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City tables contracts again; mayor votes 'no,' defends city manager

Arkadelphia, Ark. -

The postponement of any action on an architectural contract for the Royal Theatre and the new fire station was preceded Thursday by tense moments between city directors and management.

Royal Theatre Architectural Contract

Well before directors even talked about the subject, the Rev. Rick Mays spoke to the board as an attending citizen. Mays spoke out against an out-of-town contract that City Manager Jimmy Bolt had provided directors for consideration. The contract is with French Architects of Hot Springs.

“I am in favor of keeping all of Arkadelphia money in Arkadelphia,” he said. “As a tax payer, I am not in favor of taking a couple million dollars from Arkadelphia tax revenue and enhancing the economies of Hot Springs or Little Rock.” Mays noted that he watches board meetings on television and hears directors urge the public to buy local. “I hear you and I buy local, even when it will cost me a few more dollars to do so.”
Another architectural contract that was proposed for the theater project came from Twin Rivers Architect of Arkadelphia. Mays noted that it has been in business since 1987 and has done business with the city and county and done “a capable job in those projects.”

He then compared the contracts between the two firms. He said both firms have a ceiling on their fees of $88,000, and both firms charge an additional 10 percent for additional services from consultants used for other services. French Architects, however, has in its contract a fee the firm will charge each time its employees come to the job site. The terms include two visits per month. If there are more than two visits, charges of up to $130 per hour will be charged, which is above the firm’s 7 percent fee for the project.

“I don’t believe the clock starts when they get on the site, but rather when they leave their office” in Hot Springs. “With Twin Rivers … there is no such fee. It doesn’t matter if an architect comes twice a month or twice a day. And they can walk to the job site.”

He also noted other fees that French would charge that Twin Rivers would not, including travel expenses, phone calls, printing, postage and taxes.

“This board has the opportunity to show the citizens of our city that when you say ‘buy local,’ you mean buy local.” He said he did not have any affiliation with the local firm. “I have nothing against the out-of-town firm or firms that are bidding on these jobs. I’m not against them, I’m just for Arkadelphia.”

Later in the meeting, Bolt told the board that he studied each bid and contract for every project. He said, however, that he looks also at which firm or company provides the “best service for the city.” He noted that the Royal has to be “extremely unique … to have a shot at success.” He said he made his recommendation based on “what I believe is in the best interest of this city.”

Director-at-Large James Calhoun said he asked for and received four proposals for the Royal project, and said he was “pleased” with the ratings and concepts from both firms. But he showed his grandchildren an architectural rendering of the Royal from both French and Twin Rivers without their knowing which firm was which, and asked them which drawing they liked best.

“They liked Twin Rivers the best,” he said. “I respect Jimmy’s feelings, but my feelings are different concerning these two proposals.” The other two firms he reviewed came from WD&D of Little Rock and R.J. Heisenbottle of Miama, Flo.

The average rating for French was 93.7 and the rating for Twin Rivers was 73.75. Though Calhoun said he did not know who rated the firms, he still preferred Twin Rivers’ proposal. By average ratings, the four firms were ranked in this order: French, R.J. Heisenbottle, Twin Rivers and WD&D.

It appeared that Calhoun was the only director who had looked at more than one proposal.

Vice Mayor Ann Sanders seemed upset that she was expected to make a decision without first reviewing all the firms. “Why didn’t the board have the opportunity” to look at all the proposals? She said she did not like the fact that city staff made their preferences before the board was asked about the proposals.

“The board has the say in the beginning. You can’t eliminate the board and expect us to take it and vote on it. As a board member, I don’t want all this extra stuff dumped on me.”

Mayor Chuck Hollingshead noted that it is normal procedure for the city manager to make the referrals before bringing the issue to the board, but Sanders disagreed. “If this has been the process for a hundred years, it needs to change,” she said. “I want to be in it from the beginning. Nobody invited me to look at a contract.”

Hollingshead asked Director DeDe Baldwin her thoughts on the matter. “I agree with Ann … but at the same time I see that it’s Jimmy’s job to make decisions for the board to choose.”

