Politics

Personnel Handbook Changes, HPD Expansion, Playground Project & More Addressed by Hope Board

The Hope City Board met last week for its last meeting of July. The board looked at progress on the HPD expansion project, Northside and Fair Parks playground projects and recommendations for changes to the city’s Personnel Handbook. The Board also addressed requests for rezoning a piece of property from Highway Commercial to Medium Density Residential, a request to waive the bid process to replace a wastewater plant pump and got an update on what’s going on with the city from City Manager Catherine Cook.

Personnel Handbook Changes

Police Chief and Assistant City Manager J.R. Wilson updated the Board on considered changes for the city personnel handbook. Wilson said that the committee, which was started a year ago by City Manager Cook, has been meeting for the past year, looking into changes that need to be made due to law changes, ideas for changes brought forward by department heads as well as other areas that were identified as a concern.

One area changed in the draft of proposed changes is due to state law and deals with early cancer screenings for firefighters and other employees whose jobs put them at increased risk due to exposure to harmful chemicals.

One area that Wilson said that the committee looked closely at and recommend changing is the city’s drug testing policy. With the changes, certain positions where public safety is an issue will continue to require drug testing for employment but other positions where required testing wouldn’t be necessary.

Wilson said that other changes are being made to define Flex Time, which he said is something already used within departments, as well as detailing the specifics of comp time and light duty assignments.

Below are the primary changes to the handbook:

  1. Section 40 compiles important definitions scattered throughout the manual into a Definition Section
  2. Added definition of Flex Time
  3. Added limit to the earning of Compensatory Time
  4. Section 103 provides additional language with respect to hiring and the hiring process to help ensure ADA compliance (a high risk critical task).
  5. Section 107 restricts post offer pre-employment drug/alcohol screenings to safety sensitive positions only and prohibits receipt of Genetic Information that may be obtained by medical providers that is prohibited by law.
  6. Section 109 added language that requires safety sensitive employees to advise their Supervisor if they take a prescription drug that can affect their fitness for duty; that being under the influence of drugs or the presence of drugs on City property is prohibited; allows for Reasonable Suspicion based drug testing of all employees (helps address potential issues with legal use of medical marijuana as well as other concerns).
    5. Section 118 provides for fitness for duty exams.
    6. Section 208 limited compensatory time accrual to 40 hours and requires use of accrued compensatory leave prior to use of vacation time off.
  7. Section 302 added one additional holiday (Typically the City of Hope had either the day after thanksgiving or Christmas Eve as a holiday, but not both. If approved, the new policy provides for both days as holidays. Better aligns with HWL policy.)
  8. Section 307 added: Firefighter occupationally caused cancer sick leave as required by 2019 statute; death of an immediate family member to reasons for use of sick time if the employee’s presence is required beyond funeral leave restrictions.
  9. Section 308 requires the use of accrued leave time during FMLA absence and specifies how available leave time will be used. Reduction of hours to an employee’s work schedule requires City Manager approval.
  10. Section 313: While section 308 requires use of accrued leave during FMLA, section 313 allows for leave without pay only if approved by the City Manager.
  11. Section 318 added a section addressing “Light Duty.” Placement into a light duty position may be permitted on a temporary basis and should never become permanent. Light duty is not guaranteed and may be modified, or ended, at any time, even if the employee’s physician has not released him/her to regular duty.
  12. Section 403 added language to that further restricts use of telephone/cellular phones and mobile data.
  13. Section 602 created a complaint procedure to be added to the already existing grievance procedure. The difference in the procedures is: complaint procedures involve employee concerns that are not adverse employment actions and the final appeal is with the department head; grievance procedures involve adverse employment actions (suspensions or terminations) and may be appealed to the City Manager.
  14. Section 701 added a list of important Federal Laws with which Municipal Administrators should have sufficient familiarity.
  15. Section 702 added a Catastrophic Leave Program.

No action was taken by the Board since this is an issue they will be dealing with further at a later date.

