Hope City Board hears Hope Public Schools' request to house animals on HHS campus
In Tuesday night’s City of Hope Board of Directors meeting, which took place in the City Hall boardroom, items discussed included a request from Hope Public Schools to expand its agricultural education facilities to include animal husbandry buildings, consideration of franchise and video service fees and the acceptance of a grant to build a hanger at Hope Municipal Airport. The meeting in its entirety can be seen on the City of Hope’s facebook page

After the invocation, the pledge of allegiance and the approval of minutes from the second regular March meeting, the first subject to discuss was the passage of an ordinance to allow Hope Public Schools to add an installation to keep a maximum of 15 animals which can only be goats, sheep and rabbits to its agricultural education facilities. The district’s proposal had to be approved by Hope’s Planning and Zoning Commission before coming to the city board for approval of a special use ordinance. If the proposal is accepted, it will have to be accompanied by a change in an ordinance that prohibits the keeping of livestock inside city limits. 

As City Manager J.R. Wilson explained, “The animal control ordinance actually prohibits what they are wanting to do. So what we did was draft up an ordinance. And all that ordinance does is grant an exception.” The exception would allow for the permitting of animals to be housed in the city limits when they are part of an educational use by Hope Public Schools and the animals are treated humanely. 

A lack of enough directors in attendance to add up to a two-thirds vote required to approve the ordinance change with an emergency clause prevented the vote from being held Tuesday night.  Directors Mark Ross, Steve Montgomery and Vice Mayor/Director Kiffinea Talley were not present. 

HPS Superintendent Jonathan Crossley presented the request to the board, saying the upgrade of the Agriculture facilities were part of the use of the Magnet Grant received by the district from the U.S. Department of Education as well as funds provided by a private donor.  To dispel certain rumors, Crossley said it was not true that the facility would house more than a dozen cows or chickens. 

He then introduced Maurice Henry, the HPS facilities and transportation director and Hope High Agriculture teacher Christina Smith. Henry said he could answer any of the board’s questions and said the district was willing to hear any suggestions.  Mayor Don Still asked the size of the addition to the facility. Henry said it was 40 by 60 feet but this could change. 

Crossley said one suggestion made during the district’s process of seeking approval was that a privacy fence be built and he thought that was a good idea.  

Smith said she was eager to see the project to upgrade the Agricultural facility begin and also said she would help with any questions the board asked. Director Trevor Coffee asked whether animals intended to show at contests would be placed at the new installation.  “We’ll have some show animals and some who are there just for any research projects that the kids might be doing. A good chunk of our show kids have their animals at home. But we do have some that live in town that would like the opportunity to have that.” 

Coffee then asked how long individual animals would be placed at the school.  Smith said goats would only be present from spring to December, but rabbits could be used in two-year projects. 

Coffee asked whether there was discussion about whether the odor of the animals could be a problem. “It shouldn't be,” Smith said. “Because we're not going to have that many animals, and we plan to remove the waste every day. With small animals, you can remove that in a trash bag every day. It's not like cattle.” 

A motion was made to table the subject to bring it up at the next meeting. The motion passed. 

The next item was a presentation by Wilson of an ordinance being written to reflect a change in Arkansas law whereby providers of video services can obtain permits from the state that allows them to do business in all the state’s cities. This law was passed to eliminate the inconvenience of franchises needing to get permits from every individual city in which they do business.  A maximum tax collected by cities was set at 4.25 percent for public utilities and five percent for video services. 

In the same ordinance, Wilson said there would be a mechanism to compel property owners to permit the movement of infrastructure on their land in the public interest. This mechanism would include provisions for payments and penalties as well as obligations of those performing to work to make redress if private property is damaged. 

Director Coffee asked the city director whether the penalty of $200 a day for a company or property owner’s delays in allowing for infrastructure movement can be raised if the party holding up the work does so over a long period.  “I don't think $200 a day is the limit,” Wilson said. “Most misdemeanors range up to $1,000. I don't know if there may be something in state law that limits violations to a specific amount of money. I don't know about that. We could find that out for you.” Wilson added that he did not think the city was prevented by law from filing a suit to recover losses from a delay in the movement of infrastructure. 

City Attorney Randal Wright said language allowing for recovery of additional costs from a delay beyond the $200 a day fine could be placed in the ordinance. Wilson asked that Wright add that language so the ordinance could be presented at the second regular April meeting of the city board. 

Coffee asked how the city would verify what the video companies doing business in town were receiving. Wilson said state law provided for the city to be able to look at the company’s books but that in the past Hope had not done this, trusting the companies to be honest. Coffee said he thought it would be unlikely the city would need to see a video franchisee’s books but would like the ordinance to show that to be within the city’s rights. Wilson agreed to meet with Wright and decide on language to include in the ordinance to this effect. 

The ordinance was tabled on the assurance it will be discussed again at the next meeting. 

The next item was a proposal to repeal ordinance 1741, which wastewater ordinance 1744 passed by the board in the second regular March meeting effectively cancels. It will be brought back in the next meeting. 

Next, the board voted to accept a 90-10 grant from the Arkansas Division of Aeronautics for $333,405 toward the building of a hangar at the Hope Municipal Airport. The city will contribute $37,045.  Hope Airport and Information Systems Coordinator said the funds come from the sales of fuel, not from taxpayer money. The motion to accept carried unanimously. 

In the city manager’s report, Wilson said the work day at Rose Hill Cemetery was successful and involved most of the city’s departments.  More work on tree trimming and removal will need to be done. The next city cleanup day will be April 27th. 

A way was suggested by engineer Glen Spears of Spears Engineering Company for the city to save money on its project to reduce overflow from the city’s wastewater ponds involving the installation of an automated valve to control runoff.  The dredging of the ponds would still need to be done, but Wilson said it was possible the city could save at least $2 million on the project and complete it more quickly. 

Wilson announced that the city has also been awarded a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for $500,000 to help defray the project’s costs, which would have been $3.4 million. The city has been approved for a low-interest loan from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. Due to the cost savings and the CDBG, Wilson said the amount the city borrows could be much less than projected. 

Wilson announced the citizens steering committee discussing the possibilities of adding taxpayer funded fire department and recreation facilities to what Hope offers would meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss costs of those projects. 

Director Coffee asked about the status of the city’s intent to contribute work to the Sixth Street project. Wilson said this was still in a holding pattern because company and agency leaders needed to make final decisions, but he hoped to report some progress on whether the city would be permitted to contribute work there by the next city board meeting. 

In Citizens Request, Marcia White asked for a phone number to call Kiamichi Railroad to make complaints about delays caused by stalled trains. Wilson said he would be glad to give her that number after the meeting, but explained that the only mechanism for the city to register its complaints was with the Arkansas State Highway Commission, which has sole jurisdiction over these issues.  He said he had done this, had not heard of a hearing being set to hear the complaint but had noticed a reduction in delays. Wilson also said he logged citizen complaints, took photos of the delayed trains and sent a letter to the highway commission. 

Adjournment occurred about an hour after the meeting began.