Director Brenda Hagerich echoed Sanders’ comments. The board “should have had looked at (the contracts) from the beginning.” She called the manner in which directors were presented the proposals a “blind vote. I agree with Ms. Sanders. We should have been able to review (all of the proposals. We are talking about spending a lot of money.” She said several constituents from the city and county call her regarding the Royal issue. “It’s a controversial issue. In this instance, I would like to have more information on all of these.” She said it was “off-putting” for Bolt’s administration to make the decisions before the board votes on a matter.

Bolt said he was “surprised” at the board’s response. “I want to apologize to the board.”

Calhoun disagreed with Sanders and Hagerich. “I believe we hire the city manager to do this stuff so we don’t have to.” But at the same time he disagreed that French was the best firm for the job. “As I went through these proposals, I’m not convinced we’ve chosen the best one.” Calhoun noted that the city has a history with Twin Rivers.

He moved that the issue be postponed until the next regular board meeting, and allow each director to review all four proposals. Bolt asked for an additional two weeks, as he would have to ask each firm for copies of their drawings and proposals for all seven voting board members. Calhoun suggested the drawings be uploaded to the city’s Web site, but Bolt said it would take “a lot of human resources” because there were about 20 firms that pitched a proposal before he whittled the list to only four. Sanders said she would be opposed to putting it on the Web site.

Calhoun changed his motion to postpone the issue until the second February board meeting. He also urged citizens to visit Town Hall and review the proposals themselves.

Sanders said she was “not trying to chunk it all out. I just want to be in it from the beginning. Be more careful next time, and include everybody. When we’re elected, we’re elected to make sure we do our job, too.”

With a roll call vote, the board voted 4-1 to postpone the issue. Pausing before he voted “no,” Hollingshead was the lone vote against postponing the matter.

“We hire the city manager to manage the city,” he said. “Board members have the opportunity to look at it as it is being done, and we should be doing that. I feel very good about the projects, (and Bolt’s proposals are) more economical for the city. Some projects can be done better by others. I have good friends at Twin Rivers, and they do a good job. We hire the city manager, and we should stand behind him.” He said Bolt’s suggestions were based on research and other decisions. “We should give him the confidence and the faith to do his job so he can manage a city.”

Bluff Property Feasibility Study

Last fall directors approved a grant commitment to a Tourism Attraction Feasibility Study for the development of a Caddo Cultural Center. City staff applied for and received grants from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism for $13,838, and from Southern Bancorp for $20,662. The total fees for a study performed by Cromwell Architect Engineers, Inc. are set at $32,000 plus reimbursable funding of up to $3,000. The total amount granted to the city was $35,500, and Bolt said there would be “very little” cost to the city — about $500.

The study would determine whether or not the city should look into building a Caddo Cultural Center, and “there’s one way to find out,” Bolt said. That is, to hire a firm to perform a study. “It boils down to, is it feasible?”

Calhoun noted that he wanted to “make it clear” that the study would be funded mostly by grant money.
Hagerich asked Bolt if there was a reason Cromwell was chosen. He said it was the firm he felt most confident in, and noted that it is only a feasibility study. Hagerich asked if there were any other firms taken into consideration. Bolt said there were, but did not say what firms. Hagerich said she believed the board should take bids for the study, and give local firms the opportunity to bid.

Sanders said she is “in favor of getting work done local if we can, but you can’t always.” She said buying local is important, but sometimes out-of-town firms are better for the city. When the city only uses local firms for projects, “that’s when you let your heart run your pocketbook. I’m in favor of spending money at home, but I’m going to see where the money is best spent. I’m not in favor of giving money away.”
Calhoun noted again that it was only a feasibility study and the firm Bolt suggested is not necessarily the one that will build a facility (if it is even an option). “I want to spend at home as much as possible.” He said that, when the city is ready to start building, “we look at every alternative, including local architects.” Calhoun’s motion to award Cromwell the study was passed unanimously. Before voting, Hagerich said she wants the city to “make sure to offer everyone an opportunity (for bids). I’m not advocating only staying local.”

What’s going on with the 1/2-cent sales tax?

Before a little discussion about entering into a $40,000 contract with the Arkadelphia Regional Economic Development Alliance, Shawnie Carrier, the executive director of the Alliance, gave a PowerPoint presentation on the Alliance. Reading directly from the presentation, she said the Alliance’s focus last year was to “prepare our product” by studying existing industry and marketing, among other things.

