Wed January 18, 2023

By Jeff Smithpeters

Hope City Board decides on Rosehill maintenance contractor, appoints board members, commissioners, examines financial report

The second January regular meeting of the City of Hope Board of Directors, filmed by the city and posted on its facebook site, saw the board make a choice of the low bid for a cemetery and grounds maintenance contract, ratify its choices of board members and commissioners, examine the December 2022 financial report, approve work on two state-maintained bridges and waive bids to immediately buy two police vehicles.

The board first approved the low bid of Justin Lawn Service to provide landscaping and grounds services for $36,386 on 25 acres at Rosehill and Cavehill. Both business owners submitting bids spoke to the board about their appreciation of the importance of this work. Interim City Manager J.R. Wilson said he found both had the personnel and the equipment to do the job. It was at his invitation that the owners attended and spoke. The decision of which contractor to choose had been tabled during the board’s previous meeting.

Next, Mayor Still named the board’s choices for appointments to boards and commissions on which the city board has memberships. These choices were made in place of members whose terms had expired or who withdrew from their respective boards or commissions. 

  • Lester Sitzes was reappointed to the Hope Water and Light Commission for another five-year term after his previous term expired December 31.

  • Vice-mayor Kiffinea Talley and Cynthia Ford received reappointments to and Judy Watson, Linda Clark and former City Manager Catherine Cook received appointments to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Don Freel, Talley and Ford’s three-year terms had expired December 31 with Freel not seeking reappointment. Reginald Easter resigned.

  • Director Trevor Coffee was reappointed to the Advertising and Tourist Commission board after his previous term expired December 31. The expiration the same day of the term of Commissioner Juan Rivera means the Commission as a whole would recommend Rivera or a replacement member, which would be approved by the city board.

Interim City Manager J.R. Wilson will remain on the Ad Hoc Street and Drainage Committee as former City Director Cook’s retirement clears a seat that would presumably filled by the eventual permanent city director. Sam Bradford’s term on the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners having expired December 31, the rest of that board has 45 calendar days in which to appoint a replacement. The replacement would have to be approved by the city board.  If the HA Board fails to name a successor in that period, the city board would make the appointment.

Next, the board voted to give authority to Interim City Manager Wilson to apply for funds through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant, which opened for applications January 9 and closes February 10.

Then the board members examined a seven-page report showing revenue and expenses for December 2022. Interim City Manager Wilson intends to present monthly reports in the second regular meeting of each month. In all, the board spent about 30 minutes asking about particular line items and receiving explanation from Finance Director Cindy Clark and Wilson.

Clark said items that sustained increased levels of spending compared to last year included salaries that reflected end of 2022 bonuses. Workers’ Compensation Insurance also increased. Interim City Manager Wilson said these costs were factored into the 2023 budget. Vehicle fuel and oil price increases Clark also named as culprits in causing higher expenses.

In answer to Director Coffee’s query, Clark said individual health insurance costs had increased by $40 for individuals and $90 for families. Director Ross, examining Animal Control costs, said it may be time to increase licensing fees. Vice-mayor Kiffinea Talley suggested that the city require cats to be licensed. Interim City Manager Wilson said there was no Hope ordinance against cats running at large. Mayor Still suggested studying the policy of other cities.

The report revealed that sales tax receipts for December were ten percent higher than the same month in 2021.

After the discussion of the budget report, the board heard a report from Wilson on letters received from Arkansas Department of Transportation asking the city to do work on two state-maintained bridges within city limits, one at East Greenwood at Pate Creek, the other at Experiment Station Road at Pate Creek. Wilson said he had conferred with Hope Street Superintendent Kenneth Harvel and determined the city could do the work, which includes clearing box culverts and stream channels and, on Experiment State Road, repairing a wing wall and addressing scouring and erosion.  Harvel said the work would have to wait until weather allowed.

Next, the board heard from Acting Police Chief Kim Tomlin who made a request for a waiving of the bid process to purchase a 2023 Chevrolet Traverse for use by detectives locally for $37,644, since doing so would save about $8,000 and the vehicle would be available immediately. Another vehicle, a 2023 Ford Interceptor equipped for patrol, for $45,780, has already been approved for purchase. The board approved an ordinance for the waiving of bidding and approved the buying of the Traverse on an emergency basis.

The City Manager’s Report was a twelve-item rundown of announcements and news. Included was a plan to get pictures of the 2023 board made prior to the February regular meeting.

An update on the new batting cage at Fair Park revealed that electric line installation was next, followed by the installation of netting. Pocket Park is nearing completion “within a week or two” and a ribbon-cutting ceremony will follow. As a way of making clear the productivity of Hope’s city workers, Wilson also provided some key numbers.

  • In December, Waste Water cleaned 31 manholes, answered 24 emergency calls for service, did two main line repairs, 260 locates of sewer lines, video inspected six sewer lines for damage.

  • For the year 2022, the Hope landfill accepted 2,372 cubic yards of class one garbage, 1,180 of class four uncompacted. It accepted 585 bales and disposed of 373,546 gallons of leachate (water that has percolated through a solid and leached out some of the constituents).

  • The Fire Department in December responded to two residential calls, two vehicle calls, one grass fire, 21 medical calls (318 for the year), 21 miscellaneous calls and performed two extrications.

  • Code enforcement provided five new building permits, 23 remodel permits, two additions, 14 storage, seven mobile home and two other permits, adding up to 53 in 2022. Twenty-five industrial or commercial new building permits, with five additions in this category and 12 such remodels were provided.

  • Hope Police issued 2,940 citations, half being warnings, made 682 arrests, served 714 warrants. Its patrol officers responded to 7,236 calls, 1,746 incidents and made 823 traffic reports.

Plans were made to have city department heads and leaders of the Hope-Hempstead Chamber of Commerce and Beautification Committee present reports to the board during its regular meetings. Director Mark Ross invited citizens to join the Beautification Committee. Mayor Still echoed this.

Wilson also reported on the plugging of $600,000 in funds from a matured CD into another 12-month CD with a 4.35 percent rate of return and possibly proceeds from the sales tax fund as well.

Mayor Still invited citizens to attend a meeting starting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Hempstead Hall about the future of Hope Public Schools following the announcement of it receiving a $15 million grant. He also urged continued work to condemn decrepit housing.

Director Ross asked the next Clean-Up Day and it was revealed to be April 22nd.

Marcia White, speaking during Citizens Request time said she and her younger family members continued to help with neighborhood clean-up.  Sylvia Brown urged the city board to be more attentive to the needs of minority and women-owned businesses for work during the bidding process. She also said vacancies on boards and commissions should be more widely advertised, pointing out that she had seen such advertisements in the Texarkana Gazette. Participation in this way, she said, was helpful in developing future leaders from more diverse communities.