 8A

DEPARTMENT:  City Clerk

DATE SUBMITTED:  March 22, 2016

PREPARED BY:  Heather Soyars

SUBJECT:  March 21, 2016 regular meeting minutes

EXHIBITS:  Minutes

APPROVAL:

EXPENSE REQUIRED: $0.00

AMOUNT BUDGETED: $0.00

APPROPRIATION REQUIRED: $0.00

SUMMARY: The minutes of the March 21, 2016 regular meeting are provided for your approval.

BOARD ACTION:  The City Clerk recommends board approval.

 

MEETING OF THE

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

OF THE CITY OF TEXARKANA, ARKANSAS

MARCH 21, 2016

__________________________________

MEMBERS PRESENT:

The Board of Directors of the City of Texarkana, Arkansas, convened in regular session at 6:30 PM on Monday 21, 2016.

ROLL CALL:

Mayor Ruth Penney Bell asked the Clerk to call the roll and the following Board Members were present:  Mayor Bell, Assistant Mayor Harris, and Directors Sue Johnson, Tim Johnson, Barbara S. Miner, Travis Odom and Allan Wren.  Also present were City Manager Kenny Haskin, City Attorney George M. Matteson and City Clerk Heather Soyars. 

Mayor Bell asked it be duly noted there was a quorum present for tonight’s meeting.

INVOCATION:

The invocation was given by Director Travis Odom.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE:

Director Travis Odom led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.

COMMENTS FROM THE MAYOR:

Welcome:

            Mayor Bell welcomed everyone to tonight’s meeting and acknowledged former Mayor Wayne Smith.

Dr. Herb Wren:

            Mayor Bell, on behalf of the Board, gave her deepest sympathy to Director Wren with the passing of his father, Dr. Herb Wren. 

Board Meeting Procedure

Mayor Bell briefly reviewed the board meeting procedures and pointed out the Agenda Item Cards, Citizens’ Communication Cards, and agendas along the rail for tonight’s Board meeting.  The Mayor asked any audience member interested in speaking at tonight’s Board meeting to complete one of the cards and turn the card in to the City Clerk.  She said this would help run an organized meeting and allowed the Clerk to have the necessary information for the meeting minutes.  She stated any citizen may comment on any item on the agenda and express their desires, but would be limited to five minutes.

QUESTIONS FROM DIRECTORS AND OTHER BUSINESS:

            Mayor Bell asked if the Directors had any questions or comments.

            Assistant Mayor Harris requested item 7C, “Adopt a Resolution confirming the City Manager’s nomination and appointment of Jeff Whitten as the Public Works Director”, be removed from the Consent Agenda.

            Assistant Mayor Harris asked if the City had a Five (5) Year Plan for updating the City parks. 

            City Manager Dr. Kenny Haskin said yes the City had a Five (5) Year Park Plan and he would provide it to Assistant Mayor Harris.

            Assistant Mayor Harris asked what the procedure for the removal of burnt houses was.

            Dr. Kenny Haskin said it was an issue of having available funding in order to remove the houses.  He said he would provide Assistant Mayor Harris with a list of the criteria.

            Mayor Bell said if any member of the audience would like the same, they could meet with Dr. Haskin.  She said large amounts of money had been spent on the parks.  She said it would take neighborhood residents becoming involved to help reduce the vandalism to the park lights.

            Director Odom objected to the removal of item 7C, “Adopt a Resolution confirming the City Manager’s nomination and appointment of Jeff Whitten as the Public Works Director”, from the Consent Agenda.  He said filling the vacancy was an important need.

         No one else came forward.

CONSENT AGENDA:

Director Odom moved to approve the Consent Agenda.  The motion was seconded by Director S. Johnson and carried unanimously.  The items approved by consent were:

MINUTES:

The minutes approved were of the regular meeting March 6, 2016.

RESOLUTION NO. 2016-22:

Resolution No. 2016-22 authorized the City Manager to enter into a consulting contract with CLB Engineers, Inc. for the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) Grant Projects.

REGULAR AGENDA:

RESOLUTION NO. 2016-23:

Resolution No. 2016-23 was read in its entirety.  Said resolution confirmed the City Manager’s nomination and appointment of Jeff Whitten as the Public Works Director.

City Attorney George M. Matteson said the resolution should be handled like any other agenda item.  He said if the issue was of a personal nature, it could be offered to meet in executive session for a discussion.

Assistant Mayor Harris said his concerns were not of a personal nature.