Since the Economic Development Corp. of Clark County was founded in 2007, more than $187,000 has been put back into the pockets of existing industries. Alumacraft received a $14,000 grant for a new, larger parking lot; Petit Jean Poultry received a $14,000 grant for a water filtration system; Georgia-Pacific received an $80,000 grant for training; K&P Cabinet Works received a $30,000 grant for expanding and creating 10 jobs; Danfoss Scroll Technologies received a $24,900 grant for training; and Print Mania received a $24,000 grant for expanding, creating more jobs and to help it move across the street from its current location.

Carrier said the focus for this year is site development, including land acquisitions, engineering and infrastructure for current industrial areas. She said the EDCCC is looking into purchasing a 150-plus-acre tract of land adjacent to Interstate 30, which the agency “will hopefully buy.” She noted there are only 200 acres in the Clark County Industrial Park.

Another focus has been the new Web site and branding the county. She said a prospect “looks at the Web site first” before considering a visit to the county or industrial park. “You have to have a very strong Web site.”

Del Boyette has been hired by the EDCCC as a consultant who developed an economic “blueprint” for the county and helped create an incentives policy for prospective industries. He is also exploring a labor market study, Carrier said. The Alliance also has a membership in several affiliate associations throughout the country, including many regional chambers of commerce associations.

Leadership Clark County is in its second year, after the Alliance began the nine-month program last year for potential leaders. Participants in the class take one day a month for the course and get a close look at the county’s industry and history.

Carrier said there is a potential that the Alliance will look into entering a regional partnership with the South West Arkansas International Authority, which would include Clark, Pike, Montgomery, Nevada and Dallas counties. The Alliance may also work with the Little Rock Metro Alliance.

As for new jobs, Carrier said there is an announcement scheduled for February, and the company (she did not release the name) will create 90 jobs. She said she also has been working with a prospect for over a year on locating, and noted that the average time spent before a prospect makes a decision is two years. The prospective industry would create 70 jobs, and she said she hopes to make an announcement in April.
A “transload facility” will be a key component for the industrial park, she said. The facility would encompass a railroad spur for the park for all industries to use. The only spur in the park is connected to Alcoa.
She said the Diamond Lakes Regional Visitor Center is expected to open in July.

After viewing a three-minute video on the Web site, Carrier entertained questions. Hagerich asked exactly which entity — the EDCCC or the Alliance — would be purchasing the lot on I-30. Carrier noted that the EDCCC is the entity that would make the purchase.

“There’s a lot being done,” Carrier said of the Alliance.

Hagerich noted that the board in previous years entered into a contract with the Arkadelphia Area Chamber of Commerce for $25,000, and asked Bolt to clarify that that money is now being “rolled over” to the Alliance. Bolt did, adding that the additional $15,000 will help fund the opening of the visitors’ center, which will be in the old Elk Horn Bank branch in Caddo Valley. Other government agencies are pitching in money as well, including Clark County ($15,000), the City of Caddo Valley ($5,000) and the Caddo Valley Advertising and Promotion Commission ($5,000). Both universities in Arkadelphia have also made pledges.
Directors unanimously voted in favor of entering into the contract.

2025 Commission
Directors were also presented with a $25,000 contract renewal with the Arkadelphia 2025 Commission, the non-profit agency that sprang up after the 1997 tornado. The commission, through grant money, has funded housing projects, downtown streetscape phases and the redevelopment of “tornado-stricken” areas in Arkadelphia. Bolt noted that much of the work has “shifted” to the downtown area.

Hagerich complained about parking on the 600 block of Main Street, where she said it is difficult for two cars to pass each other when all of the diagonal parking spaces are full. Bolt said the diagonal parking was intentional to keep downtown traffic slow and “pedestrian-friendly.”

Calhoun said the $25,000 was a “small amount” for the “good job they have done.” He moved to renew the contract. Hagerich asked how long the city would contract with the commission. Bolt said, “as long as we can. I’m a believer in it.” The motion carried unanimously.

No day off for sanitation workers on MLK Day?