 

Police Department Addition

Hope Police Chief and Assistant City Manager J.R. Wilson and updated the Board on the project to expand the police department. Chief Wilson said that bids for the expansion were opened on July 11 of this year and five bids were submitted. Chief Wilson said based on the bids, the cost has turned out to be higher than the budget originally presented to the board. The project engineer told the Board that they have been going over some of the options with vendors and have been able to get the project within its original budget by making some option changes. The engineer said the project is going to cost around $348,000 and is scheduled to take about 180 days to complete once the project starts. The engineer indicated that the local contractor who did the expansion of the Sheriff’s Office was the low bidder. According to the Sheriff Singleton, that contractor is MAC Construction, owned by Mack Hamilton out of Spring Hill.

All Board members voted in the affirmative to continue on with the project.


Wave Bids for Wastewater Pump

One of the pumps purchased in 2016 and installed in the West Wastewater Treatment Plant has failed and needs to be replaced and the city came to the board requesting that the bid process be waived in the purchasing of a replacement.

The pump, which City Manager Catherine Cook said is run constantly, apparently failed after only three years in service. The other two pumps at the treatment plant, which were replaced at the same time, are still functioning fine at this time. Cook said the previous pump this one replaced lasted 25 years and this one should have lasted longer but appears to have failed prematurely.

The city is looking to purchase a new Crane Deming Pump, Model 7196 4x4x12x13. Cook provided three quotes but asked that the bid process be waived so that they can get the plant back to normal operation. The quotes ranged from $16,449.80 to $21,459. The city plans to purchase the pump from JR Stewart. Cook said the option to rebuild was also explored but the approximately $2500 price difference to rebuild wasn’t considered enough savings when the extra 1 ½ year warranty coverage was considered.

The Hope Board voted to suspend the rules unanimously. All present members voted to accept the ordinance to allow the city to buy the replacement pump so they can get it installed and in operation.

 

Request to Rezone

Local construction company owner Randy Bobo petitioned the board to change the zoning in the 500 block of E. 5th St. from C-2 Highway Commercial to R-2 Medium Density Residential. The Planning and Zoning Commission considered the request during their July 15 meeting where they voted to recommend the rezoning to the Board of Directors.

The area to be rezoned is on E. 5th between S. Shover St. and S. Walker St. behind the old shopping center south of the S curve on E. 3rd St.

All present board members voted to approve the rezoning, opening the way for development of the property for residential use.

 

Consider Purchase of Playground Equipment

The Hope Parks recently received a grant totaling $210,000 for the building of two playgrounds, one at each of the city’s parks. Parks Director Paul Henley addressed the Board on the progress of the. Henley said that the quotes for the playgrounds were very close in price, around $105,000 each. Henley said he put together a team to look over the options and pick the playgrounds and the locations to recommend to the Board.

The purchase is no bid and is done through the State Purchasing Contract, which requires vendors be on the approved list. Henley said that one of the vendors which was chosen isn’t on the list that he was using but the vendor said that they are approved. Henley said they are currently working to confirm if the vendor is on the approved list or not.

The team decided to recommend that each park get its own unique playground, which Henley showed images of to the Board members. Henley said that there are other options available, but the team settled on the options he presented.

Henley said that they recommend that the Northside Park playground be placed between the pavilion and the old bath house, which would give proximity when families hold parties at the pavilion and also quick access to the bathrooms. Extra cost, over the amount of the grant, will be necessary on the part of the city to provide a parking area at the location. Another issue for the location is lighting. City Manager Cook said that the city will talk to Hope Water & Light about their options.

The Fair Park playground will be installed near the swimming pool, where the elephant slide is, which will provide convenient access to restrooms.

The two playgrounds are likely to come from two different companies. Board member Trevor Coffee asked if there may be discounts available if both are purchased from the same vendor, but Henley said that it wouldn’t. Henley said the vendors knew what the budget was and worked to get as close to it as possible.

With the questions surrounding whether the chosen vendor is eligible, the Board decided to table the issue until the next regular Board meeting.


City Manager Report

  • City-Wide Cleanup Day is scheduled for July 27
  • 2019 Street Program
    • Hampered by rain but moving forward
  • Parks
    • Fair Park Pool issues
      • Pool is open
      • Pump was struck by lightning and had to be replaced.
      • Over 70 years old. Oldest pool in Arkansas
        • Cook said getting closer to the time where action will have to be taken.
      • Charitable Christian Clinic air conditioner had to be replaced after going out during one of the hottest days of the year so far. Cook said that the unit was replaced, and air conditioning restored to the building before the Clinic’s next open day.
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