Dr. Haskin said based on Mr. Whitten’s resume, his qualifications would allow him to take the Public Works Department to the next level.  He said lots of time, resources and energy had been vested into his nomination.

Director Odom said Mr. Whitten was familiar with issues facing the City; therefore, he would be able to move the City forward.

Assistant Mayor Harris said his request to remove the item from the consent agenda was not about the person but was a procedural issue.  He said he did not feel like the Board should be involved in the hiring, and possibly, the firing of department heads.  He said in his time on the Board, he never confirmed a position that the City Manager hired.  He stated he was concerned the Board’s involvement of the hiring and firing would lead to a game of polictics.

Director Odom said he thought Dr. Haskin wanted the Board to know who his nomination was and his qualifications.

Dr. Haskin said he thought there were three (3) or four (4) positions that, according to City Ordinances, required him to bring his nomination before the Board for confirmation.

Mr. Matteson said the City’s ordinances were specific in that the Director of Public Works required the City Manager to bring his nomination before the Board for confirmation.

Mayor Bell asked if Mr. Whitten was present.

Dr. Haskin said he was not, he was in Dallas.

Director Odom moved to adopt the resolution.  The motion was seconded by Director T. Johnson.  The Clerk called the roll and the following vote resulted: Directors Harris, S. Johnson, T. Johnson, Miner, Odom, Wren and Bell voted aye.  The Mayor declared the resolution adopted, as there were seven (7) ayes and no nays. 

PUBLIC HEARING – AMENDING PUBLIC WORKS BUDGET:

            Mayor Bell opened the public hearing to hear comments from the public concerning amending the FY2016 Budget and the Public Works Budget.

            Assistant Public Works Director Tracie Lee said the planning figures for the FY2016 Public Works Budget must be adjusted to include the expense for the installation of Highway 71/East Street Bridge lights.  As the construction of Highway 71/East Street Bridge was nearing completion the City was responsible for the installation of lights on the bridge.  The $104,225.00 expense included $81,400.00 in construction cost, $13,349.60 in engineering fees and a 10% contingency in the amount of $9,475.40 for unknown issues that could occur during construction.  The City Manager proposed to amend the budget to accept the expense of $104,225.00.

            Mayor Bell asked if any Board or audience member had any questions or comments concerning this item.  No one came forward.  Mayor Bell closed the public hearing.

RESOLUTION NO. 2016-24:

            The resolution was read in its entirety.  Said resolution amended the FY2016 Budget (Resolution No. 6340) and the Public Works Budget to include the expense for Highway 71/East Street Bridge lights.

Director S. Johnson moved to adopt the resolution.  The motion was seconded by Director Odom.  The Clerk called the roll and the following vote resulted: Directors Harris, S. Johnson, T. Johnson, Miner, Odom, Wren and Bell voted aye.  The Mayor declared the resolution adopted, as there were seven (7) ayes and no nays. 

ORDINANCE NO. M-135:

An ordinance was introduced to be entitled, “An Ordinance To Accept The Donation Of The Real Property Commonly Known As 402 Park Street, Texarkana, Arkansas, For Creation Of A Park Thereon; And For Other Purposes.”  Said ordinance accepted the donation of property located at 402 Park Street from the State of Arkansas to build a pocket basketball park called the Texarkana Arkansas Police Department (TAPD) Alpha Park.   

TAPD Alpha Squad officers Randy McAdams and Michael Bryan presented a PowerPoint to the Board.

Officer Bryan said although often overlooked, the neighborhood was a powerful tool for social improvement.  A decrepit environment, economic decline, and social alienation festered an attitude of criminal behavior.  By addressing areas of social and environmental decline, TAPD hoped to build even stronger relations with the citizens and develop practical methods of fighting crime.  Communities were safer when neighbors knew one another and worked together with the Police to solve problems.  He said in the beginning, officers with Alpha Squad would often times stop in the area of Park Street and visit with kids who were playing basketball in the street. 

Officer Bryan said the officers would regularly get out of their patrol cars and interact with the kids playing a quick game of basketball while also building lasting relationships.  Because these kids did not have a designated safe place to play, they were playing directly in the street.  This created a huge concern to Police due to the frequent vehicle traffic and deep culvert directly behind these children as they played.  In addition, TAPD received 911 calls of service from citizens concerned with the safety of these children.  He said these children were not committing crimes.  They were simply playing basketball with one another.

Officer Bryan said in an effort to create a safe environment for the children Alpha Squad was proposing to the Board to build a pocket basketball park, at 402 Park Street.  This would protect our youth by providing a safe and secure location for them to play, calling it Alpha Project.  On Monday, March 14, 2016, at 5:00 PM, Alpha Squad met at 402 Park Street with many residents and the children in the direct area and picked up a truck load of trash off the lot.