Henry Wilson, president of the Clark County chapter of the NAACP, spoke to the board about a concern he had with certain city employees working on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “I have a concern for African Americans … that the city allows the sanitation workers to work on Dr. King’s birthday,” he said. He read a 2004 letter he received from former city manager Barbara Coplen, who promised no city employee would work on that holiday. Then, in 2005, he met with Bolt about the same issue. “After much discussion” with Bolt, he said, it was determined that most businesses are open on the holiday, and most people put out their trash, expecting it to be picked up. Wilson said he was told that the trash being left on the curbs for an entire day is “unsightly” for the community.

“I’m here to ask you to re-consider” the policy, he said. “This is a new board. Time has changed.” It was noted that sanitation employees signed a petition to work on the holiday, and were paid overtime wages for working. Wilson said allowing the employees to decide when to work is “like the tail wagging the dog.”
He further noted that the cities of Hot Springs and Malvern do not allow their workers to work on the holiday.

Hagerich thanked him for his comments, adding that she was not on the board at the time when sanitation employees were given the day off. She asked Wilson if he had talked to the employees, and asked what their thoughts were on having the day off. Wilson said he had talked to one employee in particular who wanted the holiday rather than working for overtime wages.

Hagerich said she did not like the approach of having employees sign a petition to work on the holiday, calling it a “serious issue. I strongly believe we need to make a change to this policy.” She said giving employees the day off would also save the city money, as opposed to paying time-and-a-half for their work.

City Manager’s report

In Bolt’s report, he thanked the board for a special called meeting last Friday because of a failure of Town Hall’s fire suppression system. Bid documents are being prepared for the replacement of the telephone system. The fire suppression system is “up and running” and the estimated price is under $4,000. Sheetrock and flooring inspection and repair is also estimated at under $4,000.

He thanked M&M Enterprises in Gurdon for the donation of trees that were recently placed in Town Hall.
The city has four interns working currently, two of which are paid. The other two are receiving college credit for their work.

Bolt recognized employees for perfect attendance in 2009. Those employees were as follows — Water Department: Michael Shepherd; Sanitation: Ricky Ross, Chris Summerville, Mel Vail and Anthony Cooks; Fire: Chief Ricky Arnold, Lt. David Russell, Andy Neel and Timmy Thomason.

City staff is preparing to help Group Living, Inc., to obtain a grant through the city. There will be a special called meeting later in January to discuss the matter.

“I am proud to report that the city will not be required to amend the 2009 budget this year,” Bolt said. General Government, Utility Department, Street Department and other special funds came in under budget. “I want to congratulate all of the department heads and each of their employees for this achievement.”

Routine Business

Hagerich thanked Wilson and Mays for speaking their concerns to the board, and encouraged others to do so. She said she was happy with how the meeting went, noting there was some “give and take” between directors and the administration. “That is stimulating to me. That is what it takes to get Arkadelphia to be in a progressive state.” She also requested that Bolt reconsider the MLK holiday and giving sanitation workers the day off.

Calhoun noted that he attended a Siplast presentation, where the roof material company rolled out a new product. He said the new product, if it works, will be “intriguing.”

Hollingshead said he, too, enjoyed the meeting. He thanked Carrier for her presentation, noting the 1/2-cent sales tax is “coming together. Let’s keep trying to grow our community.”
The meeting adjourned at 7:20 p.m., almost an hour and a half after it began.

Technical Code Ordinance

Directors passed a first reading of an ordinance that updates the city’s technical code ordinance, making it comply with state standards. “There aren’t very many changes,” said Anita Wiley, building department supervisor. Hollingshead noted that a public hearing on the issue was published in the Siftings earlier this month, opening the floor for a hearing. No one spoke on the issue, so directors placed the ordinance on its first reading. After a lengthy reading from City Clerk Rendi Currey, Calhoun noted that the ordinance will not increase fees for any permits. He encouraged people to visit the city’s Web site, www2.cityofarkadelphia.com, to look at and review the ordinance if they so wish. “If you have questions, just ask Mrs. Wiley. She’ll be glad to help.” For those who do not have access to the Internet, Calhoun suggested visiting Town Hall, where Wiley would be “happy to sit down with you” to discuss details of the ordinance.

The board will hear a second reading, title only, at the next regular meeting.

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