By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
The biggest news out of Tuesday night’s meeting of the Hope City Board came at the end of the meeting, more so than during it. City Manager Catherine Cook said the downtown Pavilion was almost complete with the exception of expected contractor “punch list” items.
“We should be good for the opening of the Farmer’s Market the first week of May,” she said.
Related to the Pavilion, Hazel Simpson asked about its cost and availability. Hope Mayor Steve Montgomery said he anticipated the rules and policies on public use of the Pavilion would be the same as other city-owned public facilities.
Cook said that recommended rental fees and policies were being developed by Paul Henley of the Parks and Recreation Dept. and would be presented to the Hope City Board at the next meeting.
Simpson anticipated the Pavilion would be available in time for the 2019 Yerger Reunion, a event held by the Yerger Alumni Association which brings dozens of Yerger alumni back to Hope every two years. The last reunion happened in 2017.
During Citizen’s requests, the Hope City Board heard from Mike Smith, a Hope resident, who lives on 9th Street. He expressed concerns about the condition of the street and about frequent speeding in the neighborhood.
Smith noted that kids in the area had increased in recent years, and he requested a “Children At Play” sign or some other signage to slow drivers down.
“There are cars going 40 miles per hour. It is an everyday consistent problem,” Smith said. Smith also brought photos for the board members to examine.
Hope Police Chief J.R. Wilson said that the Hope Police had a special “Flashing Speed Sign,” that also measures traffic data which could address the speeding matter. He also said that police patrols could be periodically stationed in the area.
The Hope City Board also approved the appointment of new City Clerk Natashia Riley to succeed outgoing Connie Lavender, who resigned the post. Lavendar will stay on with the City of Hope in a different capacity as a “Deputy City Clerk,” but Riley will assume Lavendar’s responsibilities as the City Clerk at the Tuesday night board meetings.
Montgomery noted that the Hope City Board is responsible for the hiring of three city positions, the City Manager, the City Attorney, and the City Clerk. As a procedure, the board had to first accept Lavender’s resignation, and then formally appoint Riley, which they did.
Lavender had served as City Clerk, which is a part-time post, for the past three years, and she was well-regarded and praised for her service. Riley is presently employed full-time at Hope Water & Light as an accountant, and she arrived in Hope seven years ago from Pine Bluff.
In approving Riley as the new City Clerk, the board also approved her $300 per month salary for the part-time position.
In other Board actions from Tuesday night:
• The board approved the appointment of Greg Bobo to the Airport Advisory Committee. Current members of the committee are John Watkins, Ben Gresham, Randall Ross, Joseph Kopecky, and Montgomery, and Cook and Henley were identified as “Airport Staff.” As the approval was being voted on, however, Board member Kiffenea Talley asked for an Executive Session to discuss the appointment, and the board left the open session for eight minutes before returning to vote on Bobo’s appointment.
• The board approved two measures for the Hope Fire Dept. One was the approved purchase of vehicle exhaust systems for both fire stations for $64,481 from Plymovent, a vendor from Oklahoma who has worked with fire departments in Little Rock, Rogers and Fort Smith. Cook said that the project was funded by the FEMA grant that was written and approved for the City of Hope Fire Department in the amount of $82,381.
• The board also approved the hiring of an electrician to upgrade wiring for the new exhaust system as it was noted the main Hope Fire Station is housed in a 1939-era building. The contract was awarded to Craine’s Electric and Drywall of Springdale for $16,200.
• The board approved an annual grant proposal for the Hope Police Dept. known as as STOP (Stop Violence Against Women). Cook said that STOP funds are eligible to be used by law enforcement agencies to provide services pertaining to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence against adult women. Cook noted that the HPD has done the grant for several years. The grant, if awarded, would bring $24,720 in federal funds with a local $8,846 in-kind match.
By Rick Kennedy, managing editor