Officer Bryan said at this time, the land was currently in the process of being donated to the Police Department from the State of Arkansas.  He expected this process would be completed promptly with no issues.  The concrete had been secured by Matt Smith of Smith Ready Mix Concrete.  All foundation and ground work had been secured by Cleve Batte Sr., with Cleve Batte Construction.  He said there were several members of the community who have already provided support to various aspects of this project.  A donation account had been set up at Red River Federal Credit Union.

Officer Bryan said today, with the Board’s approval, Alpha Squad would like to build a better Texarkana, Arkansas, beautify our City, and build community relations that would no doubt make a huge impact in our community.

Alpha Squad received a standing ovation from the audience.

Mayor Bell said this was an opportunity for young people to see police in a positive situation.  She thanked TAPD.  She stated help could be given in the form of donations.

Dr. Haskin said the Alpha Squad would be partnering with the Parks and Recreation Department to assist in the maintenance upon completion.

Officer Bryan said they had already spoken with Ross Cowling, Parks Superintendent, about the long term maintenance plan.

Dr. Haskin thanked Chief Bob Harrison for his leadership and allowing his officers to expand beyond general policing to engage in the communities.

Director Odom thanked the officers for their contribution to the neighborhood and providing a safer environment for the kids to play basketball.

Mayor Bell said the Rules of Order and Procedure for the Board requires three (3) readings for ordinances, yet also allowed for all three (3) readings to occur at the same meeting.  She said she wanted to know the Board’s opinion on this issue.  She stated people feel better when they had the opportunity to verbalize their concerns.  She said she would vote not to fast-track the readings on items that were of a controversial nature.  She said unless there was a provable emergency, ordinances should be read three (3) separate times.  She asked the Alpha Squad Officers if there was a reason the Alpha Park Ordinance should be fast tracked.

Officer Bryan said not to his knowledge, they had come tonight to request the Board’s approval before continuing.

Mr. Matteson said general donations of rights of way and properties to a City, by statute, need to be accepted by ordinance.  He said he did not include an emergency clause because there was a forty-five (45) day period before the State issued a deed.  He said the ordinance was ready for its first reading with consideration to move it to a second and third reading whenever that happened to be.

Assistant Mayor Harris said the issue was not the agenda item itself, but the notification to the public on what the Board was voting on.  He said at the workshop discussing the water rates increase, it was decided the ordinance would be read at three (3) meetings; however, it was read at two (2) meetings but only after he opposed a fast-track after the first reading.

Mayor Bell asked if any Board or audience member had any questions or comments concerning this item.  No one came forward.

The ordinance was read the first time.

Director Odom moved the ordinance be read in abbreviated form and the ordinance be placed on its second reading.  The motion was seconded by Director T. Johnson.  The Clerk called the roll and the following vote resulted: Directors Harris, S. Johnson, T. Johnson, Miner, Odom, Wren and Bell voted aye.  The Mayor declared the motion carried, as there were seven (7) ayes and no nays. 

The ordinance was read the second time.

Assistant Mayor Harris moved the ordinance be read in abbreviated form and the ordinance be placed on its third and final reading.  The motion was seconded by Director S. Johnson.  The Clerk called the roll and the following vote resulted: Directors Harris, S. Johnson, T. Johnson, Miner, Odom, Wren and Bell voted aye.  The Mayor declared the motion carried, as there were seven (7) ayes and no nays. 

Assistant Mayor Harris made the motion to adopt the ordinance.  The motion was seconded by Director Odom.  The Clerk called the roll and the following vote resulted: Directors Harris, S. Johnson, T. Johnson, Miner, Odom, Wren and Bell voted aye.  The Mayor declared the ordinance adopted, as there were seven (7) ayes and no nays. 

REVISIT ORDINANCE NO. M-130:

            Mayor Bell said after an ordinance passed, it could not be brought up before the Board for 180 days without a two-thirds majority vote of the Board.  She said the purpose of this agenda item was to discuss the procedures for ordinances with the Board.

            Mr. Matteson said unless there was an action item for the Board to take up and vote on, there was no reason not to move to Citizen Communication.

[04042016 - Director Tim Johnson asked that corrections be made to the Minutes.  He did not read the complete email at the Board meeting. – City Clerk Heather Soyars]

Director T. Johnson read [portions of] an email sent to Mayor Davis and cc’d to the Board of Directors:

Dear Mayor Davis,

I'm a new resident to Texarkana Arkansas.  I recently moved from the Texas side.  My move would have happened earlier but I could not bring myself to live in a city that was in constant turmoil with itself.  After your election along with other significant changes within our city government, I finally felt like our city could be proud and move forward.  I feel that we have begun to move forward by making strides to be known as a loving, inclusive, and progressive city.  One that young families will want to move to instead of away from.  I commend you and your city council members for unanimously approving M-130 in an effort to ensure equality when conducting business.  You will find very similar inclusive verbiage in most all major businesses and industries on both national and local levels.  It only makes sense that our city would choose to conduct business without discrimination of any sort for any reason.  I'm embarrassed and even appalled at the negative responses on both sides of this topic.  I'm a Christian and my God does not teach bigotry in any shape or form.  I consider you to be a very well educated and forward thinking individual and you and I both know this has nothing to do with restrooms.  I'm disappointed to learn of the possibility of you recommending that the city board reverse their decision.  An attempt to reverse this decision would not have surprised me of the prior city administration and its supporters.  However, I had hoped that your administration would be clearer minded and more inclusive.

I believe one of your quotes to be "sometimes doing the right thing isn't the easy thing".

Do you want to do the right thing Ruth? You have made a positive step in Texarkana's history by becoming our first female mayor. Please don't strike through the positive events in our city's history with the black marker of intolerance.

Remember this is the season of resurrection and new life and new beginnings.”

            Mayor Bell said she had talked with ministers about this issue and explained the Board’s actions as it was explained to them as proposed.  She said she did not support, yet was not against the proposal.  She said the collection of signatures was an acceptable next step.  She stated she knew there were strong feelings on both sides of the issue, so putting it to a vote was the best thing.

            Assistant Mayor Harris asked when the special election would be held.  He stated he felt there would be a more diverse group during the November general election versus a June special election due to the summertime.

            Mr. Matteson said the petition requested a special election; therefore, based on statute, the special election must be held no more than 120 days after the petition is certified by the City Clerk.  He said the Board did have some discretion but to keep in mind any other applicable laws pertaining to special election dates.

            Mayor Bell said as it stood this would be the time frame.

            Director Miner asked if the special election would be held in the same manner as any other election.

            Mr. Matteson said after the City Clerk had determined the sufficiency of the petition, the Board would set a date and ballot title for the special election.  The information would be sent to the Election Commission with enough time for them to carry out their election procedures.

            Director Wren asked if there were any possible ways to extend the number of days before the special election was held.

            Mr. Matteson said the 120 days was set by statute and had been confirmed by the Secretary of State.  He said this was specific to a referendum petition.

CITIZEN COMMUNICATION:

            Mayor Bell asked if anyone in the audience would like to speak, on any subject up to a total of five (5) minutes. 

Director T. Johnson said the wrong phone number on the website had been corrected.

Assistant Mayor Harris said he drove through his ward about once a month looking for potholes and other concerns.  He said he went to the park on Preston Street every week.  He stated he was informed of the park situation last week, and he told the individual it was their right to speak to the Board at a Board meeting.

Mayor Bell said the Board did not want to take away from Mr. Evans’ time by discussing specific details.

Mr. Evans said he wanted to know if he had to go to his ward Director with his concerns as opposed to coming to a Board meeting.

Mayor Bell said contacting your ward Director would be appropriate.

Assistant Mayor Harris said his phone number was working. and he was not sure why Mr. Evans was doing what he was doing.

Mr. Evans said he was not there to argue.  He said he would be back.

“We all know someone who is gay.  This is about basic Human Rights- Civil Rights.  This is about embracing who you are.  Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  If people need a law to be protected, then people need a law to be protected!  We are not each other’s enemy.  Laws that protect gender identity do not equal permitting deviance.  What’s perverse is imagining someone else’s bedroom or bathroom habits.  This ordinance simply assures that EVERYONE has protection under the law.  It’s not ‘good against evil’ or ‘us against them.

Everyone here has the same goal -safety and protection.  NO one wants their child to be the next Adam Walsh OR Matthew Sheppard.  We all want our children to be happy, healthy and safe.  These folks are ALL someone’s children.

Although there is already a law of Separation of Church and State, religious misperceptions are based on stereotype which is why only 29 states have not changed YET but 21 states HAVE recognized this protection under CIVIL RIGHTS.  Government studies since the 1950’s confirm that reversing the ban on gays in the military would not undermine unit effectiveness or cohesion.  So, DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) was implemented for transition and analysis.  This went on for 17 years until IT was repealed in 2011 allowing OPENLY gay men and women to serve.  Surprisingly, this has gone smoother than predicted –with retention, recruitment and morale!  What they thought would be terrible –actually ended up making no difference with many calling it a ‘non-event’ and if anything, conduct has IMPROVED in leadership AND professionalism.  Currently approximately 66,000 openly gay soldiers are serving.  28 NATIONS allow openly gay men and women to serve.  According to the military, the word

Accommodations –mean housing and benefits.

Accommodations –mean NOT segregating housing, showers or other COMMON USE facilities.

Accommodations- mean equal opportunity in issues when facing discipline or PROMOTION.

Accommodations in the military mean heterosexuals are allowed to SAY they are straight -and homosexuals are allowed to SAY they are gay.

EVERYONE IS STILL HELD TO THE SAME BEHAVIORAL STANDARDS!

From the Legal Free Dictionary:

Accommodations by law mean accessibility to space, positions, environmental benefits and privileges.

Former United States Senator from Michigan Carl Levin asked, ‘Why is the burden to end discriminatory policy up to the people being discriminated against? Especially when all they are asking for is no harm?’

People are being fired from jobs, bullied and beaten. Young people are turning to drugs and self harming. Everyone deserves the right to be open and honest about who they are without fear of repercussion.  YOU could eventually have a gay child or grandchild.  Then whose side will you be on?”

“Mayor Bell, Directors,

I am Lisa Bose McDermott, I live at 1517 Linden Ave., Texarkana, AR. 

I want to go on the record praising you for the work that you’ve done.  When you were elected, you were given two tasks by the electorate.

1.     Clean up City Hall.  Check.  You’ve done that.

2.     Jobs.  We need jobs on the Ark side and we are starting to get those.  That’s what this nondiscrimination ordinance is about.  Jobs.  J.O.B.S.  JOBS.

It’s not about potties.  It’s about jobs.  The potty argument is simply a red herring.

91 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have policies in place like the city has. Most small businesses support policies like this.  Wal-Mart, an Arkansas company and the world’s largest retailer, is the biggest backer of this type of ordinance.  It has been very clear about supporting nondiscrimination ordinances in our state.

The policy set forth is something that something that is telling our nation’s business community that Texarkana, Ark. is open for business.  As more businesses are looking for a place to locate, they are looking for a city with this type of ordinance to call home.  So I want us to go toe to toe with the Little Rocks, Hot Springs or Fayettevilles. But even closer to home, if it’s between us and Texarkana, Texas I want those jobs landing on the Arkansas side.

Right now, the hate mongering that has been brought out has us rolling UP the welcome mat.  And the comments that have been made in the media show exactly why we need such an ordinance.  We’ve long suffered through embarrassments - more than our fair share.  I don’t want us to be embarrassed anymore.

Is this the message that we want to send to the rest of the nation?  We're shaming our own community. And who's at the center of this and how are they benefitting?

The lawyer who's "advising" them is making money off of it.

And a lot of it is being engineered not just by Texans but Texas politicians.  What do they have to gain?

Our city has begun to shine and I'm sick and tired of Texans trying to steal our sunshine. That stops here and now.

The ordinance has nothing to do with taking away Christian freedoms.  There has long been protection from discrimination based on religion.  It is already a protection afforded to them by not just the city's ordinance but by our constitution.

Gays-our friends, neighbors, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, nieces and nephews - are our small businesses owners in our community and have zero protections under the law.  They pay their taxes like everyone else does.

We're not only interested in small business but big industry. The board has taken a forward direction and long-range plan by obtaining water rights to sustain industry and our community for years to come.  Why do we want to regress?

We've started to become proactive and do not want this to be undermined.

The ordinance was passed fairly and in the normal course of business.  Should an ordinance take three full meetings to pass, the work of city hall would come to a halt.

So congratulate that the work that you’ve done.  You are to be admired. Your No.2 task is still a work in progress.  Let’s check that off of your list.”

ADJOURNMENT:

Director Odom, seconded by Director S. Johnson, moved to adjourn the meeting.  The Clerk called the roll and the following vote resulted:  Directors Harris, S. Johnson, T. Johnson, Miner, Odom, Wren and Bell voted aye.  The Mayor declared the meeting adjourned, as there were seven (7) ayes and no nays. 

The meeting adjourned at 8:49 PM.

 

_______________________________

Ruth Penney Bell, Mayor

ATTEST:

_____________________________

Heather Soyars, City Clerk

 

 

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